Healthbeat

3 simple steps toward weight loss

Do you dream of being the same size you were in high school or when you got married? That will take work if it means losing a lot of weight. Don't rush. Setting small, realistic goals will get the scale moving in the right direction.

Start by trying to lose 5% to 10% of your weight, and give yourself plenty of time and some flexibility to reach that goal. Keep in mind that it takes most people about six months to achieve that degree of weight loss.

Set small, specific goals

Rather than say "I should eat less at dinner and exercise more," set specific and short-term (that is, daily or weekly) goals. For example:

  • I will choose a few healthy dinner recipes and shop for the ingredients on Sunday.
  • I will bring a healthy lunch from home to work or school at least three times next week.
  • I will call a friend to take a walk after work on Monday and Wednesday.
  • I will keep tempting foods out of the house (or out of sight).

Make breakfast work for you

Look for breakfast cereals that provide at least 6 grams of fiber per serving, and also make sure your choice is low in sugar (less than 10 grams per serving). Add nonfat milk and bananas, berries, or apple slices to create a tasty meal.

You needn't limit your morning menu to high-fiber cereals, but wise choices are important. Stick to whole-grain or pumpernickel breads for toast; opt for trans-fat-free soft margarines or cholesterol-lowering spreads that contain plant stanols.

Eat more slowly and savor your food.

Practice eating slowly by putting down your utensil or sipping water, coffee, or tea between bites. Ideally, you should spend at least 20 minutes for each meal, but that may be more realistic during your midday or evening meal; choose one to get started. Set a timer to check yourself.

Choose the habit that seems most reasonable for you and try to stick with it for a week or so. Once you find that habit becomes routine, add another, and then another.

For more simple steps to get trim and stay trim, buy Healthy Solutions to Lose Weight and Keep it Off, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.