By BitMED Provider: Mike Polich, FNP-BC, MBA, Family Nurse Practitioner

Considering the bulging waist lines of 36.5% of the population in the United States (CDC statistic on obesity), it is obvious that sticking to a healthy eating plan is a challenge for many people. If you are having problems sticking with that resolution that you set in January, here are some simple tips to help you start to create new and healthy eating patterns.

• Calories count. It's not low fat vs. low carb. You can eat fewer calories by eating less food (which is why you can lose weight on any diet that restricts entire categories of foods or limits portion sizes), but you may get hungry and gain it back. Fat has 9 calories per gram, but protein and carbohydrates have only 4 calories per gram. This means that when you eat less fat, you consume fewer calories without having to eat less food. Eat less fat and fewer simple carbs. To achieve a one pound weight loss per week, 3500 calories should be subtracted from your normal weekly caloric intake. To do this, reduce your normal daily caloric consumption by 200 to 300 calories per day and increase your physical activity with a goal of burning an additional 200 to 300 calories per day.

• Be accountable for what and how much you eat, keep a food journal for a month or at the very least a few weeks to be aware of what, when and why you are eating. Paying attention to physical cues and signals can help you determine when your body is cuing you to eat due to hunger as opposed mental or external cues. Ask yourself, "Am I really hungry or am I eating because it is there, it smells good". 

• Do not restrict foods! There are bad foods but there are also inappropriate portion sizes! If you neglect certain food groups, you'll end up craving those foods and binge eating. You also miss out on vital nutrients. 

• Weigh and measure foods for at least a month but at the very least 2 weeks to be aware of serving sizes and portions. Serving sizes and portions have gotten so distorted over the years in restaurants and the like, that most people are completely unaware of what a single serving actually looks like! Most restaurant servings are 2-3 times single serving sizes. 

• Don't skip meals. Eating 5-6 times a day not only stimulates your metabolism but will keep your blood sugar level. By consuming five or six daily meals, your body will also convert less off the food you eat into fat and maintain a constant blood-sugar level, making you less likely to experience periods of low energy. Be careful not to simply eat the same sized meals you eat now, but more often - or you might actually gain weight and raise your cholesterol.

• Be positive. Recognize irrational thoughts. Focus on the things that you have done right and the positive changes that you have made. 

• Lose weight in a way that enhances your health not in a way that detracts from it. 

• Avoid trans-fatty acids and partly hydrogenated fats ("bad fats"). They may increase the shelf life of certain food products, but they decrease the shelf life of people who eat them. 

• Eat fewer "bad carbs" like sugar and white flour. They are low in fiber, so they are a double punch if you are trying to create healthy eating habits: a lot of calories that don't fill you up, 

• Eat more "good carbs" like fruits, vegetables, legumes and unrefined grains (such as whole-wheat flour and brown rice). They are rich in fiber, which slows absorption and fills you up before you take in too many calories.

• What you include in your diet is as important as what you exclude. With few exceptions, those protective antioxidant and health benefiting substances are found in good carbs, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. 

• Eat less red meat. It’s loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat and has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. 

• Begin by making moderate changes in your diet. If you want to lower your cholesterol level or weight even more (or if you have heart disease and want to reverse it), you may need to make bigger changes. 

• Choose quality over quantity. Smaller portions of good foods are more satisfying than larger portions of junk foods, especially if you pay attention to what you're eating