You snack on fruit, count calories, follow a weight loss program, and start most days with a walk or swim. So when you step on that scale and the needle stays put, you wonder what the heck you’re doing wrong. Even with such healthy eating habits, sometimes a seemingly inconsequential snack choice or a larger (but common) food myth can keep pounds in place. Take heart: A simple, slight adjustment in your healthy eating and thinking can help your weight loss goal.

Healthy Eating Habit: You count calories

The key to weight loss: Take in fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight and you will drop pounds. But only 11% of Americans correctly estimate their ideal daily calorie intake, according to a recent survey. The rest of us tend to overestimate, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and that’s what keeps you from weight loss. Let’s say you assume that a target of 2,000 calories per day will allow you to get to your weight loss program goal, but it really takes 1,800: Those extra 200 are enough to keep an additional 20 pounds on your frame.

Do it better
Determine the right number of calories you need each day—and stick to it.
Get your max intake: Click here to determine what your ideal daily allowance of calories is.
Divvy it up: Set limits on your meals and snacks. If 1,800 calories is your max, split it into three 500-calorie meals and one 300-calorie snack.
Create a custom meal: If your favorite frozen entrée has 500 calories, that’s all you get. Find one for 300, however, and you can have some fresh fruit and a small salad with it.

Healthy Exercise Habit: You’re consistently active

Spend a few hours running errands and it feels like you’ve worked off some serious weight. But even with the aisle laps at the mall, hauling around shopping bags, and loading and unloading the car, you burned only about 400 calories—that’s about 1/10 of a pound.

Do it better
Rev your routine. Short bursts of intense activity burn more calories—and up to 36% more fat, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Strolling around the mall or the park for an hour works off about 150 calories; pick up the pace 1 minute out of every 5 to burn over a third more calories (try a similar method if you bike). Swimmers can switch from freestyle or breaststroke to a more challenging crawl every few laps, or just go a little faster. Even small steps make a difference: Skip the elevator and carry your groceries up the stairs to burn 128 more calories, or instead of hitting an automatic car wash, do it yourself and zap 204 calories.
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