The equation for losing weight is simple: eat fewer calories than you burn. Putting this equation into practice can be challenging, however. Temptations, hunger, stress and sneaky calories derail your dieting efforts. Packed work and family schedules make fitting in exercise difficult. Losing 18 lbs. will take some effort and considerable lifestyle changes, but the benefits will be worth it.
Set a realistic goal of losing just one or two pounds per week to meet your goal in nine to 18 weeks. Do not attempt crash diets or supplements that promise faster results, as these will likely fail you in the long run, warns the American Heart Association.
Multiply your weight, in pounds, by 12 to determine the number of calories it takes to maintain your current weight, recommends Joanne Larsen, R.D. on Ask the Dietitian. Subtract 500 to determine how many calories you need to consume daily to lose one pound per week. For example, if you weigh 160 lbs., it takes 1,920 calories to maintain your weight or 1,420 to lose a pound per week.
Distribute your calories over three meals and two snacks. Allocate approximately one quarter of your daily calorie needs each to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reserve the remaining quarter for two snacks to be enjoyed during the day. For the example above, each meal would contain 355 calories and each snack about 175 calories.
Make each meal contain a 3-oz. portion of lean protein and a healthy carbohydrate. Choose shrimp, beans, fish, skinless poultry, extra lean beef, tofu or egg whites as proteins and whole grain bread products, brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa or oatmeal as healthy carbohydrates. Measure a serving as ½ cup of the grains or starchy vegetables; one slice of bread; or a serving of cereal as per information. Eat generous portions of watery green and orange vegetables.
Include unsaturated fats as approximately 30 percent of your daily calories says Larsen. Choose foods such as seeds, nuts, olive oil, avocados and salmon as your sources of fat rather than fatty meats, butter, palm oil or fats in processed snack foods.
Snack on fruits and low- or non-fat dairy. Choose two to three 8-oz. servings of foods such as skim milk, cottage cheese and plain yogurt.
Exercise to burn off an additional 250 to 500 calories on most days to lose the 18 lbs. faster. Walk for an hour at a pace of 3.5 mph to burn off 277 additional calories a day, if you weigh 160 lbs, and lose another ½ pound per week. Bring your speed up to a jog of 5 mph and burn 584 calories in an hour which, if done five times per week, can yield almost one more full pound of weight loss per week. Pursue other exercise such as hiking, racquetball, aerobic classes or indoor rowing to burn a similar number of calories, says the Mayo Clinic. Write your exercise plans into your calendar and make the appointment non-negotiable.
Do not eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day as a woman or 1,500 as a man or risk nutritional deficiencies, irritability and low-energy levels advises MedLine Plus.
Check with a doctor before beginning a diet or exercise plan.