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Weight loss involves more than just eating healthy food, controlling your portions, and exercising more. The key to successful weight loss is to turn these healthy behaviors into habits you keep for the rest of your life.

When you are overweight, a 5% to 7% loss of body weight can improve your health and quality of life. For someone who weighs 200 pounds, that’s a loss of 10 to 14 pounds. Losing even a modest amount of weight like this can reduce your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Suggestions for Long-Term Weight Loss

Work with your doctor or dietitian to develop a healthy eating and exercise plan. To lose weight you will have to eat fewer calories than you use. Your doctor can help you understand your body mass index, how many calories you should eat every day, and help to determine how much weight you need to take off.

Keep healthy food handy. A healthy diet should include a lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products; lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and be low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

Don’t skip meals. People who skip meals may feel hungrier and eat more than they normally would. Studies show people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times during the day are heavier than people who don’t.

Any physical activity is better than none. Even moderate exercise such as brisk walking can improve your health and keep your weight in check. Aim for about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on all or most days of the week. This doesn’t have to be all at one time.

Keep track of the food you eat in a food journal. Many people have no idea how much food they consume in a day. Understand how to read a nutrition facts label so you know which foods to choose that are more nutritious, how big a serving size is, and how many calories you are eating.

A sensible, healthy weight loss is about 1 to 2 pounds a week. You don’t need to reduce your calories by a lot to achieve this. Reducing portion sizes by eating more slowly, using smaller dishes, eating at regular intervals, and letting yourself have a treat every now and then will help you keep on track with your long-term weight loss goals.