A self-help guide to help readers get past what is keeping them from losing weight successfully.

People have free will, as we all know, and that means that tough issues like weight loss can become very difficult and confusing. Thousands of books and videos on the subject give more advice than we could ever handle, but the real tools you need are inside of you.

The little things that you do throughout the day, the way you feel about things and the way you see yourself all determine your weight. The following tips will help you figure out your weight loss strengths and weaknesses, possibly shedding some light on your lifestyle. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight, behavior modification is vital.

1. Try to have a positive outlook.

You will get nowhere if you don’t. If you’re a “the cup is half empty” person, you probably don’t realize it. Do you like most of the people you encounter? Do you usually go to bed at night with a positive feeling about your day? Do people turn to you when they’re down? If not, you may need to work on your attitude before you can go any further.

2. Exercise at least three days a week.

Your diet isn’t the only thing you should work on. Exercise changes your body, to make it more efficient at burning fat. If you don’t do this, the weight you lose will primarily be muscle and bone mass – things you can’t afford to lose. If you exercise, the weight you lose will be fat, and you’ll look and feel much better. Check out our flat belly exercises – they’re effective, simple and you can do them in your own home.

3. Set goals that are realistic and attainable.

Unfortunately, many companies bank on convincing consumers that losing ten pounds by Saturday can rally happen. You can realistically lose a pound or two per week, on the average. If you want to lose twenty pounds, give yourself three or four months, and monitor it weekly. Remember that the more gradual the weight loss is, the more likely it is to stay off.

4. Follow a healthy, balanced diet.

Don’t be fooled by the notion that avoiding one type of food or gorging on another will help you along the path to weight loss. Your diet should contain a bit of everything nutritious. About two thirds of your diet should come from complex carbohydrates (whole grain breads, cereals, rice, fruits and vegetables). You also need two or three servings each of calcium-rich dairy foods and protein items like meat, fish and nuts. Check out our fat burning foods list and recommended flat belly foods.

5. Set “mini-goals” to avoid being overwhelmed by large ones.

To a child in September, the school year will never end, but holidays and birthdays along the way make it much easier to understand how long nine months is. The same way, assign yourself weekly goals and assess your progress that way while working toward the biggie.

6. Be aware of how much fat and calories are in the food you’re eating.

Keep in mind that each gram of fat has nine calories. Fat should make up no more than twenty percent of your total calories. This means that something with “only” 100 calories is fattening if it has eight grams of fat, since 72 of its 100 calories comes from fat. Being mindful of this is a powerful tool. Also be aware of the 7 foods you should never eat.

7. When you have a craving, try to handle it without eating.

We all have our methods. Chewing gum can sometimes ward off cravings, as can drinking a glass of water. Some people even find that keeping their hands busy helps. If you feel compelled to quench that food craving, you need a way to handle it. See our tips to beat food cravings.

8. Reward yourself for overcoming obstacles.

You are much more advanced than Fido, but isn’t it easier to shape his behavior using biscuits as rewards? This works with people, too, and not just children. When you’ve lost that first five pounds, do something for yourself, even if it’s just saying, “Yeah, I’m good!”

9. Don’t eat anything unnecessary.

When you have pancakes, do you have to slap more butter on them before smothering them in maple syrup? Do you put mayonnaise or oil on your sandwiches? These things aren’t necessary. They’re just examples, but many people make simple foods very fattening by adding the extras. Learn to eat things without all the frills and you’ll avoid a lot of unwanted fat and calories.

10. Spend less than one hour per day watching television.

It’s definitely addictive, especially when a great deal is going on in the world and the news is intriguing. Keeping busy is probably the best habit you can adapt, though. If you have three or four hours of television to watch every day, you’re depriving your body of activity.

