Begin 2014 by setting realistic goals and focussing on health and fitness

Hundreds of fad diets, weight-loss programs and outright testimonials promise quick and easy weight loss. From drinking honey dipped warm water to celebrity diets, you might want to plan 2014 as your ‘Weight Loss Year’. However, your weight is a balancing act, and calories are part of that equation. Weight loss comes down to burning more calories that you take in. You can do that by reducing extra calories from foods and increasing calories burned through physical activity. Once you understand that equation, you're ready to set your weight-loss goals and make a plan for reaching them.

Consider these points to make your weight loss plan a success.

Set realistic goals

It's best to aim for losing 0.5 to 1 kilogram a week. Don’t aim to lose 5-10 kg in one month and don’t let such ads lure you to unhealthy eating practices.

When you're setting goals, think about both process and outcome goals. ‘Exercise regularly’ is an example of a process goal, while ‘Lose 15 kg’ is an example of an outcome goal. It isn't essential that you have an outcome goal, but you should set process goals, because changing your habits is a key to weight loss. Your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-limited. An example is aiming to walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and recording your results.

Enjoy healthier foods

Adopting a new eating style that promotes weight loss must include lowering your total calorie intake. But decreasing calories need not mean giving up taste, satisfaction or even ease of meal preparation. One way you can lower your calorie intake is by eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for variety to help you achieve your goals without giving up taste or nutrition. In particular, get your weight loss started by

* Eating a healthy breakfast every day

* Four servings of vegetables as salads, sautéed vegetables and boiled vegetables.

* Three servings of fruits daily. Include a fruit with every meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and as snacks. Prefer whole fruits to fruit juices.

* Use healthy fats, such as olive oil and vegetable oils. Limit oils to 3-4 tsp per day (1/2 L per month)

* Cut back on sugar (2-3 tsp per day),

* Choose low-fat dairy products - prefer skimmed or double toned milk, low fat paneer, low fat yoghurt.

Get active, stay active

While you can lose weight without exercise, exercise plus calorie restriction can help give you the weight-loss edge. Exercise can help burn off the excess calories you can’t cut through diet alone. Exercise also offers numerous health benefits, including strengthening your cardiovascular system and reducing your blood pressure. Exercise can also help in maintaining weight loss.

How many calories you burn depends on the frequency, duration and intensity of your activities. One of the best ways to lose body fat is through steady aerobic exercise such as brisk walking for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Any extra movement helps burn calories, though. Lifestyle activities may be easier to fit into your day. Think about ways you can increase your physical activity throughout the day.

Make a commitment to stay healthy; not merely lose weight.

Weight loss takes time and effort and a lifelong commitment. Make sure that you're ready to make permanent changes and that you do so for the right reasons. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to change your habits and also form new healthier habits. But whatever you do for weight loss should be to promote your overall health. These habits should become your way of life.