Tired of fad diets, cleanses, and false promises that help you lose a few lbs...only to gain it right back, plus some? If you’re ready to hop off the trend train and get on a plan that will help you lose the weight and keep it off (for good this time), it’s vital that you turn your attention to where it matters most.

There’s a single variable that will always predict whether you lose, gain, or maintain weight - by manipulating this single variable, you’ll be able to reach and maintain your goal weight: no yo-yo diet necessary.

See Also >> Why Carbs are not the enemy

So what is this variable, you ask?

That, my friend, is Calories. If you’re ready to run at the thought of counting Calories, you might want to slow down and take another look. While the microscopic aspect of Calories may seem dull or tedious compared to trendy fad diets, there’s a reason it’s so often talked about and touted as an important weight loss metric. Even in the absence of a virtuously healthy diet, you can lose weight by reducing your Caloric intake.

Or, to put that another way, regardless of how much you change your diet (for example, by eating “whole foods”, dropping gluten, or eating vegetarian, vegan, low carb, or paleo), you will fail to reach and maintain your goal weight if your Caloric intake remains too high.

While the prospect of counting Calories may be daunting, you needn’t jump in all at once. Instead, here are three easy, powerful ways to reduce Caloric intake, without fretting over the math.

Once you have these three habits down, consider finding other ways to reduce the number of Calories you eat and/or drink on a daily basis, and check back! We’ll keep you updated with the best ways to cut Calories at home, the office, parties, and dining out at restaurants.

1) Rethink your drinks

The average American consumes 18% of their total Caloric intake from beverages. In other words, we’re consuming nearly ⅕ of our daily Calories from energy sources that don’t even make us feel full. Among adults age years 20 and over, beverages contribute a daily average of 483 calories for men and 297 calories for women, according to the CDC.

If you’re drinking anything other than water, black coffee, or unsweetened tea, you’re guilty: juice, soda, sports drinks, gourmet coffee beverages, smoothies, shakes, protein powders, and milk all contribute to Caloric intake - and they all have the same impact, even if one seems healthier than the others (looking at you, juice).

2) Set snack parameters

Hankering for a snack? Many of us graze out of boredom rather than true hunger. If you find yourself wanting a snack, ask yourself if you’re hungry enough to eat raw veggies - no dip or hummus. If you’d say no to plain carrot sticks, you’re not hungry. Find another way to entertain yourself until your next meal. If you truly are hungry, have the aforementioned carrots. Still hungry? Eat an apple.

Remember: the goal of a snack isn’t to have a grand culinary experience - it’s simply to provide you enough energy and sustenance to make it to your next meal. If you feel as full after a snack as you feel after a meal, you’re probably overdoing it in the snack department.

3) Go Topless

Skip the top bun on your burger or eat your sandwich open-faced. Grains are one of the most over consumed food groups in the US. By skipping just half of your sandwich bread or burger bun, you’re cutting 100 Calories - while that may not sound like much, simply slashing 100 Calories from your starting intake could add up to a 10 lb weight loss in a year - provided you aren’t replacing those Calories with Calories from another food or beverage source.