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Had it with one-size-fits-all diet formulas? Learn how to design your own weight loss plan.

Prescribed diets plans, such as Jenny Craig, The Zone, and The South Beach Diet are wildly popular, and often quite successful, at least in the short term. But they don't adequately address personal eating styles, family and work schedules, or exercise preferences.

Do you crave a diet that caters to your unique needs, instead of a cookie-cutter formula from a book or diet guru? Here's how to personalize an eating plan that helps you shed weight and keep it off for good.

The Best Diet: The One That Works for You

If you bristle at the thought of complying with someone else's idea of how you should shed pounds, the good news is that you don't need weeks' worth of expensive prepared frozen meals or a militant eating and exercise program to drop the weight. Even a slight decrease in calories, preferably on a plan that meets nutritional needs, is all it takes.

"One diet is not necessarily any more successful than the next," says Joy Bauer, MS, RD, author of Your Inner Skinny: Four Steps to Thin Forever. "We know from research studies that almost any plan that reduces calorie intake results in weight loss, regardless of whether it's high-carbohydrate, low-carbohydrate, high in protein, or low in fat."

But here's the rub: Weight loss won't last unless you change your eating and exercise habits for good in a way that meshes with your food preferences, schedule, and lifestyle.

Dieter, Let's Get Personal

Before you begin designing your own diet plan, some self-reflection is in order.

"Knowing who you are and what you need is the most important information you can have when it comes to losing weight, eating healthy, and changing your lifestyle," says Heather K. Jones, RD, co-author of What's Your Diet Type?Use the Power of Your Personality to Discover Your Best Way to Lose Weight. "Our personality explains why some approaches to weight control work, while others fail."

Jones says dieting takes more than willpower, and that people who successfully lose weight and keep it off have simply discovered which approaches work for them and their unique personalities.

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