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When you have a lot to lose before hitting your goal weight, success takes time. Here’s a win within reach -- lose 5% of your total weight to lower your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. When you do, you’ll:

Pick Three

Choose three of the tasks below to start today. Pick the ones you think will be easiest for you to accomplish. Give yourself a couple of weeks to make a habit. Then, pick three more to work on. This approach is easy to master for most people and helps you gain confidence early on.

Cook at home. Make this your first step toward losing weight, and you will notice a difference. The less you eat at restaurants, the more weight you lose in the first 6 months.

Give drinks a makeover. One proven weight loss strategy is to cut way down on sugary beverages. If you find water boring, jazz it up. Try adding strawberries and mint leaves, or lemon and basil. For the tastiest results, let the flavors chill in the pitcher for a few hours.

Reduce how often you eat dessert. A powerful predictor of weight loss is how frequently you eat dessert.

Make smart food choices. Fill up your plate with veggies and fruits, and enjoy as much as you want.

This combo can cut triglycerides another 10%:

  • Eat fewer items with added sugar or fructose.
  • Choose unsaturated fats more often -- vegetable oils, fish, and nuts.

Right-size your snacks. It turns out those 100-calorie snack bags are a real weight-loss winner. People who eat from a snack-sized bag typically eat half as many calories as people who eat from a larger package. If your favorite snack doesn’t come packaged this way, split a large bag into several smaller baggies.

Substitute fish for meat. Boost fish servings to about five to six a month, and eat about half an ounce less of meat and cheese every day. This recipe for success pairs up to promote long-term weight loss.

Swap some ingredients. Swap out just a few high-calorie ingredients for a lower-calorie counterpart. Some examples:

  • When cooking with ground beef, use half as much meat as usual, and make up the difference in bulk with finely chopped veggies like eggplant, mushrooms, and peppers.
  • For baked desserts, replace half the butter or margarine with applesauce.
  • In cake or cookies, replace 1 ounce of baking chocolate with 1/4 cup of cocoa.