Fad diets may come and go, but the principles of fitness never change. After all, it’s not like the human body rapidly evolves, making fitness and weight loss a big mystery! All fitness plans have something in common, even if their structure and the ways they are presented are different. To effectively lose weight and stay fit, you really just need to remember three components.

Your diet. Weight loss comes down to energy intake versus output. When you burn more calories than you consume, your body must rely upon fat stores to get make up the balance of energy. So the first thing all weight loss programs recommend is calorie reduction. You might find that a high-protein, low calorie diet works for you, or you might decide to go vegan. You might even go on the lower-calorie, all-junk-food “Twinkie diet”, as Kansas State University professor Mark Haub did, to prove that weight loss is more about calories than specific nutrients. We don’t recommend that you go that route! But the point is, counting calories and reducing your intake is essential to any weight loss plan.

As for burning more energy, there are two components that will make your weight loss plan successful.

Cardio exercise. Cardiovascular exercise helps you get into the “fat burning zone”. As long as you keep your heart rate up (but not so high that it’s dangerous), you’re burning your fat stores. As a great side benefit, you’re also helping your heart grow stronger and more efficient, which is terrific for your long-term health.  There are many options, ranging from jogging, biking, hiking, or even simple walking.

Building muscle tissue. You don’t necessarily have to become a slave to the gym for this part. There are plenty of strength-building exercises you can do at home, like pushups, squats, planks, crunches and more. The point is to build strength and muscle tissue, because more muscle equals a faster metabolism. Not only do you burn some calories through these exercises; you also help your body to develop a higher base metabolism. The end result is that you burn more calories throughout the day, even when you’re just reading blogs online (like you are right now!)

Now that you know the three main components of a good fitness plan, you can personalize each part to suit your lifestyle. Find healthy, low-calorie foods that you enjoy, and develop an exercise routine that you find convenient and fun. Don’t worry about fads, and focus on building a healthier body!