Weight Management Strategies for Success

If you’ve tried a diet and “failed,” consider yourself successful.  DIETS DON’T WORK!  Drastically cutting calories, eliminating entire food groups or depriving yourself of foods you actually like are not strategies for long-term success. The good news is that you can permanently change destructive eating habits and break the “diet mentality” for good.  Below are strategies to help you approach weight management with a more positive and productive mindset.

Focus Beyond the Scale

Rather than setting your sites on a particular number of the scale, measure success in more meaningful ways.  For example, aim to lose a clothing size or measure your losses in inches around your hips, waist, thighs, and arms.  If you are focused on using the scale, aim for no more than 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week. Losing even 5-10% of your total body weight can have a beneficial impact on reducing the risk for developing many chronic diseases and can provide a sense of motivation.

Calories Count

Simply put, calories count. The bottom line: to lose weight you have to use up more calories than you take in.  Since a pound is about 3,500 calories, you need to reduce your intake by 500-1,000 calories a day to lose about 1 to 2 pounds a week (don’t go lower than 1,200 calories a day though!).

Track your intake

Studies show that writing down what you eat is an effective method for weight loss.  It raises awareness and forces you to think about what and how much you’re eating. Every bite or sip counts!  Tracking is also an effective tool for evaluating your eating habits and patterns.  MyFitnessPal, Lose It, and Sparkpeople are top-ranked web-based and phone apps to help you track your daily intake and activity level.  The Healthy Eating Planner is a tool to help you assess your current eating habits, set goals and create a meal plan. 

Stay a Day Ahead of Your Meals

Busy, over-packed schedules can send you straight to the drive thru if you don’t have a plan.  Make use of your downtime to develop a basic menu for the upcoming week, go food shopping, and batch cook.  Keep healthful foods on hand so you can toss together a wholesome meal in no time.

Here are some helpful resources for meal planning:

The Food Personality Quiz

Weekly Meal Planner

Shopping List

Avoid “Bottom Heavy” Diets

Distribute your calories throughout the day rather than eating most of them after the sun goes down.  This helps to keep your metabolism fired up, prevents drastic swings in blood sugar and helps with portion control throughout the day.  A good rule of thumb is to eat every 3-4 hours.  Think “mini-meals” rather than a light breakfast, quick lunch and oversized dinner. 

Mind Your Meals (and Snacks) and Ride out Cravings

Being “mindful” around meals and snacks means that you are truly focused on what you are eating.  If you have a tendency to eat out of “habit” versus “hunger,” you are likely eating more than you realize.  Eating when you are truly hungry, not because you’re bored or procrastinating, can help you trim off 500 calories per day in no time.

If you know that it’s not hunger that’s pulling you towards your next bite, you can learn to “ride out” the craving. While it can help to have something calorie-free to drink or distract yourself with an activity like going for a walk, these are short-term fixes.  If you struggle with stress or emotional eating, a mindful eating app called Eat Right Now   can help you to improve your relationship with food and strengthen your control over cravings. Contact beingwell@yale.edu to learn more. 

Think your Drinks

Don’t spend the day sipping away your calories.  Beverages like juice, soda, sweet teas, energy drinks, and flavored coffees can put a big dent in your daily calorie budget.  Make a habit of increasing your water intake.  If plain old H20 isn’t your thing, jazz it up with fresh lemon or lime or try a calorie-free flavored seltzer.  Count your cocktails too. Alcohol is dense in calories, even before it makes its way into a mixer. Rethink your drink!


While nutrition plays the starring role in weight loss, physical activity is more than just an understudy. Fit in ways to get FFIT!

Fun- Find activities that you enjoy and chances are you’ll stick with them.  Try a new dance or martial arts class, take a hike or sign up for a local 5K fun run or walk.   

Frequency- The most current physical activity guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week.  Muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) should be incorporated on 2 or more days a week.

Intensity- Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate to break a sweat. You’re able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song.  It’s a “5 or 6” on a scale of “0 to 10.”  Brisk walking, dancing, swimming, and bicycling on a level terrain are examples.

Time- While 150 minutes each week sounds like a lot of time, you don’t need to do it all at once. Spread your activity out during the week. You can even break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. It’s about what works best for you, as long as you’re doing physical activity at a moderate effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.