Losing weight is simple, but it isn’t easy. The simple part is the math: your weight loss is a function of the calories you take in vs. the calories you burn. That’s pretty much it. Sure, you should pay attention to your macro nutrients and try to keep the right balance. Yes, there are studies that suggest that the artificial sweeteners in calorie-free sodas can cause us to take on more fat from the meals we drink them with. But by and large, these other concerns are secondary to weight loss (they’re not necessarily secondary to your health, which is a different thing). For weight loss, the bottom line is simple: calories in, calories out. Nothing else matters nearly so much. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr, under creative commons license

Photo courtesy of Flickr, under creative commons license

Your basic weight loss plan

When it comes to dieting, the math doesn’t get too much tougher than what we just went over: it’s the execution that is tough. Do a quick Google search and you’re bound to find plenty of weight loss calculators. Head to a doctor or trainer and you could get even more specific information based on things like body fat percentage, which is a bit too advanced for an online calculator. But however you crunch the numbers, you’re going to end up with a calorie goal based on your current weight, how much you’re looking to lose, and how long you’re willing to spend losing it.

That’s part one of your plan, and getting down to that calorie goal - regardless of what, exactly, you’re eating - is half the battle.

The other half of the battle is exercise. What you do for exercise is entirely up to you, but be sure to do it - only a consistent and significant exercise regime can have a real effect on your overall physique. It’s important to note that almost no amount of exercise can counteract a poor diet - as the saying goes “you can’t outrun a poor diet.” A typical person is lucky to burn 100 calories running a mile. To put that in perspective, a king size candy bar can easily be 400 or 500 calories. It’s a lot easier to not eat one candy bar than it is to run five miles, so keep this in mind!

One place where exercise can really help is in building muscle and muscle tone. Losing weight is great, but a really healthy lifestyle involves eating well and building an athletic body. If you have one part of your body that you’re particularly interested in targeting, look for a muscle building guide to that body part! There are guides all over the internet showing you how to get perfect legs, abs, arms, and more. Just remember that this is about muscle - there’s no way to “target” weight loss, so the only way to get your legs skinny is to get skinny everywhere with a good diet. 

The best thing to cut out is booze

Okay, I know you don’t want to hear this, but there is one very good place to cut calories in your diet. Calories are the key to weight loss, but they aren’t the whole story for your health - and a balanced diet that includes the right proportions of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats will make you feel fuller and will help you live longer. So when you’re cutting things out of your diet, you want to cut out something without much nutritional value. Something without protein, which fills you up and fuels your muscle. Something that doesn’t make you feel full. Maybe even something that makes you eat more. Something that isn’t even a food at all, and is actually a drink. Something that, in large quantities, is bad for your health. Yes, we’re talking about booze.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, under creative commons license

Photo courtesy of Flickr, under creative commons license

Booze, in all of its forms, is one of the sneaky things that gets us fat. It’s highly caloric, and a lot of the calories come from the alcohol itself, not the other stuff in your drink. So, no, swapping out beer and mixed drinks for straight vodka will not save you. Drinking alcohol leads to collateral damage, too: you’ll tend to eat more when you’re drinking, and if you drink enough, you may even find yourself eating poorly the morning after (hangover people don’t make breakfast salads).

Cutting down on alcohol is a great way to cut back on your calories. Start with booze, and you can make significant calorie cuts without even beginning to consider the actual food you eat (though you should do that, too). And it’s never a bad idea to cut back on alcohol intake. See how well you handle it - if you find it very difficult to not drink, you may even have a drinking problem that needs to be addressed (if you feel you have a drinking problem, seek help! Look for AA meetings in your area).

Baby steps

So there you have it: your weight loss plan is to cut calories and exercise more, and your secret weapon is cutting out booze. No, there’s no real silver bullet here (it’s mostly just simple math). But remember that you don’t have to go all-or-nothing with this. Try cutting down on your drinking, rather than eliminating it. Start exercising two days a week before switching to three and then five or even seven. Good habits build on themselves, so every step you take in the right direction matters. Now go get ‘em!