I have been counting calories religiously since the last week of February, and since I started, I have lost 14 pounds. It was a hard in the very beginning, but overall, I have been very surprised with how easily I have adjusted to my new dietary expectations. A couple things have really helped me stay on track.

1. My Fitness Pal

When you start counting calories, especially if you haven’t done it before, it’s kind of shocking to realize how much you normally eat, and how bad some things are that you had previously seen as healthy aspects of your diet. It’s also difficult to really know how many calories are in something, which is where My Fitness Pal comes in. With the app or the website, it not only calculates how many calories you should be eating to achieve your weight-loss goal, but it tells you how many calories and other nutritional information are in all of your favorite food items. This tool has been the main reason I have been successful. The key is really to write it down. You may not realize all of those little bites you just pop into your mouth can add up!

2. Keep to a schedule

I eat all day long, but I have it planned out. I make sure to snack regularly, with previously packed snacks, so I don’t reach a breaking point where I just lose my inhibitions and eat a whole pizza. Throughout my day at work I snack on whole-grain crackers, almonds, and small quantities of foods I know will help keep me full in between meals.

3. Eat a cheat meal Image

Cheat meals (not days!) are essential. I wrote a couple weeks ago about my nagging craving to house a cheeseburger, and the honest truth is, those don’t just go away with more celery consumption. Eating a cheat meal once a week can help keep you on track, and honestly, a burger once a week, or a plate of enchiladas, will not kill you. Just don’t let you cheat meal turn into two pizzas and a six pack. Eat what you want, but don’t make yourself sick. Eating a cheat meal can also help kick start your metabolism after your body starts to adjust to a lower-calorie diet. Keep your body confused, and it will stay in fat-burning mode.

4. Pick a fitness goal, not a weight goal

OK, it’s fine to have an in-general-goal-weight. But, I have found that what really motivates me is having a fitness goal. I, as a former couch-potato-secret-oreo-and-taco-bell-eater, have signed up to run a half marathon this year. This may seem crazy, but I know that with a lot of training and hard work, I will be able to do it. Knowing I have to stay on track for an extended amount of time has helped with my dieting. I know that if I eat healthier, I feel better when I run (and in general). I also know that if I weigh less, I will probably be able to run faster. So dieting is just one thing I’m doing to get me to my overall fitness and healthy lifestyle goal; if you are just dieting to fit into that dream size where everything will be perfect, it may be harder to keep going!

What has helped you stick to your healthy living regimen?