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Step 2: Learn to Set a Healthy Goal

In order to lose weight, we are going to use a principle that is very simple, but tough to understand for some reason for a lot of people:

To lose weight, burn more calories than you consume.

That's really all you need.  We'll talk more about this concept when we go into calorie counting.  For right now, you need to know what constitutes a healthy goal, short and long term.  Let's go through some figures you need to know.

BMI
In order to calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index), you will need to know your current weight.  Now might be a good time to buy a scale and put it in the bathroom.  This website will tell you your BMI and what category this places you in.  It will also tell you what the healthy weight range is for your height.  Many people will argue that using the BMI is not always an accurate way to find a healthy weight loss goal because the system is outdated.  However, I feel that if you take the healthy BMI range and put your goal somewhere in the middle, you can readjust when you make that primary goal.
Ex: I am 5'7" and I weigh 240 pounds.  Currently that puts me in the obese category.  My healthy weight range is between 118 and 159 pounds, so I choose to set a goal weight of 140 pounds initially. 

Daily Caloric Intake
Now you need to figure out how many calories to eat each day in order to get to your goal.  This website has a great calculator for this purpose.  If you put in your basic statistics, the calculator tells you exactly how many calories to eat per day during every week of your diet for the first year.  It will even adjust the amount of calories weekly based on your updated weight. 
If you are following my plan, you'll want to put in moderate on the activity level, unless you also have a very active occupation, such as a job that requires you to walk around and stand for most of the day.

There are some things you'll want to keep in mind when you make this goal:
-A healthy amount of weight to lose per week is about 2-5 pounds depending on your starting weight and current physical condition.  If you are planning on losing more per week, I highly recommend consulting a doctor regularly, especially if you currently have any medical conditions.
-A healthy amount of calories to eat per day for most people on a diet is 1200 calories or more.  If you put your goal into the calorie calculator and the calories per day numbers are below 1200 calories, you will want to lower your yearly goal so that you can safely lose less weight within the first year. 

Ex: I am 5'7" and 240 pounds.  My goal is a healthy weight of 140 pounds.  I put in the goal of losing 100 pounds in a year, but notice that this puts me under a healthy amount of calories per day toward the end of my plan.  I can either choose to lower my yearly goal on the calculator or go with the current plan with the intention of eating at least 1200 calories per day toward the end of the diet for a slightly slower result toward the end.  I will be losing around 2 pounds per week.  During the first week of the plan, I will want to eat 1762 calories per day.

If you're losing 100 pounds or more and trying to do it safely, expect to spend at least a year working toward your goal and likely more.
Its true that the &quot;you need 8 glasses of water a day&quot; is wrong. That's only half of what the study said which was that you need 8 glasses of water a day but you get most of that from the water in the food you eat, fruit, coffee, vegetables, meat, gravy.<br><br>However water does fill you up, and makes you feel full so there is no harm in drinking a few glasses extra.<br><br>It has also been shown that, if you drink a glass of water with your meal the water quickly exists your stomach, but if you liquidize your meal, along with the same water, your stomach must keep the food and water in longer to process it, which means your stomach is full longer so you feel full for longer.<br><br>Of course you can't be expected to liquidize everything, but you can eat dishes where the water is in the meal, hearty soups, casseroles etc.
