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The One Cent Diet
How a penny can help you lose the weight.

Use a penny to lose a pound?
Use a penny to lose a pound?

Losing weight and keeping it off is tough. There are hundreds of different diet plans out there, and they all promote the same basic thing. Eat fewer calories and over time you'll lose weight. But eating less is hard. Who has the time to do all the tedious tracking and logging of food to make sure you're staying compliant?

Over the years I've suggested several options to make things easier. I designed Food Logs where everything could be entered into a single sheet of paper. I've worked with mobile phone apps and entered the nutritional information for hundreds of healthy recipes so updating the information required nothing more than typing a name. I've even worked with companies that prepare every meal in advance.

Each one works, for a few people, some of the time. But those methods have drawbacks in the time they take or how much they cost. That's when I realized the solution to my problem was right in my pocket. I like to call it the "One Cent Diet." Here's how to do it.

Step One: Figure out how many calories are appropriate for you to eat. The average active American should eat between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day. However, many of us aren't active. We sit at a desk or in front of a television, without ever engaging in much movement. For those couch potatoes, between 1,500 and 1,800 calories a day are plenty.

Those numbers are for maintenance. To lose weight, you need to eat less. Most diet plans suggest between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day, until the weight is off. For the most accurate picture of what you should eat, consider finding out your Resting Metabolic Rate. You can use our free calculator to figure it out here.

Step Two: Get some pennies. One penny equals 10 calories. If you should be eating 1,200 calories a day, get 120 pennies.

Step Three: Get two bags. One is for the START of the day and one is for when you're FINISHED. Put all the pennies into the START bag. Now every time you eat or drink something that has calories, you have to pay for it with the pennies.

Eating a hard-boiled egg? That's about 80 calories, so move 8 pennies into the FINISHED bag. Want a large bagel? That's about 290 calories, so move 29 pennies into the FINISHED bag.

The immediate effect is that you start to see real consequences for your actions. Think that chocolate cake glazed donut from Dunkin Donuts isn't a big deal? It'll cost you 37 cents because it's 370 calories. A double Whopper with cheese from Burger King will cost you 93 cents because it's a staggering 930 calories.

Over time you'll find you can get similar types of foods, but that have significantly fewer calories. You don't have to spend 2/3 of your pennies on one sandwich.

At the end of the day, once you run out of pennies from the START bag you're done. No more calories from food or drink. Then in the morning, START all over again.

The pennies hold you accountable. You see immediately the effects as you transfer them from one bag to the other. It becomes a game to see how much you can eat, without spending a lot of money. Not surprisingly, the food that's best for you like vegetables, carry the lowest calorie cost.

The goal isn't to worry about all the details like carbs, fat and protein. Yes, those things are important, but your priority is to drop the unhealthy weight. Over time, as you become familiar with foods and their calories, you can start looking into healthier calorie options.

Don't try to lose more than two pounds a week. More than that should be supervised by a doctor. Also, make sure to include at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week. It's important to add muscle, which increases metabolism, for weight loss to continue.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.