11. Try to eat out less.

When I do eat out, I’m careful. It’s a well-accepted fact that fat makes things taste better. Restaurants want their food to taste good, so they use a lot of fat. Even things that seem low in fat probably have plenty of it. A good example of this is fish served in a lemon-butter sauce. A good salad can be ruined by ranch dressing. It’s really better to plan your meals ahead of time and eat at home. See our tips for dining out on a diet.

12. Eat small amounts of food several times a day, instead of two or three big meals.

Doing this gives your metabolism a big kick-start. When you eat a large meal, then fast for several hours, your body tends to hold onto the calories from that meal, in case it has to wait a long time for more nourishment. If you get your body accustomed to eating in smaller intervals, you burn calories much faster. This is a pretty neat little phenomenon. Try our healthy snack alternatives – not all healthy foods have to be tasteless and boring!

13. Serve reasonable portions.

One good way to assure that you do this is by using a smaller plate than usual. The appetite is rather dependent on the mindset of the person eating. If you’re used to having huge portions of each item at dinner, you’ll want huge portions, no matter how hungry you are. Train yourself to be mentally satisfied with average-sized portions.

14. Drink at least two liters of water every day.

Water curbs cravings, decreases bloating and water retention and enhances your liver’s fat burning capability. You should never allow yourself to get thirsty. Two liters of water isn’t that much. Just get into the habit of sipping it all day long, and soon, you won’t be able to live without it. Read more info on drinking water for weight loss.

15. Manage stress productively (without using food).

Many people eat when they encounter stress. They tend to look for “comfort foods” that remind them of a much easier, stress-free childhood, opting for ice cream, meatloaf and cookies. If this is you, find other, less destructive ways to deal with stress. If you begin an exercise program, this will help tremendously. Stress can also lead to weight gain.

16. Eat slowly.

Your body doesn’t realize that you’ve had enough to eat until several minutes after you’ve had it. If you eat too hastily, you’ll fill yourself up and possibly eat more on top of that. Studies have also indicated that the body is accustomed to an average numbers of chews per mouthful. If you chew your food more than usual, not only will you eat more slowly, but also you’ll trick your body into thinking it’s had more to eat.

17. Recognize your faults and take responsibility for them.

Some overeaters are like alcoholics, in that they don’t realize that they are abusing food. A woman might get into a fight with her husband, gorge on a half-gallon of ice cream and the blame him for it. This is dangerous behavior. Don’t let anyone or anything distract you from your goals. If you do, you must recognize that you are the one at fault.

18. Only eat at the table.

Sitting on the sofa with munchies is a bad idea for those who want to lose weight, because it encourages passive eating. When you confine yourself to the table for meals, you won’t be doing anything but eating, and therefore, you won’t eat quite as much.

19. Don’t over-indulge at social gatherings.

This is terribly difficult for a lot of people. Stuffed mushrooms and cocktail wieners seem so small and harmless, but they contain more calories and fat than they should. Birthday cake is great, and a little piece probably won’t hurt you, but where do you draw the line? One key to weight management is learning (or forcing yourself) to control yourself in such a situation.

20. Never eat anything within three hours of bedtime.

Your metabolism slows down at night, so if you go to bed with a full stomach, your body won’t deal with the calories as efficiently as it would during the day. If you’re used to munching on chips or sweets during prime time, you’re putting weight on yourself. After dinner, eat nothing else. Even if you think it will kill you.

21. Make a real commitment to achieving or maintaining a healthy weight.

If you truly believe that you will lose weight, you will. Unfortunately, it’s hard for overweight people to do that. They often cannot picture themselves any thinner than they are. Even if you can’t picture it, commit yourself to it wholeheartedly. Recognize that your belief in yourself is the number one ingredient to leading a healthy, happy life.

Nobody can lose weight for you. No bars, shakes or exercise gadgets can do it for you, either. Only you can determine what happens to your body. If you want to make an improvement, start today, just by knowing in your heart that you want to make an improvement. It’s hard, but in no way impossible.

If you’re committed to losing weight, you’re half way there. 

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