<p>You're certainly right, ChrisLewis, that you can't liquidize everything. Who in the world wants liquid steak?! But one thing to remember about actually chewing your food is that part of the satisfaction (especially social satisfaction) of eating a meal is in chewing it (and not talking while doing so!). Chewing food takes longer than drinking it, and provides more taste experience. It also gives your stomach more time to realize that it is full. If you are not eating alone, chewing also provides your mouth time to do other things than monopolize the conversation! Modeling chewing and swallowing with one's mouth closed is good for helping young children learn to do the same, as well as helping them master turn-taking-while-talking, and the social benefits of not interrupting.</p><p>One of our foster children was severely handicapped and could not chew food. I was advised to run her foods through a blender before feeding her, which worked well. During one doctor's visit I was asked about her favorite foods. I replied that she really liked mashed bananas (&quot;Good, good,&quot; I was told), but that her favorites were stewed or roasted moose or caribou blended with cooked carrots and cooked rice. I was told to run her foods through the blender separately and give her a couple small spoonfuls of each food at a time so that she could enjoy the different tastes. I had not thought of that and was glad for the advice. I'm just sharing that the medical advice in this situation was that foods be enjoyed separately, not all blended together for every meal. Smoothies with mixed fruits, etc. are obviously fine for most of us - yum!</p><p>This is a really great Instructable! The photos illustrate and encourage and the narrative is excellently written! Awesome job! Congratulations, miss_alli1984! You've done the world a great service.<br></p>
<p>I &quot;ate&quot; a liquid hot dog one time. It tasted like a hot dog but it was still gross. </p>
<p><strong>tb1 drank a hot dog! x^D</strong></p>
Very well put! I've heard several diet plans talk about eating water-laden foods and it is very sensible. Many fruits and vegetables have a lot of water content and help you to feel full.
Remember to space muscle groups out so you give them a chance to heal between workouts, you list it like that up above I just wanted to elaborate. I've always been told a day is good enough. So working upper body m-w-f and lower body t-th-s so they are properly spaced. I generally lump the core workout in with the upper body since most of those muscles are above the waist with some leg lifts on lower body days.<br><br>If I'm remembering correctly you want to space the workouts because working the muscle causes little tears and ruptures in the muscle tissue and it takes a day to heal itself. Which if you are eating enough protein will result in increased muscle mass. Again this is all if I'm remembering correctly as it has been over a decade since I first learned this all.
<p>They taught us that in PhysEd in school in the fifties. We would get sore and then sore again....but the break was because the muscles need healing.</p>
<p>I agree here...thanks for the input! Muscles do need rest, and VARIATION...doing the same thing all the time does not help to build them properly and one can get hurt and damage muscles when you are older, so be practical, and take some YMCA classes etc to find out what to do to maximize exercies so that you just don't do one thing only with the areas you are working on:)</p>
Many thanks for the clarification! I am curious, did you read Body for Life by Bill Phillips? This reminds me of that book. :-)
I had not though it sounds like an interesting read.
He talks a lot about the strategy you just mentioned and it is the one that I still use to this day despite not using his diet plan. His book is also where I learned a lot of the importance of protein to our diets and about nutritional balance at each meal.
This is awesome and congrats miss_ali! I just want to throw in a quick counter comment to ChrisLewis300, for him and everyone else. 8 glasses of water a day should be your minimum intake of water, and you shouldn't really count the water from the things you are eating, because, in the end, it's really negligible. As for things like coffee and tea, they do count towards that goal, but you have to keep in mind that those are a diuretic. This means that they cause your body to flush out more of the liquid by trips to the bathroom, so too much of those can actually counteract the process/count. If you're drinking less than 8 glasses of water a day, your body will hold onto as much water as possible, which causes &quot;water weight&quot; or bloating. So, at least 8 glasses of water a day, more glasses the more active you are. Unless you're insanely active and working in high heat conditions, don't exceed 2 gallons of water a day because then you have too much water in your system which could cause hyponatrima. Be sensible with your water intake and that won't be an issue. And my last point, liquifying your foods/water together doesn't actually stay in your system longer, keeping you full longer, this is completely opposite of the truth. When you liquify your food you've actually completed most of the digestion process pre-ingestion. Your stomach no longer needs to work as long to break down the food since you've done most of it's job for it, thus it will process out of your stomach quicker than eating a normal meal. On the other hand, if you chronically overeat, liquifying your meals can help your stomach shrink back to normal size so you can sense what true full is, sooner.
<p>A comment on the blended food point ~ when I was counting 'points' in Weight Watchers, most fruits and vegetables had a zero point value. So you always had something to eat, even if you'd used all your points for the day. But as soon as you threw those fruits and vegetables in a blender, they had points. I guess for the same reason you've mentioned - you've done the bodies' job of breaking down and processing that food with a machine. Better to eat it whole and let your body do all the work of digestion.</p><p>Apples were the exception. Unsweetened applesauce was given a zero point value. I don't know why that was, but unsweetened applesauce is still one of my go-to foods when I want something sweet and I'm trying to be good.</p>
One thing to keep in mind for those percentages on nutrition fact sheets; the percentages are based on whats called an 'upper limit' where as if you are trying to lose weight you should shoot for the 'lower limit'.<br><br>Using sodium as an example, the nutrition percentage is based on an intake of 2300mg daily, the upper limit for a healthy diet is around 2500mg and the lower limit is around 1200mg.<br><br>For things like fat and sodium it would be wise to shoot for the lower limit, and on the reverse fibre and protein are two things that you confidently fulfill you daily intake of.
Wonderful point. To be honest I was unaware of that, but certainly it's good to shoot for low fat and sodium! Those things can sabotage an otherwise sound strategy. Thanks!
One thing I've read for weight loss (in the book &quot;&quot;the four hour body&quot;, very good ideas in there.) is to measure inches as well. Measure your arms, thighs, and waist. Then add those 5 numbers up to get your total inches. Then maybe once a week, remeasure yourself so you can see how they have changed. Sometimes you lose inches instead of pounds, and people don't realize that. They just see their weight plateauing.<br><br>As for weighing yourself, do it the same time everyday. I've heard that the best time is in the morning, before you eat breakfast. I know I fluctuate about 2-3 pounds each day, so measuring weight at all different times would be confusing.
This is a great comment and I agree with everything in it. Well written!
<p>I really like your sensible approach to weight loss and maintenance. Thanks for posting this, Miss Ali! </p>
<p>I got my fat loss at home while<br>watching t.v. It was made possible with the invention of blue fat freeze system which freezes the fat cells while you rest at home<br>and dismantles them quickly.</p>
<p>Thank you so much. What really got to me here was &quot;You aren't going to be comfortable.&quot; 10 years ago and through most of my life since I was 15 (43 now) I was a dancer and I did Yoga every day. Than I had an injury and I stopped working out BUT didn't stop eating. Doc recommended pool since I am riddled with arthritis from the dancing and the injury and walking is a no no. I'd refused to go for over a month now but after reading &quot;You aren't going....&quot; it woke me up. First day back at the gym today and I already have that &quot;high&quot; I used to get. So thank you once again.</p>
<p>I used Blue Fat freeze kit and it helps me to lose 2 inches around my waist<br>in 2 months. It&rsquo;s a very simple way of losing weight just by wrap it around<br>your fatty part and gets rid of your fat cells. You don't need to follow such<br>hectic diet plan and worry about its sustainability. But do adopt healthy<br>eating habits as it has no substitute.</p>
Congratulations on the major loss, but especially on the long-term maintenance!&nbsp; I wish more folks who have managed to sustain significant weight loss would stand up and talk about their experiences.&nbsp; <br><br>Motivated by a couple crises of health, I lost 115 lbs and have kept it off with only minor variation for over 15 years.&nbsp; My wife also lost 55 lbs at the time and has also maintained.&nbsp; It was and is a team effort.&nbsp; I suspect that's a big reason we've been able to keep at it so long.&nbsp; <br><br>For us, perhaps no other single thing has more positive impact on our maintenance than cooking and eating for satiety.&nbsp; CICO is great and a skill to be cultivated, but is not sustainable itself until one works out a regimen in which they will be generally satisfied with what they're eating.&nbsp; A person can grit their teeth and tolerate a calorie deficit or even a break-even with poorly satiating food for a time, but I see a lot of folks eventually worn down and relapsing trying to eat like everyone else, only less. That was certainly the case for me in many early attempts.&nbsp; Minimally processed, low-glycemic has worked well for us.&nbsp; Everyone is a little different in what they can tolerate or enjoyably sustain.&nbsp; I've come to believe everyone should map their own responses to food and plan accordingly.