At the beginning of the year, many people decide to transform their lives for the better by trading in bad habits for improved ones – including changes in diet and exercise. If you’re one of them, here are some tips to help you lose weight the right way.

1. How do you know you’re at a healthy weight? Or, if you know you should lose weight, how do you determine how much?

There are two ways to determine whether your weight is healthy: BMI, or “body mass index” calculations and waist measurement. For individuals between 18 and 64 years old, BMI is considered normal if it measures between 18.5 and 25. For individuals older than 65, a normal BMI measures between 23 and 30. CLICK HERE to calculate your BMI.

A waist measurement greater than 40” in men and 35” in women may indicate obesity. Obesity can also be determined with a combination of measurements and a blood test for metabolic syndrome, which requires additional treatment beyond lifestyle adjustments.

2. How fast is too fast when it comes to weight loss?

It is recommended that people lose no more than two pounds per week. If you lose more weight than that, you are at great risk of losing muscle mass, which is not healthy. Losing one to two pounds every week  can be accomplished by reducing 500 calories per day. There is a quick way to calculate how many calories you should consume:

If you are sedentary: Multiply your weight by 13; subtract 500 calories to get the number of calories you should eat every day.

If you are moderately active: Multiply your weight by 15; subtract 500 calories to get the number of calories you should eat every day.

If you are highly active: Multiply your weight by 18; subtract 500 calories to get the number of calories you should eat every day.

3. What’s the worst thing you can do when you’re trying to lose weight?

Not eating or skipping meals is dangerous and is not a way to reach your goal weight! While adopting a healthy lifestyle is an important first step to achieve weight loss, it is also crucial for longevity and reducing the risk of comorbidities.

Many people underestimate the number of calories they eat, so calorie counting is recommended along with factoring in your exercise routine and — more importantly — portion control. Moderate exercise only burns 250 calories per hour. Intense exercise burns up to 500 calories per hour. People who have a weight-loss goal need to balance calorie reduction with exercise for optimal health. And exercise is important for maintaining and reducing your weight.

4. Is it easier to lose weight alone or when you join a weight-loss group?

It’s important to adhere to a changing lifestyle, and to do that, you need to be fully committed. This can be hard for some people, especially if other people around them are not living a lifestyle that’s conducive to successful weight loss.

However, eating alone raises a red flag. It is easier to eat a larger quantity, and eat it more quickly, when you’re eating by yourself. Eating with your family, partner, coworkers, or friends makes eating a social experience, instead of a race. Chewing thoroughly helps digestion, in addition to convincing your body that you are full. Each meal should last at least 20 minutes – in the beginning, it may be helpful to time yourself.

5. What about working out – cardio, weight-bearing, and what combination works best?

Many experts agree that a combination of physical exercise, such as circuit training, which combines endurance activities with weight-bearing exercise, for a total of 300 minutes every week. Here are some workout recommendations:

– Drink two glasses of water one to two hours before exercising.
– Exercise and stretch using proper form and technique. Learn new movements with a trainer or a partner to ensure that you are doing them correctly.
– Wear sneakers designed for running that feature silica gel support and air mid soles

6. Are there any diets that “work”?

All diets work… if you stick to them! As mentioned before, the most common mistake people make when trying to lose weight is overestimating how many calories they burn and underestimating how many calories they eat. For the first six months, sticking to a low-carbohydrate, low-fat diet with lots of veggies and caloric restrictions as mentioned in question number two.

If you’re looking for a specific diet recommendation, look into the DASH Diet, which is geared towards individuals looking for more than weight loss – this diet stands for Daily Approaches to Stop Hypertension and is an excellent way to reduce your cardiovascular risk while getting appropriate portions of grains, vegetables, fruit, lean meats, nuts, and legumes.

7. What’s the biggest weight-loss myth out there?

Many people believe that they should consume as little food as possible when they are dieting, but this isn’t effective. Not only do you wreak havoc on your metabolism, but you encourage your body to use muscle, which will slow your metabolism and allow your body to gain weight easier, as it burns energy.

Others try to lose weight through juicing, which is not recommended. Drinking large quantities of fruit juice floods your body with sugars, albeit natural ones. It also adds a lot more calories in one serving.

8. What are the best tips for losing weight?

The most important – and often ignored – aspect to weight loss is behavior modification. By changing your daily routine, you approach weight loss from a different angle. You will begin paying attention to more than just the calories in your food. You will eat more nutritionally balanced foods and eat more meaningfully, and you’ll also aim to consume fewer carbohydrates in a meal.

When you’re working on modifying your behavior for weight loss, try the “plate method.” Using a plate measuring 9 inches, follow these guidelines for a healthy meal:

– One-fourth of your plate should feature grains or starchy foods like rice, corn, pasta, potatoes, or peas

– One-fourth of your plate should contain meat, fish, poultry, or tofu

– 50 percent of the plate should be non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, salad, or tomatoes

– Add a small glass of milk and a small roll of bread (or a piece of fruit) to complete your meal

– Limit alcohol intake

While basic, there are other behavior modification methods that many people don’t realize affect weight loss: for example, sleep deprivation. Aim to get seven to eight hours every night. Another is stress management, because high levels of stress can produce cortisol, a stress hormone, which is linked to sleep problems, a sluggish immune system, and even weight gain increasing your waist measurement.

Start your journey by adopting a healthy lifestyle with proper diet, exercise, stress management, and restful sleep, and you’ll be on the right track to a positive year.