Around two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. This is a serious health crisis as carrying extra weight can lead to a myriad of chronic health problems including heart disease or attacks, diabetes, and strokes. The good news is that with very few medical exceptions, almost everyone has the total ability to control their weight. For many, however, the prospect of starting a weight-loss regimen is intimidating. Others dive in to fad diets or trendy workouts looking for quick fixes. The reality is this: just as it takes time to put on weight, sustainable weight loss takes time as well. The good news is that if you look at the big picture, thinking about months rather than days, you can make a plan that will make your lifestyle healthier and improve the quality of your life overall. Let’s get started.

Start in the Kitchen

It’s well known that diet and exercise are the two components of weight loss. Dietary supplement ingredients and other natural oils and plant-based additives can certainly help as well. Here’s the cold hard truth, however: as you get older, diet is more important than exercise to achieve a healthy weight. While it’s true in many cases that younger people with fast metabolisms can “outrun a bad diet” in their teens and twenties, this simply isn’t possible for most people as the body begins aging. Eating as much of whatever you want, whenever you want simply isn’t a viable option to get and stay healthy, whether your running marathons or training in the gym six days a week.

The trick to building a healthy diet or meal plan is to be realistic about what you are willing and able to commit to. Some people can achieve great success with the small change of lowering portion sizes and counting calories. Others prefer “elimination diets” that cut out or severely limit certain food groups or types like carbs or sugars. There’s no definitive science that can tell you what is right or wrong for your body, but psychologically speaking, if you hate your diet, you’re likely to break it. Do some research, consider what you like and dislike, and choose a diet plan that you know you can adhere to.

Get Moving

Just because diet is more important than exercise doesn’t mean exercise can be ignored. It’s important to note that exercise provides benefits beyond weight loss. It improves circulation, mobility, and heart health. It can lower your blood pressure and help with bone and joint strength as you age. Also, remember that it’s not that exercise can result in weight loss. The truth is quite the opposite. It’s just that you can’t ignore diet and rely solely on exercise to help you get the pounds off. It’s also very unlikely that you can achieve and maintain your weight loss goals through diet alone without exercise, either.

If you are intimidated by the thought of starting an exercise routine, take comfort in this: one of the best things you can do to start getting your body in shape is walking. If you want to train for a marathon or perform high intensity interval training, more power to you, but if your fitness and activity level is low, start with a few 10-minute walks each day, or one longer 30 to 45- minute walk. Try to walk briskly, but at a pace where you could still converse comfortably without losing breath.

Build Muscle

You may have heard the phrase “muscle eats fat.” While it may seem counterintuitive to add pounds of muscle when trying to lose weight, realize that a moderate strength training program is unlikely to make the scale move in the wrong direction. Try to perform body weight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and lunges in addition to some walks or runs.You have the power to control your weight. You just need to commit to putting in the work to do it. Reduce your caloric intake with a meal plan that works for you, be active with walks or runs and work to build some muscle, and you will see positive results.