&nbsp; <br><br>Only second to the above is some form of honest self-monitoring and regular exercise.&nbsp; There is some evidence to suggest that exercise does not properly scale up for CICO even if it were practical to offset huge amounts of calories.&nbsp; It is certainly my anecdotal experience.&nbsp; Even so, exercise is a critical part of our regimen maintaining muscle mass and burning some calories. Hiking and body weight exercise has served us best. &nbsp; <br><br>Overall, it's a very personal balance to be struck through enormous trial and error.&nbsp; For me it took a very good reason to drive the kind of mindfulness required to stick through all the discomfort and learning.&nbsp; And the observation and correction continues every day.&nbsp; It has been entirely worth it!&nbsp; Our quality of life can't be compared to what it was before.&nbsp; That drives us now. <br><br>Thanks again for getting the word out.&nbsp; It can be done!<br><br><br>
<p>I really hate when people repeat the &quot;8 glasses of water&quot; mantra. Even as a child I asked the question, &quot;how much is a glass?&quot; I know what a cup is (= 8oz.) but a glass? Glasses come in varying sizes. So if you mean 8 cups of water or 64 oz. then why not say that? The reason, there is no scientific proof that 64 oz. or &quot;8 glasses of water&quot; is a magic number for health. The original study included watr from food. Your body size, type and activity all make a difference, too. Just apply a little logic. Does a 100 lbs. person need the exact same amount of water as a 300 lbs. person? Particularly of the 300 lb'der is an NFL lineman and the 100 lbs person in a 17 year old student with no extra curriculars? So from a scientific point of view, first use accurate measurement, then go by what been actually tested (a subject pool of one is not at generalizable study). http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256</p>
<p>Ask any urologist and the bottom line is you need to produce 2 to 3 quarts of urine a day in order to effectively flush out the kidneys. This equates to consuming 2.5 to 3.5 quarts of water per day for the average adult. If a person sweats more through work, activity or sports, then more water is necessary to achieve the 2 to 3 quarts of urine daily. BTW, this is not a good website to harvest good health information from. </p><p>Also, &quot;calorie reduction diets&quot; as the one suggested by the original poster fail in the long run the vast majority of the time. Eliminating &quot;high carb low nutrient processed foods&quot; from the typical American diet will go a long way in helping most people achieve a BMI appropriate weight for the long term.</p>
<p>i agree with you on that mantra, <strong>macH &amp; chrisL300</strong>. thanx for your input; i'm in good company. <strong> x^)</strong></p>
<p>I completely agree with this article, thank you for breaking it down and listing each important part of long-term weight loss. I've managed to lose over 100 lbs myself, and share very similar bullet points as you. I wrote my story here along with pictures http://mealprepweightloss.com/my-weight-loss-story/ but I want to tell people that if I can do it, anyone can, start today :)</p>
<p>I so enjoyed reading your article! I recently had a life event that launched me on a journey exploring weight loss, nutrition, fitness, etc. What an adventure! Weight loss came as a side effect to the improved nutrition, and cooking has become a new thing all over again. Fun! But now and then I do get the munchies - so instead of potato chips, I crunch ice chips. Works great!</p>
<p>my prob is: i'd like to &quot;work out on the plate&quot; {the <strong>dinner</strong> plate}. :^b.... </p>
<p>Great article, thanks!</p>
<p>Well done for writing such a helpful instructable! No gimmicks or fad diets just good old calorie counting, exercise and the right mental attitude! Good on you and I hope the advice here helps many people!</p>
<p>With regards to BMI, the medical community is beginning to reject it.</p><p>The problem with BMI is that it's a one size fits all with no regard to body type.</p><p>As an example my BMI indicates that at 5'11&quot; I could be at 150 or below.</p><p>The problem is, I'm stocky and if I'm below 180 - 170 I look emaciated and ill. This is the problem with BMI that the medical community is seeing.</p><p>Beyond that, good on you!</p>
