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Getting started
Beginner
This is your program if you feel ready to take on an eight-week challenge. You’re starting at little-to-no physical activity, and with little-to-no awareness of how your eating habits stack up.
Weeks 1-3 goals:
•Practice the plate method with lunch and dinner. Half the plate should be vegetables, one quarter lean protein, one quarter starchy vegetables or whole grains.
•Exercise at least 30 minutes three times a week. Try two cardio days at medium intensity (walk, walk/jog, bike, elliptical, etc.) and one strength day of free weights, group fitness class or at-home exercises.
•Reduce added sugars by at least one serving a day. Think about where there are “extra” sugars in your day (both substitutes and the real stuff). Flavored yogurt? Sweetened coffee? Afternoon treats? Eliminate at least one of these.
Weeks 4-7 goals:
•Eat at least five servings of fruits or vegetables each day.
•Increase exercise by one day a week. Add in a cardio-strength mixed workout – this would be something like a group fitness class or doing 15 to 20 minutes of cardio and then adding 10 to 15 minutes of strength exercises.
•Increase water intake. Drink at least 10 cups of water each day.
Week 8 goal:
Keep everything consistent! Moderate
If you already exercise somewhat regularly (90 to 120 minutes a week) and have some awareness of healthful eating, this program is for you.
Weeks 1-3 goals:
•Reduce added sugars/alcohol by two servings a day. If your alcohol intake isn’t regular, then aim for two to three drinks a week.
•Add in one extra day of physical activity a week to focus on strength training and toning muscles. . If you’re already working out five or six days a week, add 10 to 15 minutes of strength training at least once a week.
•Reduce carbohydrate intake at night; aim for high vegetable/protein meals at dinner. If there is a carb in the meal, aim for starchy vegetables rather than processed carbs.
Weeks 4-7 goals:
•Add in healthful fats to one meal/snack a day. Aim for unsaturated fats such as fish, oils, nuts, seeds or avocado. If you already eat these, try a different source.
•Devote at least one day a week to high-intensity cardio exercise for at least 25-30 minutes.
Week 8 goal:
Keep everything consistent!

Small steps mean big changes in weight-loss goals

We just bid a long, cold winter a welcome farewell. But while you’re peeling off the layers, remember that swimsuit season is just around the corner.

Are you ready? If not, we have a few ideas on how to lose weight and tone muscle by Memorial Day Weekend.

Not enough time to make a difference?

“It’s actually a lot of time,” says Danielle Omar, a registered dietitian in Fairfax, Va. “You could lose up to 15 to 16 pounds in that time, depending on the changes you make.” She suggests starting by looking at everyday eating and exercise habits.

“Just bring your lunch to work and stop those daily Starbucks runs and you could lose more than a pound a week with just that,” she says.

Heather Calcote, a Washington dietitian and endurance athlete, agrees and says before setting up a plan and specific weight-loss goal, you have to figure out your current state of fitness and nutrition.

“If you are just starting out, it’s really important to set realistic goals or you will risk injury and mental burnout,” she says.

In other words, don’t have an all-or-nothing approach to fitness and then feel defeated if you don’t go to the gym two hours a day, six times a week and cut everything you love from your daily diet.

“Set yourself up for success, not failure,” Calcote says. That means incremental changes.

Small changes

Maybe you start by making one daily exercise change and two daily nutrition changes, Calcote suggests.

For example: Add up to 30 minutes of walking at least three times a week for your exercise change and – as Omar suggested – start bringing your lunch to work and eliminate the high-caloric coffee drinks for your two nutrition changes.

Every few weeks you might add a few other changes. Those can include, Omar suggests, using the plate method ( 1/2 of the plate is veggies, 1/4 starchy vegetable or whole grain, 1/4 lean protein), replacing soda with water, cutting (or at least cutting down on) wine (which can contain about 125 calories a glass) and, finally, saying no to free office food.

“The free office food is usually poor-quality, high-carb, high-fat food,” Omar says. “There is little protein or other nutritional value there. Just say no.”

Exercise to tone

Although you might achieve your weight goal with just nutrition changes, Omar encourages exercise for several reasons.

“I find that exercise keeps your head in the game,” Omar says. “You also get stress relief, alone time and that endorphin rush. And on top of that you burn calories.”

Ingrid Nelson, a personal trainer in Washington, suggests adding strength training to the mix – even if you are a beginner.

“You are going to see big changes in the body if you incorporate some strength training,” she says. “And if you are looking for weight loss, weight training supports that really well.” The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn.

Plus, “once the fat melts off, then what are you going to see?” Toned muscle is the goal.

Nelson, who trains a lot of brides, says there are a few “tricks of the trade” to get that swimsuit/wedding dress look (you know: the thin waist and cut shoulders).

If you do shoulder and back work – in other words, add a little bulk and tone to your top – your waist will look smaller.

Change the routine

If you are already active, Nelson says, consider switching up your routine. If you are running long distance three to four times a week, add some track work or interval training and strength training to the mix and see where it takes you in the next few weeks.

“Try something new and see how the body responds,” Nelson says.

Although the Memorial Day beacon is a short-term goal, she suggests it can be a catalyst for self-discovery and long-term change.

Baby steps

Sound overwhelming?

If so, pick two daily nutrition changes and one daily exercise change.

Other practical solutions include getting a pedometer to see how much activity you are getting daily – especially if you don’t have time for big blocks of exercise, Omar says. “It makes you aware of how much you actually move. Sometimes our perceptions are way off.”

The same thing goes for a food log, Omar says. It shows you exactly how many calories you are taking in daily and how that relates to your resting metabolic rate, or your daily caloric need at rest.

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