I was surfing through MSNBC and found this article. I know it is long, but I thought it had a lot of really good information that would be beneficial to everyone here. The bottom line on getting in shape, a fiitness pro's diet and workout dos and donts. You've decided that it's finally time to make eating healthfully and exercising regularly a priority. Congratulations! Trouble is, there are so many myths about how to lose weight and get fit -- from high-protein diets to bizarre food-combination plans -- that it's easy to get off on the wrong track. To the rescue: fitness guru Denise Austin, the host of Lifetime's "Fit & Lite" and "Daily Workout," which air at 7 and 8 am et/pt, respectively. Austin, who wrote "Jump Start," "Hit the Spot!" "Denise Austin's Ultimate Pregnancy Book" and "Lose Those Last 10 Pounds," offers these pro pointers. Weight-loss dos Reshape your attitude. "Working on your mind is even more important than working on your body," says Austin. After all, "true success depends on what's going on in your head!" So set your mind on a goal -- for instance, I will only eat chocolate one day a week -- and keep telling yourself you can do it. Tell friends about your plan so they can encourage you, and be sure to praise yourself when you make progress. If you slip up or hit a plateau, as you inevitably will, don't beat yourself up. And remember, if you truly want to accomplish a goal, whether it's losing five pounds or 50, you can do it. Learn how to relax. Since stress causes many people to overeat, it's important to ease your anxieties when you're trying to lose weight. Meditation is a great way to calm down and relax the mind, as are calorie-burners such as yoga and walking. Keep a food diary. "Research confirms that writing down what you eat is one of the best ways to head off poor food choices and useless calories," says Austin. That's because it's easy to rationalize the random handful of M&Ms or extra glob of cream cheese on your bagel, but once you write these down and actually tally up the calories, you'll get a better sense of exactly what you're putting into your mouth. And once you're eating more mindfully, you'll be more likely to make better choices. Eat up. Contrary to popular belief, not eating will not help you lose weight. "Starving yourself is counterproductive," explains Austin. "When you skip meals, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy -- and stops burning fat." So keep eating, but you may want to rejigger the timing of your meals and the portion size. Some people find that downing several small meals a day, instead of three big ones, is a good way to jump-start the calorie-burning process. Eat slower. As you eat, put down your utensil or piece of food between bites. This simple pause will keep you from inhaling what's on your plate and give you time to get in touch with how full -- or hungry -- you are. Eat more, earlier. "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper," advises Austin. This will give your body time to burn off the maximum number of calories, while maintaining your energy for the day. Forget the scale. "It can give an inaccurate reading of the positive changes occurring in your body," says Austin. "A woman's weight can fluctuate by four or more pounds over the course of three weeks due to fluid retention and where she is in her menstrual cycle." So if you're relying on what the numbers say rather than on how you feel and what your body looks like, you may end up disappointed, even if you're actually making progress. A better way to chart your efforts: Before you begin your weight-loss plan, take your measurements around your upper arms, across your bustline, at your waist and the fullest point of your hips, and around each thigh (about three-quarters of the way to the hip socket). Every three weeks, measure yourself again. Drink up. By now, most people know that downing eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day is essential to health, but drinking up is even more important for dieters. For one thing, if your shape-up plan includes exercise, you should stay well-hydrated. An added benefit: Water helps you feel full faster. So drink before, during and after workouts, as well as throughout the rest of your day. Make it a habit, whether that means carrying a water bottle, leaving yourself reminders or keeping a bottle of water on your desk at work. "As a rule, I try to drink a glass of water before lunch and dinner, as well as throughout the meal," says Austin. "Not only does this practice ensure that I get the water I need, it also takes the edge off those hunger pangs." Have patience. If dieting was easy, then 54% of Americans would not be overweight. So don't throw in the towel just because you haven't lost 10 pounds in two weeks. Give your new diet and exercise regimen time to kick in, set realistic weight-loss goals (no more than two pounds a week), and savor the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle -- more energy, deeper sleep and clearer skin. Weight-loss donts Never say "diet." "A 'diet' implies something that you will go off at some point," says Austin. Instead, aim to make positive, realistic