People who lose weight at a steady rate of 1 pound per week are more likely to keep it off than people who lose weight much faster, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 90-day plan is a good start for gradual weight loss, and it should instill healthful habits to keep the fat gone for good. To succeed, you’ll need to follow a controlled diet and stay physically active, not only for the 90-day plan, but for the rest of your life.
Count Your Calories
To lost 1 pound per week, you will need to consume 500 fewer calories than your body burns each day. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a diet of between 1,200 and 1,500 calories for women and between 1,500 and 1,800 calories for men should induce weight loss. Record the calories in everything you eat and drink, and don’t eat more than your calorie limit. Most calorie tracking programs have a database of foods and their calorie contents to make it easier to track your meals.
Weighing each portion is the most accurate way to track calories in your meals. Keep counting calories even after the 90 days are complete to maintain your results.
Make a Basic Meal Plan
If you’d rather not count calories daily, create a basic meal plan that provides a balanced intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy. Eat only the foods in your meal plan, and make a new balanced meal plan that fits your calorie limits when you become bored with the first. A daily meal plan for a 1,600-calorie diet should contain 5 ounces of whole grains, 2 cups of vegetables, 3 cups of low-fat dairy, 5 ounces of protein and 1 1/2 cups of fruit. A sample 1,600-calorie meal plan could start with a bowl of bran flakes and a banana for breakfast; a ham sandwich served with carrots, an apple, yogurt and peanuts for lunch; a leafy green salad with chicken and chopped vegetables served with strawberries and a whole-grain roll for dinner; and a snack of pretzels and milk.
Don’t Forget to Exercise
Exercising helps you burn calories, and it will greatly increase the effectiveness of your 90-day weight loss plan. Aim to exercise at a moderate intensity for 150 minutes every week — that’s 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If you don’t want to hit the gym or follow an exercise DVD, do activities like swimming, in-line skating, cycling, hiking, jogging and dancing to get your body moving.
Have a Cheat Day
Schedule a day to use as your cheat day. The idea behind a cheat day is to boost your metabolism and to satisfy cravings without causing guilt. On your cheat day, put away your meal plan, stop counting calories and eat what you crave. It’s still important to exercise portion control — don’t eat a whole pizza or an entire pint of ice cream, for example — but give yourself some leniency. The next day, go back to following your meal plan.