Susan Burke

Follow these "Change Your Life" tips to lose weight, improve your nutrition and help stay slim forever.

1. Set multiple goals: Instead of setting an intimidating, unrealistic goal like "I will lose 3 stone by next month," set small, achievable goals like, "I will lose from 2 to 5 pounds this month by following my plan and exercising."

2. Re-set your goals: Each time you achieve your goal, give yourself a (non-food!) reward like a massage or tickets to your favourite team’s next game, and then set another goal.

3. Step by step: Each week, change one food habit to a healthier one. Do this every week. For example, this week change from 3 sugars in your tea to 1 ½ . Next week cut down to ½ and then cut it out completely the following week.

4. Your diet: Dieting doesn’t end when you lose all the weight you want to lose. Your diet is what keeps you slim, and needs to be healthy, so make lifestyle changes rather than short-term ones.

5. Don’t be fooled: Read nutrition labels, and ignore the pretty pictures. Just because there’s a picture of fruit on the package doesn’t mean there is fruit in the package. Some examples of this misleading packaging are fruit drinks and fruit yoghurts.

6. Great start: Eat a non-sweet or just slightly sweetened cereal every morning for breakfast. Shredded Wheat and Bran Flakes are good choices. So is hot porridge.

7. De-stress: Reduce stress and increase immunity by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a nutrient-rich diet including fresh fruits and vegetables.

8. New brew: Drink green tea instead of coffee for a mid-morning pick-me-up: it may have immunity-boosting properties.

9. Light dinner: Have a salad for dinner. Add a can of wild salmon to a bag of mixed greens. Add some chopped tomato, onion, cucumber, broccoli, shredded carrots and any other crunchy vegetable you like.

10. Sweet [romise: Swear off all sweetened bottled beverages forever. Fizzy drinks, sweetened teas and bottled juice drinks are empty calories in a bottle and are linked to increased rates of obesity.

11. Popcorn: Invest in a hot air popcorn popper. It’s just as quick as microwave popcorn, and it makes a fibre-rich, guilt-free snack without trans fat or cholesterol.

12. Abstain: Try to swear off all fried foods for the next couple of months. Bake or grill or use a nonstick pan. You’ll find that you won’t miss fried, forever.

13. Powerful rule: Adopt "on the side, please" as your rule when dining out. This applies to salad dressing, sauces and gravies.

14. Code for calories: "Crispy" and "crunchy" are code words for added sugar and/or fat to packaged products. Buy the original versions.

15. Neutral: Food is not bad or good. Food doesn’t have human qualities. Food is either healthy, or fatty, or high in fibre, or high in calories. Choose based on your goals.

16. Stop Now: Resign from the clean plate club. Eat as much as you need, and if you’re full, then stop and take the rest for a snack or meal tomorrow.

17. Sweet snack: Plan for a sweet snack that’s good for you. A perfect treat is a cup of low calorie hot chocolate; it has only about 50 to 60 calories.

18. Sweet tea: Avoid sweetened iced teas, even if they’re labelled natural. Most have water and high-fructose corn syrup as the first two ingredients and about 200 calories per serving.

19. Read labels: Most bottled sweetened beverages contain at least 2.5 servings per container, or about 500 calories per litre bottle. Most drink the whole bottle.

20. Weight loss mantra: Adopt the "Been there, done that" mentality when it comes to food. For example, you had a great meal. You’re full. When offered dessert, you think, "Been there, done that," and take a pass.

21. No white foods: Avoid "white" salads, dips and casseroles. White usually means mayonnaise, cream cheese and sour cream.

22. Wholegrains: Wholegrains have more nutrition, taste and fibre, and they make you fuller. Read the nutrition panel on the package; the first ingredient should be whole wheat or other wholegrain. Wheat or enriched flour doesn’t make it whole wheat.

23. Adventure: Explore your neighbourhood on foot, and don’t be a stranger. Wherever you are, take a stroll around and expand your horizons while getting some exercise.

24. Add crunch: Instead of salad croutons (usually high in trans fat), add some chopped walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds. They’re all good sources of healthy fat, plus fibre, vitamins and minerals, too.

25. Portion control: Mega plates make average-sized portions look smaller. I serve everything on smaller plates, which helps avoid portion distortion.

26. Tomato power: Switch from ketchup to salsa for excellent antioxidants. Make your own: Add to 2 chopped, seeded tomatoes two tablespoons each of chopped red onion, seeded cucumber, red pepper and coriander (optional). Whisk and add to vegetables two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, one teaspoon of olive oil, one teaspoon of lime juice, one garlic clove, crushed and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper.

27. Anatomy is not destiny: Even if your mother, father and siblings are overweight, you can outsmart your genes with a healthy diet and exercise. Light weight training can actually change your body type so you can stay slim more easily.

28. Drink to your health: A glass of wine with dinner may have health benefits. Men limit to two; women stay with one glass. Exceptions to wine include pregnant women, or if your doctor advises you abstain.

