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Plan Your Day to Lose Weight

Making lifestyle changes doesn't come naturally. To change your eating and exercise habits, you've got to plan - to make it happen.

Goal No. 1: Plan Your Daily Food continued...

Do it yourself. These are great prepare-ahead healthy meals that will keep you feeling full and help you control your weight:

  • Make a dried-fruit-and-nut mix for emergency snacking. (Be wary of granola, since it typically has lots of sugar, says Stokes.) Pack small amounts in a little plastic bag - great for the car or office.
  • Cook a big pot of homemade vegetable soup, which can be frozen for several lunches or dinners.
  • Try smoothies - blend low-fat yogurt and fruit - for a grab-and-go meal.
  • Mix up big salads or a pasta primavera with lots of veggies and whole-wheat pasta. Prepare large quantities so you can have a moderate-sized helping for dinner and then have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Buy healthy frozen entrees. "These have really improved," says Rolls. "They have more whole grains in them now, and they seem to be getting tastier. If I'm traveling and can't get to the grocery store, I make sure I have frozen entrees on hand."

Don't limit yourself. It's OK to eat breakfast food for snacks, lunch, or dinner. "You can eat a hard-boiled egg or cereal any time, not just breakfast," Stokes advises.

Goal No. 2: Plan Your Exercise

First, talk to your doctor - especially if you are overweight or are at high risk for heart disease, advises Thompson. Your doctor may suggest that you ask a fitness trainer to develop a workout plan that best suits your needs.

Analyze your morning schedule. "You'll find there's a lot of free time there," says Gerald Endress, ACSM, fitness director at Duke Diet & Fitness Center at Duke University Medical Center. "People tell me it takes them two hours to get ready for work. It's not that they're prettying themselves up - they're basically just wasting time. But when they start exercising in the morning, they find they use their time better. One guy told me he got to work 20 minutes earlier on days he exercised. If you've got a structured period of activity, you know to keep things moving."

Set your program. Decide what works best for you, such as 8 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. "You don't let anything interfere with that," advises Thompson. "That's not to say once a month something comes up you can't exercise. That's OK. It's when you're making excuses three, four, five days in a row -- that's a problem. It's got to be the highest priority because it's your health."

Know your options. What kind of exercise - or physical activity - will get you out of bed in the morning? A yoga video, walking, a workout session at the YMCA? Figure out what will motivate you.

Tackle roadblocks. Is inertia a problem for you in the morning? "When the alarm clock sounds, it's easy to hit the snooze button," says Bryant. A workout buddy can provide motivation. "If you know someone is waiting for you, counting on you, you'll go. Once you go, you're happy you went. Once you get past that inertia, you're glad you did the workout."

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