<p>Thanks miss_ali1984 for writing such a detailed article and many readers' comments and inputs. I read the whole article and most of the comments. I'd like to comment on eric102271's opinion that he/she thinks the author looked better before than after. There are several factors to reason this. The two before pictures were taken carefully, at camera ready moment. All the after pictures were taken while the author was in activities; The before pictures were taken when she was at least several years younger; It seems the author is much busier and more active now, all the running and coaching keep fat off her; Another factor I think has something to do with our perception of predicting a rounder person with well-nourished, happier, easy-going, kinder, steadier, a skinny person with poor-nourished, mean, picky, etc, while deep down they are the same person. The most important factor is only the author knows how better she feels after and all the freedom she gained by loosing 100lbs. I can relate to the last one in a way.</p><p>From 1999-2014, I had perfect health and fitness by eating right alone. I didn't exercise at all except being either a student, or corporate employee or full time mom . I maintained 112lbs(I'm between 5'2 and 5'3) for that 15 years. In 2014, I had a second child. I gained about 45 lbs during pregnancy. Long story short, Two month after the birth, I lost 40 lbs. I was 102 lbs. Again Long story short, I self imposed a complete elimination diet for several months to offer breast milk to my son who was suspected of multiple Food allergies and intolerances. Fish, nuts, soy, egg,,,,you name it, any nutritious food with good protein were eliminated. I was on a mainly carbohydrate diet for too long. I gained about 16 lbs. Still I was not overweight at all. There was't any noticeable change to my body except by myself-a muffin top rising on my belly. I didn't need to lose weight or the muffin top if not for how bad I felt-I felt I was on the road to some life threatening disease. To better myself, Not only I stopped offering my son breast milk, switched to a normal diet, I cut down carbohydrates even more, started to do side plank 3-4 nights a week while listening to audiobooks. After 6 months, I lost 4 lbs although I didn't need to. My muffin top didn't completely go away but it did stop rising. The most importantly, I don't have those diabetic symptoms anymore. The good news is it took only two weeks to feel better. The bad news is those diabetic symptoms might come back and it seems it took at least 3 months to keep them away.</p><p>Sorry for the long comment. My point is it all worth it to lose even a few pounds for a few weeks of work.</p>
<p>Excellent article, Ali...</p><p>Peace and Love to you all and stay focussed!</p><p>Sylvia x</p>
<p>It has also been proven that if you have a small glass of water as soon as you wake up, and again before a meal, that it fills your stomach up &amp; makes you feel less hungry, can't remember where I read that, sorry...</p><p>Sylvia </p>
<p>I also used Spark People &amp; it changed my life in more ways than I could imagine. On water, I drink when I'm thirsty, &amp; have tea, usually a mix of a green tea bag (Jasmine) &amp; a black tea teabag....very pale colour, with stevia. </p><p>Sylvia </p>
<p>Y'all know that the eight glasses of water a day thing was for combat troops in an extreme, high stress environment carrying equipment and such around? </p><p>That's where that study was from - army exercises. It's useful to up your water intake, but you must do as other posters have said, and take your foods into account.</p><p>Upping water intake for too long can adversely affect your mineral absorption rates.</p><p>Be aware that eight glasses a day was for a relatively tall and muscular man under combat conditions. My 5&quot;2 small frame would be spending my life in the toilet at that rate! </p><p>Judge your own requirements, and remember that an arid climate or a damp climate will also affect your requirements.</p>
<p>Nicely done, young miss =)</p>
<p>Great article! Thanks for the share and a huge congrats!!! Thats an incredible feat!</p><p>Just wanted to add bodybuilding . com has been an incredible help for anything weight loss oriented. they have a forum that has helped many. </p><p>Ketosis is worth looking in to for some as well. Eating large amounts of fat instead of carbs.</p>
<p>Thanks for this. You are &quot;right on time&quot;. I have been carrying an extra 50 since the beginning of the year when I sprained both SI joints. I was immobilized and full of frustration and self pity. So I ate my pain...to the tune of 50 lbs. smh.<br>I have to get it together and get healthier and fitter or my life won't be worth much. <br>I too have done every diet under the sun and after a while they all make me sick (IBS). So reading this is such the encouragement I need to start a new day.<br>Thank you again for sharing your journey and success. :) Best wishes.</p>
Basically very good advice. My only suggestion is that age is a factor when counting baseline calorie needs. As we age, our metabolism slows down and we require fewer calories. Even with regular moderate exercise, at 5'6&quot; and 150 lbs, if I exceed 1500 calories a day, I will gain weight. To lose 1-2 lbs a week I must keep my calories close to 1000 a day. And I might add, that last 10 lbs,so far, seems to be impossible!
