As with any aspect of living a healthy lifestyle, the approach to good nutrition has to begin with a foundation. For me, that foundation is the belief that life is a gift, an irreplaceable gift that we only get once. It’s critical to begin with that mindset, or why else would a person decide that taking care of their body and eating properly is a priority?

When your body is healthy and strong, you feel better, you’re more productive at home and at work, you're less likely to visit the doctor, and your approach to living healthy has a positive impact on those closest to you.

First, whenever beginning a new exercise or weight-loss endeavor, I always believe a person should get their doctor’s approval. Then go for it!

For those who are unsure about the “diet thing” and wondering where to start in this sometimes complicated topic, there are four simple steps you can take right now:

1) Moderate your intake of whatever foods you are currently eating.

If weight loss is a goal in your health and fitness journey, then eating the right foods and the right amount of food are critical components. Guidance on this issue can be accomplished by having an expert establish a nutrition plan and calorie goal for you. However, an easy first step is to simply begin eating less and smaller portions of the foods you’re currently eat.

2) Begin to move away from eating processed foods and eat more “whole” foods.

Can you name the ingredients just by looking at the food in front of you? If so, it is likely “whole” food or what some would call “real” food. This would include lean cuts of meat, fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and some dairy.

3) Reduce your consumption of sugary foods and drinks. Weight gain, many health issues and the obesity epidemic are largely due to the increase in over consumption of sugar in America in recent decades. The average American consumes about 94 grams of added sugar per day. Most expert health sources recommend that men should consume no more than 36 grams per day, and women no more than 20 grams per day.

4) Avoid sauces, dressings and toppings. If you follow the second step, then moving away from processed foods also includes these calorie-laden items that we often want to mix with the foods we consume. Sauces, dressings and toppings will almost always add empty calories and often include sugar and other additives that lack nutrients that your body truly needs.

Goal setting

My approach is always to help people establish a weight loss goal that is healthy, as well as achievable. A healthy rate of weight loss is roughly 2-2.5 pounds per week.

During initial weight loss efforts, there can be weeks of higher losses. But overall, 2-2.5 pounds a week is a healthy average. It is important to remember that 30, 40, 50 lbs of weight-gain typically takes place over months and years. It’s unrealistic to think that those same pounds can be lost in just a few weeks.

In addition, I believe it is important to set fitness goals that are not related to weight loss. Perhaps it is to run a 5K. Or maybe to climb a mountain. Or, it can be as simple as being able to walk several miles non-stop from point to point. Having a fitness goal that is not related to weight loss will keep you focused on something other than the scale. And, the natural outcome of pursuing a fitness goal will often be progress toward weight loss.

I want to lose weight fast

I am regularly approached by those who want a “quick fix.” They ask me what I think about taking a diet pill or a meal replacement shake of some kind for weight loss. While a protein shake can have fitness benefits in the right situation, I am always a proponent of achieving long-term weight loss naturally.

The reason is simple. If a “quick fix” approach is a person’s primary tool towards weight loss, they will never learn how to truly eat or live healthy for the rest of their life.

Every nutrient that is important for healthy eating and weight loss can be found through purchasing the right foods at the local grocery store. What’s more, when a person eats healthy, it impacts others around them. Taking a pill doesn’t help other family members. But when a person cooks and eats nutritiously, others within that household typically benefit from that lifestyle.

Life is a gift. Go live!