One of the most common New Years resolutions is to get healthier and lose some weight.  But how many people out there making that resolution will stick with it?  All resolutions are easy to make and even easier to break, but if you are serious about getting healthier and losing some weight in the next year I know some tricks that will help you along the way.

## Know Your Plan

The first thing you need to do is make your plan for your health and weight loss goals.  More importantly you need to make it real and you need to make it measurable.  If you go into this thinking you are going to have results as fast as people on tv you will be disappointed and will probably give up on your resolution.  Realistically you want to think about losing 1 - 2 pounds a week, depending on the amount of work you want to put in.  Anymore than that and you are looking at making some extreme lifestyle changes.  Huge changes are hard to keep up and thus make it much more likely that you will gain your weight back. So take the weight that you want to lose, say 30 pounds, and divide it by the weight that you think that you can lose per week, 1 pound for me. So I will plan to lose 1 pound per week for 30 weeks.  I plan to hit my FINAL goal by the end of July 2013.  Much more important than my final goal is all the little goals that make it up.  I like to weight myself every 2 weeks, so I hope to see a loss of 2 pounds each time I weigh myself.  Along with regular goals mark out what time you want to hit intervals that you find important.  Label when you want to hit a 10 pound loss, 20 pound loss, and so on.  Reaching little goals first will help you to reach your total goal in the end.  If it happens you don't hit one of your mini goals don't panic, just check what you are doing and make some changes to get you back on track.

## Stay Away From The Soda

The average American drinks about 45 - 50 gallons of soda per year.  Let's go with the low number and do some math just for the fun of it.  There are 128 ounces in a gallon.  128 times 45 equals 5,760 ounces of soda.  At 12 ounces per can that comes out to 480 cans of soda or 40 boxes of soda (12 can boxes).  If we look at an average can of soda (120 calories, 32 grams of sugar, and 0 protein) that is an extra 57,600 calories and 15,360 grams of sugar to put into your body.  At 454 grams per pound that makes just under 34 pounds of sugar and enough calories to put 16.5 pounds of fat on your body.  If you want to lose weight drinking soda is going to be like trying to win a 5k race by runing your first mile in the wrong direction.  If you want to meet your goal and finish 1st in that race get yourself back on track.  Drink water when you are thirsty, stay hydrated, and stay away from sweet drinks loaded down with sugar.  The worst calories you can take in are the ones that you drink.  They are easy to put into your body and usually pretty hard to get out.

## White Meat VS Red Meat

Credit: By Martin Abegglen (Flickr: calf) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I know that Americans love their red meat, I am no exception.  We eat way too much of it.  Eating larger quantities of red meat has been linked to early deaths and increased chances of developing cancer cells.  If that is not incentive enough how about this, when I decided to cut almost all red meat out of my diet I lost 15 unexpected extra pounds in 3 months without altering any other parts of my routine.  White meat has many advantages for you.  It is lower in calories than red meat and comparable in protein.  It also has less fat and the fat that it does have is usually better for you and your overall health.  There is also not much of a cost difference.  If you shop right making the switch is easy.  There are tons of recipes out there for substituting white meat into your favorite recipes.  Go give it a try.  What do you have to lose, or should I ask how much?  Just make sure to stay away from the skin.

## Get Active

Credit: By Nevit Dilmen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

You don't need to get out and run a half marathon on a bi-weekly basis, but you do have to get out of your chair or off your sofa and on your feet.  Make some small changes in your life and you might be surprised by your results.  Take the stairs up to your office instead of the elevator.  Park at the far end of the lot and walk a little farther.  In fact if you can walk or ride a bike to work.  Instead of watching tv for an hour each day move around for an hour.  Get up and go play with your kids, take up a hobby with a lover or a buddy.  When we talk about being active and burning calories to lose weight it means that you must burn more calories in a day than you take in.  If you are eating 1,800 calories a day you have to burn more than that for it to impact your weight.  You must burn 3,500 more calories than you are taking in to lose a pound.  So if you want to lose one pound a week that is 500 calories per day, or 1,000 per day if you want to lose 2 pounds per week.  Not every calorie you burn is burned in exercise.  You burn calories just by being alive so don't look and having to burn 2,300 (1,800 + 500) each day and give up.  Anything that will get you up and doing even basic activities will help you burn calories and help you get down to your goal weight.  Every step counts but you have to make them first.

