At any given time of the year, more than fifty percent of Americans are working on a plan to lose weight and get fit. Unfortunately, many of us approach weight loss with the wrong strategy. We crash-diet and exercise improperly, struggling to maintain a strict routine that inevitably results in failure.

The truth of the matter, however, is that success in losing weight is fairly simple if you have the right plan and go about it the right way. Below, you'll find some helpful weight-loss tips that are easy to follow and will get you results inside of a few weeks.

Restrict your carbohydrate intake. This doesn't mean no carbs — it simply means limiting your intake of white bread, pasta and watching out for the potato salad at the next barbeque. Heavy carbs take a long time to digest, turning into sugar and then stored as fat in the body.

Exercise with consistency. Let your body get used to a routine three to five times per week, always at the same time and in the same format. Anything done over a long period of time gets easier. Give your body time to adjust to whatever form of exercise you choose.

Here are the top five healthiest foods: Salmon, soy products, greens, berries and whole grains. Eating these foods that are rich in protein and nutrients will keep you full longer and help you burn energy better.

Don't exercise too hard out of the gates. Sometimes, starting too strong prevents you from finishing the race. Your body will need time to accommodate to a new schedule and demands. Don't set yourself up for failure by injuring or tiring yourself in the first few sessions.

Exercising makes you hungry, plain and simple. To avoid over eating — one of the biggest mistakes made by dieters — restrict your calorie intake for about a week before you start exercising. This way, when your body tells you it needs more food, you don't have to worry about eating a little bit extra to make up for that burned energy.

Drinking a calorie is a sin, relatively speaking. There are so many tasty, calorie-free beverages out there. It's a shame that people drink upwards of three hundred or more calories per day — that's almost an entire meal in beverages alone.

Cardiovascular exercise is great in the beginning, but in the long run you'll need to strength train too. People with higher percentages of lean muscle burn more calories than people with larger fat stores. This means that a leaner, more muscular person is burning more calories at rest.

Eat a light snack before exercising. Eating ten to fifteen minutes before exercise ensures that you'll have enough energy to make your workout count. Don't go overboard though — this isn't an excuse to have a second dinner. Bananas, oranges and whole grain foods work very well.

Set attainable goals. Achieving a goal is one of the most satisfying parts of exercising. If your goal is to lose ten pounds over the next two months, you should be trying to lose about a pound a week. Hitting your goals gives you the drive to continue the routine.

Have a cheat night. All dieters long for a good pizza or hamburger once in a while. To avoid binging and falling off the diet wagon, schedule one night per week with a pizza or another "unhealthy" meal of your choice. You'll look forward to that night and have less of a chance of eating badly at other times during the week if you know your cheat day is right around the corner.

Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He works in the outpatient division of Beverly Hospital and writes "On the Mend" weekly. You can reach Joe at jdivince@nhs-healthlink.org.

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