You may have heard several misconceptions about the proper way to lose weight. Every year, dozens of new fad diets market a miracle weight loss pill or magic food to the overweight 66% of the American population. Year after year, these diets and pills don’t work, leaving one frustrated and discouraged when he or she hasn’t lost any weight.

To demystify weight loss in a nutshell: weight loss occurs when you expend more calories in a day than you consume. Many people are familiar with calorie-counting, but aren’t quite sure what a calorie is. A calorie is a unit of energy. Everything we do burns calories – whether it be walking, eating, or even watching TV. Of course, it is imperative to incorporate daily physical activity into any weight loss effort. There are two types of exercise – aerobic and weight training. Aerobic exercises such as running burn the most calories, while weight training strengthens the muscles. Weight training won’t burn as many calories as aerobics, but the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn.

Exercise is only half the battle; a healthy diet is essential to any weight loss effort – one that balances fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, whole grains and nuts. If staying within a calorie limit seems tough, become aware of not only what you eat but how much you eat. The true key to losing weight is to think of it as a long term goal and not a short one; this will require a permanent change in eating habits. Fortunately, it’s all about moderation – you don’t have to give up chocolate cake forever, so long as you practice sensibility.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important to your overall wellness. While individuals are by definition different, each has an ideal weight range for optimum health. Good eating habits, good nutrition and exercise are all important elements for achieving and keeping a healthy weight.