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Step 8: Small steps add up
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For significant weight loss, you need to make sure you are burning more calories than you consume. This usually requires commitment to a disciplined exercise program. However, there are also many small, simple steps that can help your weight loss efforts every day.

Anything you do to consume fewer calories or burn more calories can help. Small steps count in weight loss, and believe it or not -- they add up! For example, instead of sending an email to your co-worker, go to his or her desk and talk face-to-face. Just that little bit of movement might burn one or two calories. By the end of the day, this could add up to 10 or 20 calories -- or more.

Simple but effective strategies

There are other quick and easy things that can really help. For example, brush your teeth after every meal. You may be less likely to snack, especially on sweets, when you have that fresh, clean feeling in your mouth. And another quick tip -- don't shop for groceries when you are hungry!

Here's another easy step: define your portions. Serve your ice cream in a bowl instead of eating it from the carton; put your chips on a plate instead of eating them from the bag. If you aren't keeping track, it is easy to eat more than you wanted.

When you start a weight loss effort, write down everything you eat. This will help you evaluate your diet and may help you eat less. Be honest with yourself. This isn't a test. You won't be graded. The feedback is for you only. Many people badly misjudge how they eat (underestimating high-calorie foods or overestimating low-calorie foods). When the notes aren't accurate, people tend to gain weight when they think they are dieting.

Make it automatic

To lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, everyone must make daily, even hourly, decisions about what is consumed and how to be physically active. In time, these decisions can become automatic and easy. To develop these automatic behaviors, try to develop a "pro-health" mentality rather than a "sacrifice" mentality.

The more active you are, the more successful you will be, but don't worry about doing it all right away. Over time, you will add more exercise to your routine and eat a more balanced diet. Until then, concentrate on what you can realistically do.

Helpful Handouts

Set a goal for yourself! Use this chart to set a goal and monitor your progress.

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Review Date: 6/28/2011
Reviewed By: Jeffrey Heit, MD, Internist with special emphasis on preventive health, fitness and nutrition, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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