Mention the word ‘diet’ and most people will automatically think of what they should not, cannot and will not be eating.

I do understand the propensity for leaning to the negative aspects of eating healthy and losing weight. I’ve engaged in the similar conversations about diets I have been on in the past.

But years later I now think of my diet, not only as the way to get rid of excess body fat but simply, and mainly, as the description of the collective of what I eat and drink to be healthy and for sustenance.

Eating healthy can mean eating appetizing, tasty foods. It doesn’t mean giving up all the things we like. In some cases we can substitute a better option or revamp a recipe so it will have less fat, fewer calories and more nutrients. It comes down to making healthy food choices.

It is very important not to overlook what you drink. We often don’t factor in the many calories in our glass and are at a loss as to why we are not losing weight even after reducing our calorie intake from our plates. It follows when discussing nutrients and weight loss to focus on calories. We each require a certain number of calories to maintain our current weight. To lose weight you need to eat fewer calories than it takes to maintain your current weight.

To plan for weight loss you will need to determine the maximum total number of calories you can eat daily. It is not healthy to lose more than 1-2 pounds per week.

Additionally, losing weight too quickly often means gaining it back just as fast. In order to lose 1 pound per week you will need to reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories per day. Seven (days) multiplied by a daily calorie deficit of 500 is a total reduction of 3500 calories per week.

Below is a free calorie calculator to determine the total average calories you are likely taking in now based on your current weight. Enter the information requested to get your results.

One pound (gained or lost) requires 3500 calories (added to or removed from your plate). This is a constant. It never changes.

I’ve had some people tell me that losing weight at a rate of 1 pound per week is too slow and they lose motivation. Remember, this is about changing eating and exercise habits for the rest of your life in order to be healthier, more productive and slimmer. It took, in many cases, years to gain the weight … one pound at a time. It will take time to lose the weight one pound at a time.

Think of it this way: one pound lost per week is equal to four pounds per month. That’s 20 pounds in as little as five months. But it will take effort and planning.

You will FAIL at this weight loss. Let’s get that out of the way. You will fail before you ultimately succeed. And you will likely fail repeatedly. By fail I mean you will eat things that are not on your plan and there will be times you will not feel like exercising. In those moments always remember the 90/10 rule: you are successful when you are following your eating and exercise plan 90 percent of the time. The other 10 percent is for those moments when we fall off.

When you do deviate from your eating and exercise plan get back on track as quickly as possible. Don’t wallow in self pity and DO NOT USE IT AS AN EXCUSE to continue off the plan because ‘I’ve already screwed up anyway’. Take responsibility for your choices and actions and get back on plan.

Just think: 20 pounds lost in five months means 32 pounds in eight months and 48 pounds in a year. Now I’ll throw in another wrench to muck up the gears.

Weighing yourself is the easiest way to determine ongoing success. But do not get caught up with the numbers on the scale. Especially if you are exercising effectively and building muscles. With proper exercise it’s likely you will be losing inches and getting smaller, even when the scale does not show a reduction in the numbers. This is because muscle weighs more than fat.

By all means weigh yourself if that makes you happy. But recommend using clothes meters to track your weight loss. Ideal for this is a favorite pair of jeans and a shirt that used to fit or that you would like to fit into. Try them on periodically to see your success.

If you do not have items to use as clothes meters then buy something. Don’t break the bank if cost is a factor but try on an outfit that fits you well now and that you like. Make sure you like it and it suits you. Then buy it, one, two or three sizes smaller. Now, plan and work your way into it. Start your weight loss with these easy steps:* assess where you are now; how many calories are needed to maintain your current weight* determine the maximum number of calories you can eat daily to lose one pound per week (this is total from your assessment minus 500)* learn about better choices of foods to eat and how much to eat* learn about the importance of exercise and the best exercises* track your weight loss with a scale and/or your clothes meter* take responsibility, work at it but don’t expect to be perfect all the time* visualize your success — think of yourself and how you will look and feel after losing weight* practice positive self-talk daily — tell yourself you are worth it, you are beautiful and you deserve to be your healthy best