29. Veggie power: Snack on quick and easy (and nutritious) vegetables. Frozen vegetables are ultra-convenient: I love broccoli florets or mixed cauliflower and carrots. Sprinkle with some herbal seasonings or spices for a flavour boost.

30. Build muscle: Replace fat stores with lean muscle and improve your fat-burning naturally. Start gradually, and work up to at least three days a week of training with resistance bands and light weights. Consult with your doctor if you’ve not worked out before.

31. Portion distortion: Most people underestimate their intake, and take in more calories daily then they think. Break out the food diary and, for one week, measure what you eat and make adjustments if necessary based on your meal plan.

32. Slow it down: Eating too fast usually means eating more than you need. Give your brain time to catch up with your stomach: It takes about 20 minutes to feel the food, so savour your food. When you enjoy it more, you’ll be satisfied with less.

33. Energy: Health experts tell us that overweight and obesity increase your risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and stroke, but there’s also the toll excess weight has on your energy. Overweight not only makes you feel sluggish, it’s hard on your muscles and tendons.

34. Eat: Don’t eat too little! Poor nutrition decreases energy, and can depress immunity. Too few calories can play havoc with your metabolism. Lose weight in a healthy way, with a balanced meal plan and sufficient calories to fuel your engine.

35. Bad habits: Do you drink too much (choose as many as apply to you) Coffee? Alcohol? Fizzy drinks? Excess caffeine can keep you up late; the more caffeinated beverages you drink the stronger the effect. Some sodas have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Alcohol also negatively affects sleep.

36. Break the fast: Start your day with breakfast. Studies show that those who eat breakfast have more energy for the rest of the day. People who skip breakfast are not as alert, not as productive, and tend to be more overweight compared to people who eat breakfast.

37. New breakfast: Don’t like breakfast foods? Try a sandwich, and make it a lean one, such as turkey on wholegrain bread. A fruit smoothie made with yoghurt and fruit is delicious and balanced.

38. Take a multivitamin: Even if you’re eating a balanced diet, a daily multivitamin is nutritional insurance that you’ll get the minimum of the requirements you need for energy. Your body can take advantage of all the foods you eat when you have all the vitamins and minerals necessary to complete the chemical reactions needed for energy.

39. Switch to whole: Wholegrains, unpeeled fruit, salads and vegetables help you maintain your weight. Unprocessed contain the most valuable nutrients and energy imaginable. You will feel so much better when you switch to whole.

40. Reduce white sugar: If you eat sugar when you’re feeling low you’ll create a rebound effect that makes you crave more sugar. The rush of sugar is very short-lived, and sugar is essentially just empty calories, void of vitamins and minerals.

41. Sleep: The average person requires 7.2 hours of sleep to feel rested. There are exceptions; Bill Clinton needed only 4 to 5 hours, but Albert Einstein needed about 10 hours. There is something to be said for dreaming! Whatever you need, be sure to get it.

42. Diet liquids: Fluids are necessary to process foods and to absorb nutrients; to regulate your body temperature; and for elimination. Drinking water is a good habit to learn. Instead of a can of pop, reach for a glass of water. Sip often; don’t wait until you’re thirsty to avoid dehydration.

43. Move: When you park your engine in the garage and never take it out, it’ll rust. Feeling sluggish? Breathe. Your body needs oxygen; you’ll be amazed at how energetic you’ll feel by doing some deep breathing exercises. Stretch, roll your shoulders, tense your muscles and then relax; this will increase the blood flow and energize you immediately. Increase your heart rate by fast walking, or dancing, or even marching in place.

44. Prepare to succeed: Have healthy snacks available for snack attacks. Buy pre-cut fresh, crunchy vegetables for a quick snack. Microwave frozen vegetables, and sprinkle with herbs for a tasty snack.

45. Cravings: If you have sugar cravings, keep it nutritious with a low calorie hot chocolate. It goes great with a crisp Granny Smith apple. The combination of tart and sweet is infinitely satisfying.

46. Cancel your account at the coffee shop: Coffee is an addiction that’s shaking our wallets. Are you stepping out a couple of times a day to buy coffee? That’s an expensive proposition, and is an unnecessary temptation. I’ve spoken to people who say they just "can’t resist" the brownies and cookies in the display case. I say, stay away.

47. Bring lunch: Buying lunch everyday is a budget buster, and it’s more difficult to control your calories. Save money by bringing your healthy lunch and snacks to work or school, and put the money toward a reward that enhances your health, such as a new bike or a gym membership.

48. Write in your diary: Each day, set aside at least 10 minutes to log what you ate, when you ate it, and how you felt when you ate it. Keeping a diary helps you pinpoint the times when you need more help, so you can strategise for success.

49. Talk to yourself: Write a list of affirmations on a note card to keep in your car, or desk, or handbag. "I will do it," "I am worth it" or "One day at a time" works well. Read your affirmations first thing in the morning and throughout the day. Savour the meaning, and you will succeed.

50. Grab a partner: Walking is more fun with someone; you’ll motivate and support each other. If no friend is available, use your personal stereo to listen to your favourite tunes or talk show.