Customize Your Own Diet

The only sure way to lose weight is counting calories; it's all about calories in vs. calories out. First, come up with your goal weight. Goal weight x 10 = amount of calories daily you should consume. My goal weight is 140 so I aim to consume 1,400 calories. I shoot for 1,200 knowing that I will probably go over a little.

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I keep a log and track everything I eat adding up my calories for the day. It also makes it easier to calculate calories everyday since we pretty much eat the same things over and over.

Next set up a plan that you know will work for you. Analyze your weak areas and problematic times of the day and do everything to change them. One of my weaknesses is snacking, so I stock up on fruits, popcorn, low calorie ice creams and Weight Watchers frozen desserts.

I bulk up a Weight Watchers frozen dessert with a little fruit (like defrosted frozen cherries or fresh berries) on the side and low fat Reddi whip cream. It really helps when I have a craving at night after dinner (my big weak time of day). I feel like I'm cheating when I'm not. Another great treat is freezing an individual sized yogurt. It takes longer to eat, too.

I also eat many Lean Cuisine meals for lunch or dinner because they are so low in calories. Bulk them up with a green salad and/or a cup of veggies. I'm not a fan of processed foods, but I think the end justifies the means. I'd rather eat these for a little while to lose 10 or 20 lbs, then I can go back to my home cooking. Watch for sales on Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers desserts and stock up on them.

Green salads are great and the low fat dressings aren't so bad. I like Newman's. You can also Google low fat dressing recipes and make this yourself. I put my salad in a large mixing bowl and pour on the allotted 2 Tbsp of low cal dressing and give it a good mix in the bowl. The dressing goes a lot further this way. I'm very satisfied with only 2 Tbsp of dressing on an entree-sized salad.

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My other big weakness is picking up fast food when I'm out all day doing errands/shopping and get famished. I always keep snack foods in my car or purse for these times such as portioned out whole almonds or 100 calorie snack bars. It's just enough to take the edge off a hunger pang and to resist the urge for something bad.

Next up is moving; walking is easy and a painless way to burn calories. With the heat now, I save my walking for around 7pm when it cools off. I start walking 30 minutes and gradually increase it. Walk at least 5 times a week, and the weight will come off much more quickly. I've gotten to the point that if I don't walk at night, I feel guilty and actually miss it. Walk different routes to keep it interesting. Amazingly, you will notice things in your neighborhood, that you didn't notice before as you were zipping around driving.

The last trick I do is that I allow myself a non-calorie counting day once a week. Now, I don't get crazy, but I eat stuff like 2 slices of pizza or maybe something else I've been craving. I do this for two reasons; during the diet week I know I have one free day coming up and it helps keep me on track. It also keeps my metabolism guessing, and it never goes into starvation mode. You can also use this free day for a dinner party, dinner out, or other event. This may not work for everyone, but it works for me as I can get back on track the next day.

If you don't think you can do this, then try to vary your calorie counting this one day by adding on an extra 500 so that you are keeping in the groove. Doing this one thing will help your body avoid those frustrating plateaus. This is the basis for success with the 17-day diet, too.

Drink little or no calories. The only calories I drink are fat free half and half in coffee and skim milk. I'd rather save my calories for food. Only one starch a day such as a pasta, potatoes, or bread.

We all know the diet rules, but I find the way it works is if you customize it to your personality and weaknesses. The worst part of a diet is the first couple of days, but after that it's not so bad when you're in the groove and you start seeing your results on the scale!

By Dorothy from New York, NY

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