1. Avoid Fad or Traditional "Diets". While you are losing weight, I strongly recommend against those "diets" that involve eating in a significantly different way from how you intend to eat when not "dieting." Most folks make the mistake of not associating the benefit of weight loss with learning proper eating habits. You cannot achieve permanent weightloss with artificial eating patterns, silly fad diets or by skipping meals. Instead, you have to change your tastes, desires, and attitude.
2. Make health, not weight loss, your goal. If you set a healthy lifestyle as your goal, you are more likely to succeed in both improving your health and attaining permanent weight loss. Don’t be too anxious to drop pounds right away. Enjoying the experience is crucial. You want to associate the experience of reaching a healthy weight with that of healthy eating. It may take a few months longer, but it will ensure that you’ll never have to lose weight again.
3. Don’t Give Up. A major reason people get discouraged and drop out of weight-loss programs is weight plateaus. Gained muscle mass and blood-vessel expansion due to exercise may temporarily seem to halt weight loss or cause a small gain, but these are actually very desirable phenomena. Since muscle weighs more than fat, you can lose body fat and inches without dropping pounds if you are building muscles at the same time. Changes in medication, menstruation, constipation, water retention, and other factors such as stress (which causes increased cortisol levels) may also cause weight loss to slow down or even reverse. Remember that your goal is to lose body fat. None of these factors causes an increase in body fat, so do not be discouraged by minor shifts of weight in the wrong direction. Be patient.
4. Raise your metabolic rate. A primary factor in determining your metabolic rate — the rate at which you burn calories — is the number of mitochondria in cells. Mitochondria are tiny energy factories that fuel every cell. The more you have, the more energy you will burn, which will keep you leaner. Unfortunately, we cannot simply take a mitochondria supplement. However, fat cells have very few mitochondria because fat cells store energy rather than burn it, whereas muscle cells have many because they need energy to perform their job. So as you build muscle cells from a regular exercise program, you increase your mitochondria, thereby permanently raising your metabolic rate, even when you are not exercising.
5. Maintain portion control. With the advent of "super-size" meals and increasingly huge portions at restaurants, our concept of normal serving sizes is a distant memory. Be mindful of the amounts of food you consume at a sitting. When necessary, divide your food in half and ask for a take home bag. It is all too easy to be a "plate cleaner" even when served enormous portions. Learn to pay attention to your hunger level and stop eating when you feel comfortably full, not stuffed.
6. Eat six healthy meals (actually, 3 meals and 3 snacks) during the day, including a good breakfast. Skipping meals causes increased hunger and may lead to excessive snacking of bad foods. I eat a sensible breakfast, lunch and dinner. In between, I have a mid-morning snack, a mid-afternoon snack and a late night (small) snack. Plan your meals out, especially your snacks. When you leave for work in the morning, you should either have your snacks in hand or a plan of what you will use for snacks. If you wait until snacktime to figure out what you will eat, chances are you’ll resort to eating something bad.
7. Breakfast IS the most important meal. Start your day with a high-fiber breakfast cereal, such as bran flakes, shredded wheat or oatmeal. Opt for cereals with "bran" or "fiber" in the name. Or add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
8. Exercise is essential for weight loss. It’s nothing new, but exercise is probably the most important predictor of whether you will succeed at long term weight loss and weight loss maintenance. In order for exercise to be helpful in weight loss, you should strive for a minimum of five 30 minute sessions per week. The good news is that recent research has shown that three 10 minute sessions in a day are as good as one 30 minute session. This helps many in combating the old "no time for exercise" excuse. Be certain to find something you enjoy. You’ll be more apt to stick with it. Try walking with a friend, joining an intramural sports league, participating in outings with a group like The Sierra Club, or trying some classes at your local gym. Once you give exercise a chance, you will begin to enjoy its positive benefits on your psyche as well; you will literally become "hooked."
9. Weight train for weight loss. I chose to list this separately from the "exercise" category because of the significant weight loss benefits attached to weight training in and of itself. The basic equation is this: the more muscle tissue you have, the more calories you will burn. This is why world class weight lifters must eat thousands of calories a day to maintain their weight. Muscle is active tissue, fat is not. Thus, muscle "burns" a significant number of calories each day for its own maintenance. In her book Strong Women Stay Slim, Miriam Nelson, a Tufts University researcher, showed that a group of women who followed a weight loss diet and did weight training exercises lost 44% more fat than those who only followed the diet. While aerobic activity can help burn calories, muscle’s where it’s at when it comes to giving your metabolism a significant daily boost even at rest.