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Stop dieting!

To lose weight, make these simple changes

There's no real magic to weight loss. It all boils down to a mathematical equation: Burn more calories than you take in. But according to Duke University's Diet & Fitness Center, dieting is not the solution. That's because diets tend to put your focus on numbers instead of on your health. And they're often seen as short-term solutions, so they don't address unhealthy eating habits such as eating when you’re not hungry and binge eating.

Taking the weight off and keeping it off requires a lifestyle change, not a diet. According to the American Council on Exercise, you’re more likely to find success if you focus on three things: a low-fat diet, aerobic activity and strength training.

Take in fewer calories with a low-fat diet.

One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. So to lose one pound per week, you must take in 500 fewer calories per day. Never lower your caloric intake at the expense of nutrition, though. Eat smart by selecting low-fat foods with high nutritional value.

Keep in mind, your goal is to find the weight that's healthiest for you. Health and happiness aren’t achieved by becoming thin. They are achieved through healthy eating, regular exercise and a positive self-image. So focus on total health, and don’t fall into the "diet" trap.

Aerobic activity burns fat, calories; increases your metabolism.

For weight control, there's no beating low-impact aerobic exercise such as walking, step aerobics and low-impact aerobic dance. Start slow, with as little as 15 minutes three times a week. If necessary, break it up with several 10-minute exercise sessions throughout the day.

Your goal is to increase the intensity and the length of your workouts until you reach 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, four or more times a week.

Tip: Lower-intensity exercise tends to burn fat, but not as many calories as a higher-intensity workout. So you may want to gradually increase the intensity of each workout, starting with low intensity and working up to high intensity.

Strength training increases your capacity to burn calories.

To maintain lean muscle mass while you lose fat, you’ve got to do strength training. As a benefit, muscles burn more calories, so as you build strength, you'll also increase your resting metabolic rate.

To prevent injury, start with small weights and do one or two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. Try to include all major muscle groups.

Hit a plateau? Two tips:

  1. Vary your workout. Choose several activities you enjoy, then mix it up. Don't do the same workout two days in a row, but try to be active most days of the week. According to studies, if you do the same exercise over and over again, you'll likely hit a plateau. By varying your workout, your muscles are less likely to adapt to the workout.

  2. Put a little more focus on weight lifting and strength training. Your body adjusts its metabolism to resist weight change, so dieting and losing weight can actually slow down your metabolism. Since muscle is more metabolically active than fat, when you build muscle, you also build your capacity to burn calories.

For more tips and inspiration, visit GuideStone's wellness website.

GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention welcomes the opportunity to share this general information. However, this article is not intended to be relied upon as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.