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The ABCs of Weight Loss

We've got 26 tips to help you succeed.

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Gum chewing may be just what the dentist ordered. Chewing on a piece of sugarless gum can help cleanse the mouth of bacteria, satisfy a sweet tooth, and reduce the urge to eat. Keep a pack of sugarless gum handy. The next time you have the urge to reach into the cookie jar, try a piece of gum instead for a zero-calorie treat.

Heart-healthy foods should fill your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Choose foods that are low in saturated and trans fats. Enjoy plenty of naturally fat-free, low-sodium fruits and vegetables. Choose healthy fats such as canola, olive, and vegetable oils. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts, flaxseed, and salmon and other fatty fish. Choose low- and non-fat dairy products, as well as the leanest cuts of meat (round and loin) and skinless poultry. Beans, nuts, and whole grains round out the list of heart-healthy foods.

Invest in a pedometer and track your steps each day. The goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps -- the equivalent of 5 miles -- daily to thwart weight gain (and promote weight loss). Challenge yourself to increase your steps each day, even if you can't get up to 10,000. Every step counts; remember that your goal is simply to improve your fitness level.

Just do it! Get into a routine that includes regular physical activity. Not only does exercise energize you, it burns calories, improves balance and coordination, and relieves stress. When you don't have time for a formal workout, try to squeeze in at least three 10-minute chunks of physical activity. (Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.)

Key to an effective exercise plan is variety. Try something new -- maybe Pilates, yoga, or water aerobics. Having fun and trying new things will keep you interested and enhance your commitment to exercise. Another key: starting your day with activity is one of the best ways to make sure it does not get squeezed out of your schedule.

Low blood sugar is often the cause of between-meal cravings, especially for sweets. Eating meals and small snacks that contain lean protein and fiber every few hours helps keep blood sugar levels steady. When sweets cravings strike, try to satisfy them with naturally sweet foods such as fruit (accompany it with a little low-fat yogurt for protein).

Mindful eating means taking time to savor every bite. Turn off the distractions, and concentrate on the aroma, texture, and flavor of food. Becoming more mindful when you eat will give you more pleasure from your meals. The bonus: You'll also be more in tuned with your body's signals of fullness, and you'll be less likely to overeat.

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