Your journey is amazing, and I have tried to get my wife commited to something like this for many years, but we keep failing. She has a metabolic issue, and thyroid issues as well, but living in Spain, it is hard to get the Drs. to really take it seriously. Do you think something like this would really work with a slow metabolism?
<p>Thank you for this! I bought a FitBit and am doing the 10K steps nearly every day and have lost around 4 pounds in 4 weeks, I have been procrastinating on the calorie counting thing because it seems so daunting but the way you described the process has me feeling encouraged, I'm going to embark upon this journey!</p>
Download the My FitnessPal app. I makes calorie counting ( and sodium and fat and everything else) super easy. <br>You scan the bar code, a select your amount you are eating and bang! It's in your food diary. You can also make up your own recipes and meals and it records it all and tells you the calorie count. I have two eggs, two toast, a tsp of butter and 1 cup of skim milk for breakfast regularly. I just select it from my meal list and it adds it all in to my daily total. It also has you give current weight and info, your goal weight and time to achieve it, and bang! You have your calorie per day calculated. <br>You can add exercise (keeps track of calories burned ), and lots of other things to help out. SparkPeople is also EXCELLENT for exercise, support, videos for every exercise known, keeps track of everything also.
<p>Great instructible! Weight loss based on thermodynamics rather than mysticism. Something I can believe in. I have failed in every other way but recently managed to loose 15 lbs where I hit the plateau. Your success inspires me so I am going to &quot;keep on tryin.&quot; Your pictures reveal a healthy glow. It suits you.</p>
<p>good for you! </p><p>Well Done, good 'luck' and continued success!</p>
<p>You can also do this by only counting bad calories. Sugar and carb heavy foods are bad calories. 100 to 200 calories a day of them max. Then, eat a reasonable amount of protein (1/4 pound) with some fat (animal protein with fat), a minimal amount of carbs/sugars, and all the dense vegetables you want. Cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peppers, dark greens, some carrots, some chopped sweet potatoes, with onions for flavor, maybe some horseradish for zip, with a small amount of low sugar dressing (yogurt dressings have less sugar than most others) and some seasoning (green onions, parsley, cilantro, etc.) Substitute a meal every other day with 4 large carrots, an apple and some ginger through a juicer. An egg for breakfast. You will spend so much time chewing that you will not have time to over-eat. Plus, this is fabulous for a strong immune system and is used as a cancer risk reducing/recovery diet by many. 160 to 130 in 10 weeks while strengthening immune system to fight off cancer to avoid chemo after surgery. Cancer survivors often look at sugar as poison since cancer feeds on it. It's healthy and sustainable. </p><p>At good way to enjoy dressings is on the side. dip your fork in the dressing, then in the veggies/salad. You tongue does not know the difference.</p>
<p>Your diet worked for you!! WOO!! I have to break my carb addiction and lose my 50!</p>
<p>Very good advise. Thanks</p>
<p>I guess I am terrible for saying this, but I think you looked fine in your before picture. In my opinion you looked very nice. I understand you may have been heavier than you wanted to be, but in my opinion you look too thin now. I think people look much healthier when their bones are not showing. Again I know this is not the popular opinion but it is my opinion. I believe you would have looked just fine if you had only lost a fraction of what you lost.</p><p>I am not trying to knock your accomplishment, it is an amazing feat you have accomplished. I myself need to loose more weight than you did. I am about 5'6&quot; and weigh in at 350lbs. I would love to loose weight, but I would never want to get down to where doctors and popular opinion says I should be. I see people all the time with the &quot;proper&quot; weight to height ratio and BMI and to me, in my opinion they look way too skinny.</p><p>Thank you for your encouraging story and I am glad you are happy with who you are now.</p>
<p>Excelent post. Thank You.</p>

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Bio: I am a teacher, athlete, and life hacker. A fitness coach devoted to making easy to follow, customizable plans with sound and efficient nutrition and ... More »
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