The Numbers that Matter More Than Your Calorie Count

When it comes to losing weight, exercise alone won't cut it. "You can eat your way through any level of exercise very easily," says Dr. Henry S. Lodge, coauthor of the Younger Next Year book series. But obsessing over your daily caloric intake isn't a guarantee that you're getting the nutrients you need to fuel your workouts or your body. The key to losing weight: Eat fewer calories than you burn, and consume high-quality, nutrient-rich foods. These numbers will help you do just that without being too calorie-conscious.

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Hunger scale Rating your appetite can help you reduce your calorie intake and lose weight by preventing overeating. In his book The Blue Zones, author Dan Buettner explains that the Okinawans of Japan (who live very long lives) adopt the concept of hara hachi bu ("Eat until 80 percent full"). The hunger scale is similar: On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is ravenous and 10 is stuffed, eat when you're at a 3 or 4, and stop when you reach a 6 or 7. Never get too hungry (or you'll eat more than you need) or too full (which means you may have consumed too many calories).

Change Your Portion Control Habits

Servings of fibrous vegetables Eating at least five to six one-cup servings of fiber-rich vegetables a day can really boost your weight-loss efforts. How? They're less energy-dense than most other foods. That makes them a good choice if you're trying to eat fewer calories. Fiber also makes you feel full and more satisfied. So by eating lots of high-fiber veggies, you can reduce your total intake without feeling hungry. Leafy greens (like spinach and kale) are especially low in calories and rich in fiber.

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Servings of the "not-so-healthy-stuff"
The number to aim for here: as few as possible. Refined grains, products with added sugar, fast food, sodas, and processed foods tend to be high in calories but provide very little nutrition. The more you can cut back, the easier it will be to trim your total calorie intake and lose weight. The key is to not feel like you're depriving yourself; start by substituting a healthier option (a half-ounce of dark chocolate instead of a bowl of ice cream) and reduce how frequently you indulge (from three cans of soda to one).

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Follow these 3 number rules every day--you'll gradually stop counting calories and start dropping the pounds.

3: Ounces of whole grains you should eat every day. That's equivalent to about one cup of high-fiber cereal, one slice of wholegrain bread, and half a cup of brown rice.

5 to 6: Servings of meat, beans, and nuts you need daily for the right amount of protein. Many runners mistakenly assume they need more.

25 to 35: Grams of fiber you should eat every day. Get it from legumes (a cup of lentils has 16 grams), vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Why Your Diet Isn't Working

TELL US: Do you keep a daily food journal? What information do you track?

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