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How to Lose Weight for Good continued...

"A lot of people go on a low-calorie diet for a few weeks and expect to lose a lot of weight," van Dam tells WebMD. "But if you do a crash diet, you will only regain the weight."

If you take medicine to control high blood pressure or high cholesterol, van Dam says, you would expect your blood pressure or cholesterol level to go back up when you stopped taking your medicine. A weight-control diet works the same way for obesity.

Why is it so hard to lose weight? A big part of the problem, van Dam and Fernstrom say, is that people try to diet in isolation.

"Diet is affected by social issues, by what you do when you are with your family and your friends," van Dam says. "In the current American setting, which really encourages unhealthy eating and dietary patterns, it is difficult to keep these lifestyle changes going."

Fernstrom says it's high time that America treated obesity like the medical problem it is.

"We have to change as a nation and as a culture," she says.

One change she'd like to see is insurance coverage to pay for the cost of professional assistance with lifestyle change.

"My patients tell me every single day they can't believe that lifestyle change isn't covered by insurance but weight loss surgery is," Fernstrom says.

Meanwhile, Fernstrom says, people who want to achieve and maintain a healthy weight should start working at lifestyle changes they can maintain -- even if it means not losing weight, but just staying at the same weight.

Elements of this lifestyle change, she says, include moderating food intake, increasing physical activity, managing stress without food, and getting treatment for depression and other illnesses that get in the way.

Even though diets don't work all by themselves, Mann agrees that there's much people can do.

"I am not saying 'Don't diet' -- I'm just saying people should try to eat healthy food in moderation and exercise like mad," she says.

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