Reaching and managing a healthy weight takes time and patience. A six-month plan allows you to pursue a safe rate of weight loss without feeling excessively deprived or burdened by your own efforts. Over six months, many of your dieting approaches might become lifelong habits that can help you manage your weight even after you’ve achieved your goal.
Making your six-month weight-loss plan becomes simpler when you have specific results in mind. Rather than saying you need to become fitter and lose weight, aim for certain targets. Commit to shedding 10, 20 or 30 pounds and eliminating any risk factors for chronic conditions such as elevated insulin levels, higher blood pressure and cholesterol, or a waist size over 40 inches for a man or 35 inches for a woman. These factors increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association.
Weight Loss Basics
To lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit, meaning you consume fewer calories than you burn. A pound of weight equals about 3,500 calories, so if you make your deficit equal to about 500 calories each day, you can lose a pound weekly. Burn more calories through increased physical activity to make this deficit greater and help you lose fat faster. Over six months, losing a couple of pounds a week can yield up to a 40-lb. weight loss.
Visit a resource like caloriesperhour.com to work out how many calories you burn daily. From this amount, subtract 500 calories to set your daily calorie goal for losing one pound per week–a secure and sustainable rate as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bear in mind that as you become thinner, the number of calories you burn daily decreases. For every five pounds you lose, you burn between 25 and 50 calories fewer daily. Adjust your calorie target every time you lose about 10 pounds to be sure you continue to shed weight and don’t plateau, recommends registered dietitian Joanne Larson on”Ask the Dietitian.” If your target calorie intake for weight loss puts you under the National Institutes of Health’s recommended daily minimums of 1,200 for a woman or 1,500 for a guy, increase your workout or trim just 250 calories daily from your daily burn to shed just 1/2 pound each week.
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Take your calorie goal and divide it up over the course of three meals and two snacks that are smaller. For example, if you need 1,600 calories per day to lose weight, aim to consume 400 to 450 calories at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and 125 to 200 calories for each snack. Come up with a few standby menus for each meal which you can fall back on to remain in your calorie goal. For example, know that at breakfast, you can always enjoy a serving of oatmeal with soy milk, berries and almonds, or at lunch you can eat a deli turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with vegetables and an apple. Having fall-back meal choices makes shopping and meal preparation less stressful and makes it easier to keep on track when you are tired or busy.
Figure exercise into your weight loss plan also. Keep your expectations minimal to start. If you can only devote two days of workouts weekly, that is better than nothing. As you feel more inspired, add more days and vary your types of training to burn more calories and accelerate weight loss.
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A six-month diet program does not have to involve rigorous calorie-counting and drastic measures taken all at one time. In actuality, slow changes will more likely become embedded habits that help you sustain your target weight for a lifetime. For the first month, embrace a new strategy every three days. Start by lowering your intake of discretionary calories like soda, candy, donuts and alcohol. After that, try to make healthy swaps–such as low-fat dairy for full-fat, chicken or beef, whole grains for refined flour products, mustard or mayonnaise and marinara sauces for creamed versions. Insert a short daily walk and slowly increase its duration by 10 percent every week to work up to a complete hour of moderate-intensity exercise daily–the minimum amount needed to successfully lose weight, according to the American Council on Exercise. Over time, introduce different strategies like reducing portion sizes, cooking more meals at home so you can control the calorie content, and including more fruits and veggies.