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Nine ways to start losing weight today

So you're all pumped up to start working out and losing some weight but you're not sure where to start.  Or you're up and off the couch but not quite sure if what you're doing is going to take you where you want to go, weight and fitness-wise.  Maybe this year is the year you've decided to take your fitness to the next level, but you're not sure how to break that plateau because you already spend a lot of time in the gym (and possibly, you need to get a life).

Everyone has their own personal goals (remember?) and some techniques that work well with some people are a poor fit for others.  The point is to find the techniques that fit best for you (NOT the easiest!) so you can get started burning fat fast.  The tips below, listed in order of importance/speed of impact, will help you drop pounds and lose excuses.

Here are 9 great ways to start losing weight fast and today!

1.  Get your nutrition right.  This is probably the most difficult change to make and yes, of course, it is also the change that will show the greatest level of success if you stick to it.  Repeat this mantra: Weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% perspiration.  Don't starve yourself, go on a "cleanse" or trade all of your meals in for salads.  Instead, focus on eating lean protein, fruits and vegetables along with drinking only water for three meals (300-400 calories each) and three snacks (200-300 calories) a day.  When you add that up, it comes to between 1500-2100 calories each day, not the 1000-1200 calorie deprivation diets that leave you gobbling a huge plate of pasta two weeks in.

2.  Write down your goals, measurements and smaller goals with a deadline.   Building upon those new year's goals, add some measurements and small goals within that framework.  For example, you've set a goal of losing 15 pounds by the start of summer.  Jump-start this goal by taking a few measurements (weight, body fat %, waist size, etc.) to set a baseline, then create a modest improvement (say, 4 pounds, or 3% body fat, or 1 inch off).  Work in some mini-goals like drinking 8 glasses of water each day, cutting calories by 10%, strength training 3 times a week.  Only choose as many as you feel you can comfortably stick to; you can always add more things over time.  At this point, you're well on your way to some real progress toward that larger weight loss goal.  Set a monthly deadline and commit yourself to your weight loss plan for that long before you begin tweaking your mini-goals.  No flailing.  Real results do not happen in 72 hours.

3.  Join a Bootcamp.  This is a variation of high-intensity training.  Bootcamp programs are one of the most desirable options for people getting started losing weight and for those who want to take their workouts to the next level.  Many gyms offer bootcamp-style classes as part of their group fitness regimen or for a small fee.  The best part about boot camp programs is that they are more affordable than hiring a personal trainer and they also give you an environment filled with social support.  They are also customizable to your personal fitness level (just don't half-ass it, give it all you've got) and even available in an online format.

4.  Hire a personal trainer.  The next best thing is to hire a personal trainer who can take your hand and put you on the path for success.  Beware though, all personal trainers aren't created equal and finding the one who fits you in personality and is positive about helping you reach your goals is a must.  A great personal trainer will motivate you and give you all the keys for success, so don't be afraid to try out as many trainers as you need until you've found your perfect match.  Have a friend or group of friends who want to lose weight?  Consider group training with a personal trainer.

5.  Find a friend to work out with you.  Having a social support system in place when losing weight makes success more likely.  It keeps you accountable and shared experiences and challenges strengthen the bonds of friendship and overall happiness.  Find an awesome and reliable workout partner to keep you going when you don't feel like going any farther.  They'll be able to help split the cost of that personal training group session, too.

6. Start going to fitness classes at the gym.  Fitness classes are another option for those who want to lose weight but who may be unsure of certain weight-lifting techniques or are interested in activities like Zumba, yoga, kickboxing or pilates.  If you are the type of person who needs structure and motivation, or who simply wants to change things up a bit, check out the gym schedule, join the YMCA or look into a local studio for ideas.  Be aware that many forms of "aerobics" (step, Jazzercise) do not get your heart rate up high enough for long enough to be considered "high intensity," so they are not a replacement fat-burning workout.

7.  Get some great weight loss DVDs Sometimes you don't have all the time in the world to workout.  The kids are at home, the car is in the shop or you just don't feel like leaving the house - but you still want to get your 30 minutes in.  Find some interesting weight loss DVDs and get a little motivation going.  Utilize the public library's fitness DVD collection or order up a routine from FitTV.  While this method is not the best for super-fit individuals, it's a boon to anyone who is new to fitness.  The opportunity to practice a routine for a few minutes a day can go a long way to building endurance and consistency in weight loss.

8.  Live an active lifestyle.  This is an important element of weight loss.  A walk is not a workout unless there is some intention and effort behind it, but incorporating active elements into your lifestyle is imperative to permanent weight loss and happiness.  Weight loss extends beyond workouts and nutrition…it goes into your whole life.  Every little bit of activity builds upon itself, increasing your energy and adding awareness of your actions.  It's easy to hop in the car and cruise down for some al fresco "Taco Bell Diet" tacos (don't get me started), but would it be worth the effort of walking those 3 miles to and from, knowing the journey barely burned off the meal?  Hell no!

9.  Join a gym and actually go!  You'd be surprised how many people sign up for a membership at the gym with all intentions to go but they never set foot again in the place.   Just buying the membership isn't going to make you lose weight.   You have to go and put in the work!  And by "work," that means more than grabbing a magazine and hopping up on the elliptical machine - it means focused effort that meets one or more of your established weight loss or fitness goals.  The more quality time you spend in the gym, the less time you have to spend there - a hard, fast 30-minute workout versus an hour-long slogfest at 3.8 miles per hour - and the better you'll feel about your gym and yourself.

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