With warmer weather upon us it is refreshing to strip down, take it off and strut your stuff. But if that muffin top and extra jiggle around the middle is holding you back (and making you more than a little embarrassed), it is time to get serious about weight loss. Not to mention the fact that those extra pounds can eventually add up to serious health complications. Here are some weight loss tips to help you get things under control.

First, know your enemy. Fast food equals junk food, and eating it will make you fat, period! Even if you pass on the super-size burgers, fries and shakes and go for seemingly healthier selections, you are only fooling yourself. A more than occasional trip to the vending machine at work can add up to beaucoup calories and an extra pound or two per week! Cross these enemies off your list and pack your arsenal of freshly home prepared snacks and lunches.

Second, read the labels when you food shop and check fat content. There are a whopping 9 calories in every gram of fat as opposed to 4 calories in each gram of carbs or protein. Total fat should never exceed 25 percent of total calories. Avoid saturated fats and processed trans fats. Here’s another hint: never grocery shop when you’re hungry, you are more susceptible to temptation.

Thirdly, be a homebody. Clean out your cupboards, make your list of healthy foods and prepare those meals at home. You can never be sure how much fat, grease or other unhealthy stuff you’ll be eating even in the best restaurants. It’s also easier to control portion size at home and not be tempted by a sinful desert tray.

Fourthly, schedule your meals. Never skip or scrimp on breakfast. Whole grains, fresh fruit, light dairy are all good sources to start your engine and keep it running efficiently all day long. Eating smaller meals more frequently – 5 or 6 per day – better fuels the body and reduces fat storage. This approach also bumps up your metabolism and gives your muscles a steadier supply of protein if you are working out. Sure, this takes effort and planning, but so does every worthwhile project in life.

Finally, HALT before you act. From now on say, “HALT” before you eat. “H” stands for genuine hunger or habit. If you’re physically hungry, then eat. But often you eat out of habit – stop it now! The remaining letters refer to other wrong reasons for eating: “A” because you are anxious; “L” because you’re lonely or sad; and “T” because you’re tired. Think before you eat, and you’ll be surprised by the changes in your shape! Instead of eating, take a walk, call a friend, etc. (Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels).