Weight loss can be tough, no matter your situation. Whether you have 10 pounds to lose or 100, the journey can be long and aggravating. You may have been at it for months now, hoping to prepare yourself for summer. If you are new to the game, lucky you. You’re going to get some of the best advice out there. Your approach is probably what is holding you back. Get the idea out of your head that you are going on a “diet.” Dieting means it has a beginning and an end, and once it’s over you go back to making poor nutrition decisions. It is strongly encouraged to change your lifestyle.

There are so many factors that go in to how much you weigh, how much percent of your body is fat versus muscle, and why you may have trouble losing weight. The number one issue and most certainly the golden rule of all weight loss is being in a caloric deficit. In essence, it’s basic mathematics. You have to take in less energy than you burn throughout the day. Figure out your total daily energy expenditure level (how much your burn throughout the day) and subtract 500 from it. That is the number of calories you should be eating to lose weight at a safe pace. There are plenty of calculators online to help you with this. Know that severely restricting calories is also very bad. If you start eating very little food throughout the day, your body is likely to hold on to fats and uses muscle supplies as energy, thus slowing metabolism. Additionally, sugar of all kinds may be a lead cause of your inability to lose weight. Limit yourself to no more than 20-25 grams per day.

This also ties in with portion sizes. You cannot be overloading your meals. It may be very easy to load up on food at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but in the end you are restricting yourself from attaining your goal. Always remember that food is fuel, not pleasure! Do not fall for the trap. Eating at a dining hall with friends is peer pressure in itself to eat more and more based on other people’s portions. Know exactly what you are going to eat before you even get to a meal. Logging your nutrition on a nutrition app is very useful in the long run. Just because you are eating healthy foods does not make them calorie free. Logging your calories is essential.

If you are drinking soda or any beverage other than water, you are hindering your weight loss. This ties in with the idea that you may be sneaking in food or drinks throughout the day and thinking it’s alright. The saying that you can “eat everything in moderation” is destroying your progress. If you are not holding yourself accountable for every last crumb of food and drop of fluid, you are both cheating yourself and your progress. Our bodies are not made up of soda, they are made of water. Think about that the next time you pop open a soda.

While pairing exercise with nutrition is also key, working out does not grant you the right to eat whatever you want. Your mentality is so crucial with this. Just because you went to the gym or went for a long walk does not mean you should ruin your progression with an overindulge of food. Weight loss is more heavily influenced by what you eat rather than how much you exercise. Exercise definitely goes a long way to help your progress and make your body look more fit, but know that the two must be aligned for optimal benefit.

A great trick to keep yourself from indulging in poor food and drink options is to not have them around in your house or apartment. If you’re eating out, ignore them. Just because someone else is eating poorly does not mean you have to. No one forces you to be in the position you are in but you. Next time you go to a supermarket, have a list prepared for everything you need not want.

Probably the biggest concern is thinking you are eating healthy when you really are not. When you think of foods like yogurt, peanut butter, granola, and juice, you tend to associate them as healthy. While this may be the case, the way you are currently going with them probably is not.

Just because you are having yogurt at a meal does not make it nutritious. Those individual sized yogurts with fruit at the bottom are actually very bad for you. They are loaded with highly processed sugars. Stick to plain yogurt and add your own cut up fruits.

Peanut butter is generally thought of as a good source of protein. This is very true only if you have the right kinds. Any peanut butter that has ingredients other than peanuts and salt are highly processed with unhealthy oils and hidden sugars. You may want to look at almond butters to be on the safe side. The healthiest peanut butters have one gram of sugar, no added sugar, and relatively low sodium.

Granola bars, cereals, and granola in general are not going to benefit you. Again, these foods are loaded with sugar, are very calorically dense, and unfortunately marketed as healthy. Replace them with protein bars or oatmeal.

Juices are not water, and therefore you must say goodbye. Apple, cranberry, orange, and raspberry juices are killing your progress. Why? Sugar. Because they have sugar and they are calorically dense. Save your calories so you can enjoy more quality foods.

Just because you something is organic does not make it healthy. Organic ice cream, organic cookies, and organic chocolate are just a few that should be eye openers. These foods do not magically become healthy with the addition of one word on the label. Just because they claim to be healthier versions does not make it so. Read the ingredients next time. If you can’t pronounce one or more of them, or you have never heard of them before, skip it. Ingredients are just as important as nutrients.

Sleep is just as important as what you eat. Eight hours is optimal every night to effectively lose weight and keep is off over a long term period. Also, eating right before you sleep is a very bad habit. What this does is hinder your body from digestion. Sleep is a time meant for resting, not digestion. Be smart about it and think about what you do before you do it.

Lastly is your mentality. Just because you may not be seeing noticeable progress after a week does not mean anything. Weight loss is a journey and it takes time. Yes, humans are generally greedy and want more and more now instead of later. If you want to reach your goals, patience and willpower will be required. One day of eating healthy does not give you the right to go on a binge the next day. Get the idea out of your head that cheat days are allowed. Be honest with yourself and only make the very best decisions. You have it within you to cut down to wherever you want to be. Embrace the process and enjoy the results.