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Researchers have studied people who have lost weight and kept it off. This is what they've learned: a healthy weight loss goal is one to two pounds a week.

Quicker weight loss diets tempt us because we might feel in a hurry to fit into a smaller size. But if we want to stay in that size for the rest of our lives, small, gradual steps is what it's going to take.

These gradual steps include: changing what we eat, how much we eat, and increasing our level of physical activity.

These lifestyle changes don't happen overnight. They might take weeks, or months to include into your everyday routine.

"I've been working on losing weight for three years now. Three years, and doing pretty good. I'm really happy. Yeah, just start walking. I lost a hundred and four pounds just walking."

"I think I'm really comfortable with this gradual weight loss now. This isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle change."

"It's not a temporary thing."

"I'm not going to lose 50 pounds in three weeks."

"Just small steps, continuously."

"The more you do it, the easier it comes. And you get used to it."

In addition to taking small steps, people who succeed with weight loss need to find their motivation to change. The biggest reason most of us want to lose weight -- for better health.

A healthy weight cuts down your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, joint problems, fertility problems and sleep apnea.

You'll improve your overall well-being. You'll feel better, have more energy, be more comfortable, and probably feel better about how you look.

"I'm trying to do for myself, but at the same time I want to be a role model for my children."

"I guess at one time, years ago, it was more of a vanity thing but now it's more of a health thing."

Once you know why you want to lose weight, you can start planning the changes you will have to make in your lifestyle.

Don't get discouraged when you hit bumps in the road.

"The people who have the most success with weight loss have tried many times and have learned from those past attempts and now, third, fourth, fifth, tenth times are making long-term, serious weight changes."

We can learn from our past attempts. The trick is not to let them throw us off for good.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your desire to lose weight. He or she will determine if you are overweight, and if so, will help you to develop a plan for permanent, healthy weight loss.

Most plans include learning how to make healthy choices in the types of food you eat, and in the amount of food you eat each day. You'll also need to set aside time for physical activity on most days of the week.

You'll work together to set goals for achieving a healthy lifestyle that you can live with.

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