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  1. Get on the scale.  Tomorrow morning, first thing, step on.  I know what you’re going to say.  I’m afraid to know, or my weight fluctuates too much and it freaks me out.  That may be true, but the scale is the easiest most accurate way to measure progress at home.  If you have JUST started an weight lifting program, or you lift VERY heavy, yes you may gain muscle that weighs more than fat so the scale might not change and your clothes may get looser.  Great!  Using a tight pair of jeans as a reference is a good idea too, but if you weigh yourself every day and know your 5 pound “range” you will lose the fear of the scale and learn to recognize when you just had a salty meal the night before, or if those extra couple pounds are sticking and  you need to cut back for a week or so.  The scale stops the pounds from creeping on in the night!  Like a night light.  Or monster spray.
  2. Track everything you eat.  Everything.  Your kid’s crust, the one M and M, and everything else you put in your mouth.  The easiest way to do this is with an app such as My Plate, Lose It, or My Fitness Pal.  Create a profile, let it calculate how many calories you need every day, and learn to use the search feature to look up everything you eat.  This serves several purposes.  It keeps you on track by letting you know exactly how many calories you have left, and it helps you make smart food choices.  When you find out that a burrito from Chipotle has 1200 calories and you have 1500 for the day you may think twice!  Once you learn to eat within the guidelines you probably won’t need to track everything, but while you’re trying to drop pounds be vigilant and log everything in the app.  If your weight creeps up once you’ve reached your goal, go back to tracking.
  3. Do a combination of cardio and strength training at least 4 days a week for at least 45 minutes.  Log the exercise in your app and eat those calories back.  This will give you wiggle room in your diet and rev up your metabolism.  It’s tempting to do cardio, cardio, cardio, but don’t make that mistake.  The main reason we gain weight as we age is because we lose muscle mass- about 1/2 pound per year after the age of 35!  Every pound of muscle you have burns twice as many calories as a pound of fat, so you need muscle!  The more you have, the more calories your body burns every day.  In other words,  you get to eat more.  Yes, please.  If you’re intimidated by the weight room, find a strength class, or do a Shred and Sparkle workout!  Aim for strength training twice a week, and if you’re just starting out, expect to see changes within a couple of weeks!
  4. Don’t eat more than you just burned in your workout.  Happens all the time.  You go to a great tough class at the gym, burn about 350 calories, but inflate that in your head to 800 calories, then go and order a 500 calorie smoothie because you need the protein.  Um…no.  True you still reap the health rewards to your heart health through exercising, but if you’re trying to drop pounds, you can’t eat more than you burn!  And be realistic about the amount you burn.  The more you weigh, the more calories you burn, but keep in mind that running a 9 minute mile burns about 100 calories.  A spin class is going to be 300-500.  Max.  And you don’t suddenly need to be sucking down protein shakes because you did zumba.  Cold hard truth people.  It’s what we’re here for.
  5. Eat whatever you want, just don’t eat it all at the same time.  You’re out to dinner.  You can have bread, or an appetizer, or wine, or dessert.  It’s OR not AND.  Decide what is really worth it to you.
  6. Don’t eat it if it’s not really, really good.  There is no excuse to eat food that you don’t love.  If you’re at the kid birthday party and they’re passing out store bought birthday cake, do you really love store bought birthday cake?? No thank you!  Company pot luck? Eat veggies or salad but why try everyone’s weird casserole if you can have something amazing later?  Don’t compromise, and don’t eat mindlessly.
  7. Be a little hungry.  Not starving I’m going to stick my head in a box of Cheez its hungry, but when you finish a meal you should be satisfied not stuffed.
  8. Drink a big glass of water before you eat.  Helps with number 7.
  9. Pad your meals with veggies.  Raw, salads, steamed, it doesn’t matter.  Vegetables will fill you up without adding a ton of calories.  Add a side to every meal.  Your plate should be half veggies at least.
  10. Plan your meals ahead of time!  Especially if you’re going out.  Look at the menu online.  See if the calorie counts are listed, or check your app ahead of time.  Find something that looks amazing that fits in with your daily allowance so you’re not sideswiped by a plate of cheese enchiladas.
  11. Be kind and realistic with yourself.  Is the weight you want to be realistic with your lifestyle?  Sometimes if it’s just 5 pounds that you want to lose but you have to starve to get there it’s just not worth it.  Everyone has different body types.  Learn to dress yours well and exercise to make your body strong and capable!  You’re awesome and you’re worth it, so treat your body with the respect it deserves, great healthy food, activity to keep it strong, and respect to stay balanced.