changes that you can stick with for life. Never eat right before bedtime. "When we are in a truly deep and restful sleep, our body functions slow down," says Austin, which means we don't burn fuel as efficiently. Ideally, allow three hours between your last meal and the time you go to bed. Lay off alcohol. "Studies have proven that as little as four ounces of wine can slow your body's ability to metabolize food and burn fat," says Austin. Alcohol also tends to make you feel hungrier and less motivated to stick to your healthy new eating goals. Finally, since alcohol can be a depressant, it can leave you feeling hopeless about your efforts to lose weight -- and more likely to binge. Don't think of dieting as an all-or-nothing effort. If you don't allow yourself room for slipups -- not to mention the occasional treat -- you'll be less likely to stick with your diet over time. So while it's important to limit your intake of fatty, high-calorie foods, let yourself have at least a few of your favorite foods during the week. "If you deprive yourself, you will be more likely to binge later," notes Austin. Don't go too low." Extremely low-calorie diets may help you drop weight fast, but you'll be losing mostly water and muscle tissue," explains Austin. Don't depend on just limiting your food intake. Healthful eating is key to losing weight, but so is exercise; the latter burns calories and boosts your metabolism. So if you really want to lose weight, find a cardiovascular activity that you enjoy, such as walking, running, biking or swimming, and work up to doing it for 30 minutes, several times a week. Fitness dos Get psyched. "Imagine yourself without those extra pounds -- and with a tighter tummy and more muscle tone in all the places you want it most," says Austin. Post positive reminders (phrases such as "You can do it!" or "You deserve to feel good!") on your refrigerator, your calendar and your desk at work. Remember that every minute you exercise brings you that much closer to your goal. Get the go-ahead from your doc. If you're starting a new workout regimen, check with your doctor to see if you need to take any precautions, especially if you're trying to take off post baby pounds. Women who have had ******l deliveries should wait two to four weeks before exercising; those who've had a C-section need to wait six weeks before building up to full-fledged physical activity -- anything other than walking, Austin explains. Make a workout date -- and keep it. Exercising at the same time each day makes it easier to get into a routine. If you can manage it, plan to work up a sweat first thing in the morning. Says Austin, "The sooner we all get it over with, the less chance there is that we'll find an excuse not to do it!" Start gradually. Listen to your body and build on your regimen slowly. If you start off at too tough a level, you risk injury -- the most common reason why novices stop exercising. "Beginners should start with 20 minutes of activity three times a week, and build up to 30 minutes by the third week," according to Austin. Tailor your workout to your tastes. Do exercise you want to do (as opposed to what you think you should do) and you'll be likelier to stick with it, rain or shine. Shaking up your routine once in a while will also make it less likely that you'll fall off the workout wagon. Take advantage of your local video store's selection of workout tapes or, even easier, tune in to Denise Austin's programs, "Fit & Lite" and "Daily Workout," each weekday morning on Lifetime between 7 and 8 am et/pt. Warm up. Before you exercise, you need to warm up your muscles so that you don't shock your system and end up pulling something. Walk or march in place for two to three minutes before you get down to business, then cool off the same way for three to five minutes. Fitness don'ts Don't do the same thing, day in and day out. Repetition gets boring fast. So shake up your routine by varying your activities, which is known as cross-training. You'll not only prevent burnout; you'll get the added benefit of working different muscle groups for a toned-all-over look. Austin likes to vary her four weekly aerobic workouts with a half-hour walk with her pals. "It's a perfect way to spend time with my friends and burn fat!" On weekends, she plays tennis with her husband, cycles or pushes her kids in a stroller to get a good aerobic walk. Don't forget to pump. Worried that lifting weights will add bulk to your frame? In fact, pumping iron regularly has the opposite effect. "When you add muscle through weight training, your body burns calories at a faster rate," explains Austin. For best results, aim to weight-train twice a week, starting with light weights and a low number of repetitions; then gradually increase them as you get stronger. Don't expect exercise to do it all. Exercise may help you burn calories, but if you eat a ton of greasy, fatty foods, you're just working against yourself. If you really want to lose weight, you need to move your body and eat healthfully. That means increasing your intake of vegetables, fruits and complex carbohydrates and decreasing your consumption of red meat, fat, junk food and sugar.