To trim down: Monitor your intake, find a fitness plan, get some sleep, find inspiration.
Many people talk about losing weight, especially at this time of year. One study showed that about half of Americans would like to trim down. Getting it done is the challenge. So USA TODAY asked the authors of two new diet and health books to offer their best ideas for losing weight and shaping up for a healthier New Year.
• Monitor your food intake. Write down everything you consume or use an appto do it. Dieters who keep track of what they eat lose more weight than those who don't, research shows.
• Sit down when you eat. Too many people eat when they're on the go or on the run and don't focus on their food, which may contribute to mindless eating. Make sure you sit down, preferably at a table.
• Look for positive ways to cope with stress. Instead of drowning your sorrows in a bowl of ice cream or bag of chips, do something else: Call a friend, take a brisk walk, climb some stairs, write a letter or read a book or magazine. If all else fails, brushing your teeth or flossing, rinsing with mouthwash or applying minty lip balm can guard against eating when not hungry.
• Find some tangible inspiration. As you lose weight, use a tape measure or belt or pair of pants or jeans to see how much you're shrinking.
• Get some sleep. Getting enough shut-eye — about 7 to 9 hours nightly — may help you lose weight. Studies show that not getting enough Z's may alter hormones that make you hungrier. It's important to try to keep sleep patterns consistent on weekdays, weekends and vacations. Limiting big meals, booze and caffeine, especially close to bedtime, may help you fall sleep and stay asleep.
• Map out an exercise plan. Set clear goals, know what you'll do and pencil in your activity on your schedule as you would any appointment. Make specific plans to walk or run on a treadmill or in a park, take a class such as spinning, Zumba, tap dancing; play a sport like basketball or tennis or set a goal to train for a 5K, 10K or half marathon. Monitor your movement with an activity monitor or pedometer. These are the first steps toward becoming a more active and vibrant person and a consistent exerciser. If you don't stimulate muscles and burn calories regularly, you set yourself up to lose muscle mass and gain fat weight as you age, and these are both vitality sappers. Plus, you won't reap the mental, cardiovascular and mood benefits that physical activity provides.
• Vow to sit less. Set an alarm to go off at the same time every hour as a reminder to get up and do something, whether you're at home, watching TV or working at your desk. Walking, climbing stairs, or doing some exercises such as push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, lunges or crunches can add a little fitness to your day without taking too much time or effort.
• Ditch the all-or-none mind-set. Learn to give yourself some wiggle room on your New Year's resolutions to lose weight and shape up. Map out your food and fitness plans, but if you have a day that you get off track, then start fresh the next day. The key is to find a healthful, balanced lifestyle that's enjoyable and that you can live with long-term.
• Make small resolutions. Many New Year's resolutions fail, but "in my research for Eat It to Beat It!, I discovered how easily small, simple changes could lead to huge, long-term results. My advice is not to make big resolutions, but to focus on small things that will nudge you in the right direction not just in the next few weeks, but for years to come," he says.
• Fill up on fiber. Adding just 5 to 10 grams of fiber a day has been shown to help strip off pounds and lower cholesterol levels.
• Excuse-proof your workout. The best solution for sticking to an exercise plan is The Men's Fitness Exercise Bible: 101 Best Workouts to Build Muscle, Burn Fat, and Sculpt Your Best Body Ever by Sean Hyson. It gives you workouts for every situation, every body part, every piece of equipment and every fitness goal, as well. No matter where you are or how little time, money, experience or equipment you have, the perfect workout is here.
• Trick yourself into eating less. Resist the urge to check your e-mail while you eat. Research shows that people who eat while distracted eat 10% more in one sitting than they would otherwise. Not only that, "distracted eaters" go on to eat up to 25% more total calories over the course of the day. You may save hundreds of calories just by eating at the dinner table and away from the television.
• Strip away fat with smart swaps. For instance, order the Shrimp on the Barbie appetizer instead of hot wings at Outback Steakhouse, and you'll save more than 1,000 calories and more than 100 grams of fat.