5 Ways to Reach Your Healthy Weight

Chances are, you know by now that there is no magic pill when it comes to weight loss.  Rather, the longstanding guidance is true – it's a balancing act of calories in versus calories out.

It's easy to over-complicate weight loss with fancy diets, calorie counting, and elaborate physical activity routines, but it doesn't have to be that way. To reach your personal healthy weight, you should employ five simple strategies:


1. Calories Count – Find Your Number.

Findings from the IFIC Food & Health Survey show that people are confused about calories, and indicate that only 30% of Americans correctly believe that all sources of calories play an equal role in weight gain. News coverage sends pretty mixed messages: Is it the number of calories or where they come from that matters? The “good calories vs bad calories” debate continues to distract from the real issue of how to successfully balance the calories you eat with physical activity. 

Every person has their own unique caloric needs. It's a number determined by factors like your height, weight, age, gender, and activity level.

Weight Loss Tip: Being aware of your caloric requirements will be a helpful tool in your weight management journey.  Knowing is half the battle.

Create your profile here to calculate your caloric needs and physical activity requirements.


2. Eat Until You're Satisfied.

Decreasing the total number of calories you consume is the foundation of weight loss, and eating mindfully can be a critical step. Being mindful means savoring your food and planning what and how much will meet your needs.  This approach can help prevent you from over-eating and make you feel more satisfied after a meal.  If you can, really take your time with your meal and leave the iPhone in your pocket for a change.

Weight Loss Tip:  Eat until you've satisfied your hunger. Then stop and think about saving the rest for later. Try serving yourself 10 – 20% less than you normally would.  Studies have shown that you generally won't notice that you're eating 20% less.  Try this for a few days. If you get hungry, add 10% more protein and vegetables and see how you feel.


3. Diversify Your Fruits and Vegetables (AKA eat your colors). 

If there's one thing we've been told over and over again about nutrition, it's that we would all be better off eating more fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables are low-calorie, and typically rich in fiber, which can help satisfy your appetite at each meal.  As luck would have it, your local grocery store offers a colorful selection of fresh, frozen, and canned produce to choose from.

Think of produce as insurance: the more you invest, the better position you're in to ward off infections, viruses, and other ailments in the future.  People who eat more fruits and vegetables generally have a lower risk for chronic diseases like cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Adding more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to every meal might be the surge of nutrients your body needs for energy, and in the long-term, you might be the lucky duck in the office who doesn't get sick next winter.

Weight Loss Tip: Aim for 4 ½ cups of colorful fruit and vegetables daily


4. Eat Enough Quality Protein

Eating more protein isn't just a rule among the steadfast gym-goers and athletes.  You can benefit from it, too. Protein is crucial for losing weight, for maintaining muscle and bodily processes, and especially for reducing hunger for longer. Protein can actually make you feel more satisfied after a meal, more so than fats or carbohydrates.  It also has a higher “metabolic cost,” meaning it makes your body work harder to digest it, burning more calories in the process. 

Weight Loss Tip: Go for lean protein.  Leaner protein means less fat, which means fewer calories. Add these to your cart: lean beef, fish, and skinless chicken.  Beans, lentils, soy, and low-fat dairy products are also good protein sources.  Aim for one serving of lean protein at every meal (about the size of one 4-ounce chicken breast).


5. Get Moving

The final step in the equation is physical activity. Shoot for two and a half hours of moderate aerobic exercise per week, or you can cut your workout time in half by engaging in one hour and fifteen minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise divided over the week.

Additionally, you should do a variety of strength building exercises, like pushups or lunges, at least 2 days a week.

Pick a few activities you enjoy and click here for to find out what counts as physical activity, and how you can incorporate it into your life.

Moderate Intensity

(5-6 on an intensity scale of 1-10)

Vigorous Intensity

 (7-8 on an intensity scale of 1- 10)

Strength Exercises

(7-8 on an intensity scale of 1 - 10)



At Home:

At the Gym:




Bench Press

Recreational Sports

Swimming Laps

Pull Ups

Any squat variation


Jumping Rope

Body Weight Squats

Pull Ups

Mowing the Lawn

Fast Dancing


Shoulder Press



Chair Dips

Kettlebell Swing


Once you know your calorie targets, use this chart to find out how to divide up your calories between different foods.






Low-Fat Dairy

Lean Protein


Solid fats and Added Sugars (empty calories)


5 ounces

2 Cups

1.5 Cups

3 Cups

5 Ounces

5 tsp

<120 calories


6 ounces

2.5 cups

1.5 cups

3 cups

5 ounces

5 tsp

<160 calories


6 ounces

2.5 cups

2 cups

3 cups

5.5 ounces

6 tsp

<260 calories


7 ounces

3 cups

2 cups

3 cups

6 ounces

6 tsp

<270 calories


8 ounces

3 cups

2 cups

3 cups

6.5 ounces

7 tsp

<330 calories


9 ounces

3.5 cups

2 cups

3 cups

6. ounces

8 tsp

<360 calories


This blog was authored by Dennis Buckley, George Mason University intern.