(As published on TheTownDish.com)

Trying to lose weight? There are many ways to begin the journey back to your "skinny jeans." Here are just a few easy changes to make in your life to get you on your way:

Bag the chips: Do you really need the side-dish? While "make-it-a-meal" combos are appealing, that added bag of chips, bowl of potato salad or side of fries can easily add 500+ calories to your meal. If you feel the need a side dish, slice up an apple or chomp on some baby carrots.

Move it to lose it: Not only does lying around result in very little energy expenditure but it also causes most people to think they are hungry when they're not. Boredom, television advertisements for food and tempting treats in the kitchen can all lead to excessive snacking while sitting around the house. So, get up! Go outside and play with the dog, do the laundry, run errands. Not only will you burn more calories but you'll be less likely to fall victim to "fake hunger."

Don't be efficient...be effective. Effective "dieting" is not always efficient. In fact, fast food restaurants and convenient stores are often to blame for added calories. It may just look like a small breakfast sandwich or a perfectly-portioned dessert treat, but those fast and easy on-the-go treats are often packed with fat and sugar, and because we eat them while we're preoccupied, we neglect to notice when we are full.

Can the Soda: Stop drinking your calories. Soda, iced teas, juice drinks and other sweetened beverages can have a huge impact on body weight. Not only can they easily add 1000+ calories per day to your diet, but the added sugar often causes water retention and bloating.

Compromise on Chocolate: You can still satisfy those chocolate cravings. Instead of a 1.5 oz chocolate bar at 225 calories, consider a fat free chocolate pudding or a mini piece of dark chocolate (like Dove Dark Chocolate Promises®). Both will satisfy your sweet tooth with fewer calories. Chocolate is meant to be savored. The more time you allow yourself to enjoy your favorite treats, the less you'll need to satisfy your cravings.

Keep treats out of reach: Keep your favorite sweets and junk food out of the house. This way they are not available to tempt you on a regular basis. If you have a strong craving, you can take a trip to the store. But by keeping it out of the cupboard, you are more likely to choose a healthier and more readily available alternative.

Lighten your Latte: Every quarter-cup of half and half you swap with skim milk saves you 50 calories; so with every 5 cups of coffee (or two 20 ounce coffees from Wawa) you drink, you shave off 250 calories. By simply choosing skim milk rather than cream or whole milk you can dramatically cut the calories of your morning beverage. In fact, choosing low-fat or fat-free dairy in general will reduce your overall fat and calorie intake.

Put down the box: Eating snacks straight from the box (or bag) can result in dramatic over-consumption. If you are going to have a snack, portion out how much you should eat into a small baggie or bowl and when that is empty...stop eating. Place the box back in the cupboard for your next day's snack. Another convenient option is to purchase pre-portioned snacks. Most of these snacks such as the "100 calorie snack packs," contain an appropriate serving of your favorite snack and are great for grab-and-go moments.

Take the stairs: It's amazing what a few extra steps throughout your day can add up to. If you don't have time to hit the gym there are other ways to increase your activity level. Choose the stairs rather than riding the elevator. Park further away from the building. Be creative! Whenever you are sitting down doing something, ask yourself..."Could I do this while standing up and moving?"

Pay attention: Focus on your food and your body when you eat. Don't be preoccupied with TV or other daily tasks. When you are doing other things while eating, the signals sent from the stomach to the brain indicating fullness are often blocked. If your brain doesn't get the memo that you're full, you'll be more likely to keep eating...and eating...and eating.

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