1. It's true: Cutting calories is pretty much essential to losing weight.
2. But that tip about cutting 500 calories a day to lose a pound a week? That's not really a thing.
3. That's why the amount of calories you cut is pretty much your call.
4. One option would be to go the counting, tracking, and calculating route.
If you're into data or prefer not to have to guesstimate, you can use online calculators to determine what your caloric intake should be for your goal and then use an app like MyFitnessPal to track your calories, says Holly Lofton, M.D., director of the Medical Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Medical Center.
5. Or you could also just basically eyeball it.
6. After you choose your method, from there it's all about trial and error.
7. But you should not eat less than 1,000–1,200 calories per day.
8. You don't want to cut just any calories. You want to cut them from highly processed foods.
9. Replace the calories you're cutting with foods that are less processed (and as a result not as calorie-dense).
10. And also sometimes just enjoy reasonable amounts of whatever you want.
11. Don't eat a low-fat diet.
12. And the same goes for products labeled "low fat" and "fat free."
13. But, OK, maybe rethink your relationship with nuts and cheese.
14. When possible, don't start your meal with a starch.
15. Eat from reasonably-sized dishes.
16. And definitely figure out if emotional eating is a thing for you.
17. And be really aware of your relationship with food.
Of course everyone eats emotionally to some extent, but the key to a successful weight loss effort is to understand what role food plays in your life, says Lofton. If a main focus of your time alone is about food and eating, trying to cut calories might make you feel isolated, lonely, or even depressed. In those cases it's important to work with a therapist as you work to lose weight. If you're using a calorie-tracking app and start to feel obsessive about eating, that method is not for you, says Langer. Be sure to check in with yourself throughout your calorie-cutting process to make sure you're feeling healthy — physically and psychologically.