How do I eat and exercise to lose weight?

Two P's of Staying Fit

Pay Attention to Portion Size

One of the biggest weight-loss mistakes people make is to overestimate the size of a standard serving. For instance, one serving of pasta is just ½ cup. So when you hear that you're supposed to eat at least 6 servings of grains a day, this is equal to 3 cups of pasta. It is also equal to 1 cup of oatmeal at breakfast, 2 slices of bread on a sandwich at lunch, and 1 cup of pasta at dinner. To learn about the serving sizes of other foods, see What Counts as a Serving?

Measure your portions. Measuring is important, especially when you are just getting started. Use measuring cups and spoons to make sure you are eating the amount you intend to eat. Place this amount of food in the dish you would typically use. Take a good look at how it fills the dish. After you do this for a while, you will become familiar with the size of a healthy portion. Then you will no longer need to measure. Measuring is an important first step to help you become more conscious of portion sizes and to cut calories.

Use visual tricks when you can't measure. Of course, when you eat out, it's not convenient to measure your food. Instead, you can use the size of common items as a reference for what counts as a serving. For instance, a serving of meat, 2 to 3 ounces, is the size of a deck of cards. So visualize a deck of cards on your plate to help you decide how much meat to eat. This table provides visual references for other types of food, too.

Food Serving Size Visual Reference
Meat 2 oz. to 3 oz. deck of cards, or standard personal checkbook
Rice ½ cup cooked cupcake wrapper
Pasta ½ cup cooked ice cream scoop
Fruits and vegetables ½ cup tennis ball, or light bulb
Cheese 1 oz. four dice
Butter or margarine 1 teaspoon the width and length of a postage stamp and the thickness of three nickels stacked together

Get More Active

Physical activity not only burns calories, it helps control your appetite. It also revs up the rate at which your body burns calories, which is called your metabolism. This helps reduce excess fat around your waist - the most dangerous place to carry weight in terms of your health. When it comes to weight loss, a little activity goes a long way. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and you begin walking briskly every day for 1½ miles, you'll lose about 14 pounds in a year. This should happen even if you don't change the number of calories you eat! To learn how to add more exercise into your life, see How Do I Increase My Exercise? So if you are more active, you may not have to work quite as hard at making changes in your eating habits. Plus, being active makes you feel better, mentally and physically. This feeling of well-being will help you stay motivated.