## Eat In Not Out

Credit: By Daniel Barcelona (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You stand to gain a lot by chosing to not eat out, and I don't mean around your waistline.  By not eating out you will save money, consume fewer calories, fat, and salt, have control over you portion size, a wider variety of foods to choose from, and a more meaningful meal with your family.  The typical cost of a fast food meal is \$5.  So for a family of 4 you are looking at \$20.  If you are eating out for one meal of everyday in January that will cost you \$620 plus the cost of all your other meals and snacks.  I am supporting 4 people in my family.  I do about 90+% of our shopping and cooking.  For about \$125 - \$150 per week I can feed my family.  That is \$500 - \$600 per month and that is not one meal.  It is breakfast, lunch, diner and a snack.  I do shop in bulk and I do use coupons.  What I don't do is go without.  We eat pretty well on that budget and it has room to splurge and buy ourselves something special once in a while.  With eating out you don't have a lot of choice in what you are getting.  You don't get to pick the lean cut of meat and you don't get to pick whole grain rice.  You get what they want to serve you and you get it cooked in all the oil and seasoned with all the salt they want.  Having the ability to make those kind of choices will help you in reaching that goal weight.  The biggest advantage to eating in is the time you can spend with your family preparing the meal together and enjoying it together afterward.  Spend the time to talk with them about how you are doing on you reaching your goals or tell them what you have accomplished, just make sure to let them talk as well.

## Celebrate Your Successes

Credit: By Nachoman-au (A digital photograph taken by myself.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikime

Something very important to keep in mind on any journey like this is to remember what you have done and be happy with it.  Maybe your weekly goal is to lose 2 pounds and one week you only lose 1 pound.  Don't get mad or upset about it, that is not going to help you in the long run.  Keep in mind that you now weigh 1 pound less than last week.  What if you don't lose any weight one week?  What about the 12 pounds you lost before this week?  Those are more important than this minor set back.  Just take a minute and look back at your week.  Did where you not as active as usual or did you eat more calories than normal?  Figure it out and adjust what you are doing to get yourself back on task.  Maybe you are not up to running that marathon you want yet.  Don't let it get you down.  Ask yourself how much further you can go than when you started.  Remember what you have done and keep yourself motivated to do more.

## Thinking Smaller To Get Smaller

If you want to get smaller you have to start making smaller decisions.  Make small reachable goals, eat smaller meals, use a smaller plate, and start small and work your way up.  I have talked about making smaller measurable goals and celebrating when you hit them.  So let's move to eating smaller meals and eating on smaller plates.  When we get ready to eat we are most likely to fill our plate full so eating with a smaller plate you take less food and thus consume fewer calories.  Make it a point not to go back for seconds.  Smaller plates are going to  help you with your smaller portions but you need to think about small snacks throughout the day to keep your energy up.  Small bits of fruits and veggies will keep you full through out your day and give you what you need to finish work or your workout.  Starting small is important to your success.  You need to realize that if you have not run farther than the fridge in a few years you probably wont be able to go out and run a marathon next month.  Set a small goal and when you hit it push yourself a little harder.  If your goal is a running goal make it something that you cannot do but make it something that you can reach in a few weeks with some work.  When you hit it push your goal up and start again, just move it in small amounts.

## What It Comes Down To

What it comes down to is you.  It is ultimately up to you to reach your goals.  No amount of advice I give you will get you to that goal weight if you don't act on it.  Reaching it will come from your efforts.  No "miracle pill" or "guaranteed results" diet is going to get you to your goals.  I am not going to tell you that you can never have soda, fast food, or red meat again.  I am not going to tell you that you have to workout for an hour everyday for the rest of your life.  Having expectations like that will set you up for failure.  Drink a soda once and while.  Take a day off and do something fun.  If you are not enjoying yourself you wont lose any weight.  You just have to remember to be responsible for yourself.  Make the right choices and know that your actions do impact you and your goals.