If you need to lose weight, you'd probably like to do it as quickly as possible.
Seeing progress on the scale is one motivator, and feeling good is another. When you shed fat, your clothes fit better, your confidence improves and you may find you feel better in general.
Instead of falling back on gimmicks that don't work over the long haul, pick a few strategies that work and can be maintained over time.
To get you started, here's a five-point plan. Collectively, these tips are a good bet for seeing immediate results and supporting your health at the same time.
Aim for these simple steps each day:
Think about fiber first. Cutting calories to lose weight can cause constipation if you decrease the overall volume of food you eat.
That's especially true if you eat fewer fiber foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Counteract the lower food intake by taking extra care to eat plenty of fiber.
An added bonus: Fiber-rich foods make you feel full.
The best sources are nutritious whole foods - not supplements - that are concentrated in dietary fiber. Beans are best.
Bump up the bran. Try bran cereal for breakfast - All-Bran is one example - and other whole grain varieties such as bran flakes and shredded wheat. Drink plenty of water all day to help keep yourself adequately hydrated.
The fiber will soak up the fluid like a sponge, softening it, adding to its bulk and helping you "stay regular" and avoid the dieter's dilemma.
Eat two pieces of fresh fruit every day. Think of it this way: It will fill you up without filling you out.
Fresh fruit is valuable to dieters because it's packed with nutrients and relatively low in calories. It's filling, because it contains so much fiber and water.
Make salad a daily meal. Build a big one. Pile it up with greens and vegetables and add a handful of croutons, seeds or nuts for crunch.
Lay off the cheese unless you can hold it to a sprinkle. Add a couple tablespoons of salad dressing.
You'll be so busy crunching and munching that you won't notice you ate one third as many calories as your usual meal.
Fill up on fluids. Calorie-free beverages, that is.
The gold standard is water. Keep a bottle of cold water in the refrigerator. For flavor, go spa style and float sliced lemons or cucumbers in the bottle.
Drink water with meals and between.
Monitor what you eat. Keep a food diary online or in a notebook. The simple act of recording will cause you to alter your behavior and eat less food.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a licensed, registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the Departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.