11 Smart Ideas for Weight Loss

These simple fitness and diet tips will motivate and inspire you to lose those pounds — and keep them off!

1. Take that extra step — or an extra 1,000. The key to burning calories is to simply get moving. You don’t even have to change your clothes to get up from your desk or couch and walk around the block. Make each step up the stairs or across the parking lot count by logging your movement with a pedometer.

2. Rediscover your sense of adventure. While you’re out and about on foot, make it a point to wander. Take a left turn at the park instead of your usual right, or explore a new street in your neighborhood. Getting your body in gear won’t be such a chore if your mind stays interested.

3. Ask for a doggie bag. Despite these times of biggie-size portions, you can still control how much you eat when dining out. Ask your server to set aside half your meal before it even reaches your table, and save it for takeout. That way you won’t be tempted to overeat.

4. Don’t be afraid of a little competition. Other people working out at the gym or on the trails can be great motivators — even if you don’t know them. Challenge the person next to you without saying a word: If he’s on the stationary bike at a certain speed, dial yours up a notch. Or try to outlast the woman on the treadmill next to you, even if it’s only for 5 minutes longer.

5. Identify your dietary downfall. We all succumb to diet don’ts, whether it’s dining regularly on the contents of the vending machine at work, plowing through a bag of chips in front of the TV, or ending a meal with a decadent dessert. You can improve your eating habits by owning up to why you went astray in the first place. Are you stressed? Bored? Try to cope in a way that doesn’t involve food. For example, instead of grabbing a pint of gourmet ice cream after a bad day, talk it out with a friend.

6. Be your best ally. Motivating yourself is key to sticking to a fitness plan. Blast dance music that compels you to get up on your feet. Surround yourself with photos that show your progress, or hang positive messages on the fridge. When you achieve an important goal (reaching your ideal weight or mastering a workout routine), reward yourself with non-food items such as a new outfit or a day at the movies.

7. Shift into reverse. Sometimes a change in perspective is all you need to go that extra mile or rep. If doing a set of squats seems daunting, try counting backward — you’ll focus on the fewer reps you have left and not how much more you have to go.

8. Get enough energy. Half an hour before your activity, drink about eight ounces of water. You should eat a nutritious snack about one to three hours prior to the start of your workout. If you plan to sweat it out for more than 30 minutes, sip water every 15 to 20 minutes.

9. Take a hike. Hiking is a fun activity that lets you burn through calories while you explore your natural surroundings. And you don’t have to go on vacation to get back to nature; start out at hiking trails at local parks or wilderness preserves in your area. A great resource is Local Hikes, which lists trails near U.S. metropolitan areas.

10. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Your body needs to be challenged in order for you to achieve improved fitness levels. Experts advise trying something new every three to four weeks. But you don’t need to overhaul your entire routine; try minor adjustments such as increasing the frequency of your workouts from two to three times a week, switching from the treadmill to an elliptical trainer, or trying a new class such as Pilates or yoga.

11. Be speedy during a run, not a meal. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is filling up, so a feeding frenzy is a sure way to overstuff yourself. Slow down and savor your food. Try putting down your utensils while you chew each bite, or drink water more often. Take part in the conversation at your table; a satisfying meal should be about enjoying one another’s company as well as feeding your appetite.

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