1. Do This Before You Start Cutting Calories
Before you start slashing your calorie intake—depending on how much you're eating now, the range to cut would be 500 to 1,000 calories per day—you need to know what number you're cutting from, says Tamara Melton, RDN, a spokesperson for the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Tally your calories from an ordinary weekday and a weekend day and average them—that's your starting number. From there, cut back by that 500 to 1,000 calories range. You want to find a number that doesn't leave you hungry but helps you lose between 1/2 pound to 2 pounds per week.

2. Use This Smart Workout Tweak to Boost Your Calorie Burn
Turn your strength-training sessions into circuits, so that what you used to do in chunks (lunges, rest, pushups, rest, etc.) you'll now do in a sequence with minimal breaks. It'll keep your heart rate up so you burn more calories both during the workout and in the time afterward, says Rick Richey, National Academy of Sports Medicine master instructor and a certified personal trainer. Here's how it's done: If you used to do 3 sets of burpees, rest, 3 sets of planks, rest, then 3 sets of squats, start doing 1 set of each move with no breaks between the moves, take a quick break (you want to keep your heart rate elevated, so if you start to feel like it's slowing down a lot, you're taking too long of a break), then repeat the sequence two more times. If you need ideas for circuits, we've got a few: The 8-Minute Circuit to Avoid Winter Bod, 3 No-Equipment Workouts You Can Do Anywhere and The Full-Body Workout You Can Do with One Dumbbell.

3. Find Support in Unlikely Places
Accountability to someone other than yourself can help you follow through, especially when it comes to the exercise aspect of weight loss. (You wouldn't skip a workout if your friend was waiting for you at the gym, right?) Your support system doesn't have to be full of friends or family, though. Online support groups can also be a great place to start. People who were put into online groups where they got notifications when other members signed up for fitness classes said the groups were more motivating than receiving positive, you-can-do-it type messages from the researchers, according to a study in Preventive Medicine Reports.

4. Start with the Easiest Changes, Not the Hardest
Total deprivation from the get-go will only lead to a face-first dive into a bowl of ice cream by week's (or, let's be honest, day's) end. The smarter plan is to cut back in ways that don’t drastically change your lifestyle and to continue modifying your eating habits from there. If you're a daily juice drinker, try cutting it with sparkling water. If you'd never turn down a slice of birthday cake (whether it's your special day or someone else's) grab a middle piece instead of an edge—less frosting means fewer calories. We've got 7 other simple but genius ideas to cut calories here.

5. Take Sleep as Seriously as You Take Your Diet
To give yourself the best possible shot at making healthy food choices, you need to get a good night's sleep. If you don't, you may get the munchies, in a manner of speaking. When you're sleep deprived, levels of a compound that's also boosted by marijuana rise, making you want food now, according to a study in Sleep. Compared to well rested people, those who only got 4.5 hours of sleep for four consecutive nights had levels that were 33 percent higher, which could explain why they were much less likely to say no thanks to cookies, candy and chips offered to them, even though they'd eaten a large meal only a couple of hours earlier.

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