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Weight Loss Basics

Page 1 of 1

Weight Loss
Getting Started

Weight loss can be achieved either by eating fewer calories or by burning more calories with physical activity, preferably both.

A healthy weight loss program consists of:
  • A reasonable, realistic weight loss goal
  • A reduced calorie, nutritionally-balanced eating plan
  • Regular physical activity
  • A behavior change plan to help you stay on track with your goals

    We want to help you with each of these components

    Keep in Mind

  • Calories count
  • Portions count
  • Nutrition counts
  • Even a small amount of weight loss can lead to big health benefits
  • Strive to develop good habits to last a lifetime
  • Discuss weight loss with your doctor before getting started

    Getting Started

  • Check your Body Mass Index (BMI) - an indicator of body fat - and see where it fits within the BMI categories.
  • Discuss weight loss with your doctor and decide on a goal. If you have a lot of weight to lose, set a realistic intermediate goal, maybe to lose 10 pounds. Remember that even a small amount of weight loss can lead to big health benefits.
  • Estimate your calorie needs. Using USDA’s online Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator, you can determine the number of calories needed each day to maintain your current weight. To lose about 1 pound per week, subtract 500 calories each day from the daily amount. To lose about 2 pounds per week, subtract 1000 calories daily.
  • Score your current food intake and physical activity level using MyPyramid Tracker. Taking a good look at your current habits will help you determine what changes you might make as well as what you are doing right.

    How Do I Know Which Weight Loss Plan is Right For Me?

  • Keep in mind that you want to develop lifestyle habits that will help you maintain your weight in a healthy range. A short-term "diet" that you "go on" and then "go off" is not the answer to long-term weight management.
  • In choosing how to go about losing weight, keep in mind key habits of people who have lost weight and kept in off. These people are called "Successful Losers" by the weight control experts who have studied them.

    people walking
    Key Behaviors of Successful Losers*
    • Getting regular physical activity
    • Reducing calorie and fat intake
    • Eating regular meals, including breakfast
    • Weighing themselves regularly
    • Not letting small "slips" turn into large weight regain
    *From The National Weight Control Registry. See "Long-term Weight Maintenance" in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 82, No. 1, 222S-225S, July 2005.

  • If you are considering a commercial weight loss program, read Selecting a Weight Loss Program or Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight-Loss Program.
  • Ask your doctor if you should have a referral to a Registered Dietitian (R.D.). An R.D. can provide personalized dietary advice taking into consideration other health issues, lifestyle, and food likes and dislikes.
  • You might also take a look at our Popular Diets page.

    Resources for Healthy Eating

  • Shopping: What to Look For
  • Sample Reduced-Calorie Menus
  • Menu Planner
  • Eating Healthy When Dining Out
  • Eating Healthy with Ethnic Food

    Resources for Healthy Activity

  • What is Physical Activity?
  • Guide to Physical Activity
  • Walking: A Step in the Right Direction
  • Active at Any Size

    Staying On Track with Your Goals

    Setting realistic goals and tracking your progress are key to your success. In fact, research has shown that those who keep track of their behaviors are more likely to take off weight and keep it off. A reasonable rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week.

    These resources can help you set goals and monitor your progress:

  • Eat Better: Goals
  • Get Active: Goals
  • Guide to Behavior Change
  • How Much Do You Eat? A Food Diary
  • Exercise Log|PDF

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