1. Know When You Need to Trim Down

You already know that a healthy body equals a healthy metabolism, but part of having a healthy body means maintaining or reaching a healthy weight. Ideal weights are typically based on your gender and your height, but there can be wide variance in what is most healthful and most desirable. In general, it’s better to gauge the percentage of fat, or body mass index (BMI), that you are carrying. For a man, a body fat percentage of 18 percent to 25 percent is not bad if he’s over forty. For women over forty, 22 percent to 27 percent is not bad.

You can also gauge your need to reduce the amount of calories you are consuming. If you are a woman who exercises moderately, your daily caloric intake should not exceed 1,500 to 1,600 calories a day; if you are a man who exercises moderately, your caloric intake should not exceed 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day. These calories should come from a balanced diet that includes lean protein, good fats, and nutrient-rich carbohydrates.

2. Research Diets

If you are considering a diet plan, see your doctor first. Ask him or her to recommend the best long-term plan for you, and if there are any drawbacks to whatever diet you are considering. You can also access a lot of in-depth information, including expert opinions, on www.webmd.com/ diet/evaluate-latest-diets. This site has information on everything from fad diets to medically supervised diets. Study the facts before you leap into a weight-loss plan, and make the right choice for your body—and your metabolism!

3. Jettison Bad Habits

If you smoke, quit. If you drink too much, stop or at least drink in moderation. If you aren’t getting enough exercise, join a gym. If the only fruits and veggies in your kitchen are made of wax, make a concerted effort to add more fresh items to your daily diet. If you eat ice cream every day, cut back to once a week. If you only eat white bread, switch to whole grain. If you never eat breakfast, eat a healthy breakfast every day. If you can’t remember the last time you saw a doctor, make an appointment for a checkup. In short, do what you must to make your lifestyle more healthful in every way. Remember, the healthier you are, the better your metabolism will be.

4. Keep a Food Diary for One Week

Studies show most people dramatically underestimate their caloric consumption each day. To investigate the truth, keep a detailed food diary for one whole week. Write down every single bite you eat, what sauce you use, and what beverages you drink. If you suck on a mint, write it down. Once you have the data, you’ll see where you can cut down or substitute healthier choices. This will bolster your consciousness and help you improve your overall eating habits.

5. Set Realistic Goals

Losing a dramatic amount of weight or completely upgrading your physique can seem like a daunting task. You basically set yourself up to fail if you vow to lose 10 pounds in two weeks or 25 pounds in two months. That’s why it’s vital to set short-, middle-, and long-range goals. For example, say, “Today I will avoid starchy carbs after three o’clock,” “I will lose two pounds by next week,” or “I will drop seven percent of my body fat in six months.” These are goals you can reach—and you’ll be healthier, more fit, and feeling good about yourself.

6. Whittle Your Waist

Men with waistline circumferences over 40 inches and women with waists greater than 35 inches have a significantly greater risk of a heart attack than their slimmer pals. Use this knowledge to create a nutritious, metabolism-boosting diet. Follow it with vigor and determination, and you’ll not only whittle your waist, you’ll whittle your hips, thighs, arms, and everything else!

7. Don’t Crash-Diet

Any dietary plan that asks you to severely limit calories (less than 1,000 calories a day) actually thwarts your desire to boost your metabolism. It will effectively shut down your metabolism. First, your body believes it’s starving and will fight to conserve fat. Second, such a restrictive diet may lack vital nutrients that play an important role in boosting metabolism and helping your body function better overall. Third, rapid weight loss may look or feel good, but it’s likely to erode muscle mass—and muscles burn fat. The more muscles you have, the higher your rate of metabolism. Finally, study after study after study has shown that most radical diets lead to a return to previous eating habits and a return of all the fat the dieter shed, plus more. Changing your eating habits and eating a balanced, healthy diet is the only truly effective way to lose fat and boost your metabolism.

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