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Losing Weight and Gaining Good Habits continued...

To maintain the habits, Fletcher has found that keeping a diary can help them track the positive changes that have occurred since the weight loss, keeping them on track. "Keep a mind, body and spirit diary," she suggests, "so you aren't just focusing on the number on your scale." She advises people to write down non-weight changes, such as having more energy or reduced blood pressure or other benefits.

"When you feel discouraged, bring it out," she tells those trying to maintain a weight loss.

People who do best at maintaining weight losses over the long term tend to get a lot of exercise, says Victor J. Stevens, PhD, senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland, Ore. "The exercise tends to reduce anxiety," he says, a well as help burn calories.

Those who stay successful also tend to make the fewest exceptions to not following their eating or exercise plan, Stevens found recently in a poll of people in his weight loss group. He asked them how many times they had "exceptions" to following their eating plan or workout routine, such as a family celebration. Those who don't make exceptions do best long term, he says.

"One of the biggest challenges is how to celebrate without a lot of calories," he says. He tells his patients: "You can dance to celebrate. You can play games. The trick is to plan in advance."

How do you get to the point where you don't make exceptions? "I'm not sure how to do that, except practice," he says.

Losing Weight and Maintaining: Resolve Kicks In

Those who have maintained a substantial weight loss say a certain resolve sets in -- an "I'm not going back" kind of stubbornness, even in the face of people who tell them they'll fail and regain.

"I made a promise to myself," says Allan Goldberg, 54, of St. Clair Shores, Mich., who lost 150 pounds through diet and exercise. "I like not going to the big and tall rack," he says. "I like looking nice. I feel neater, more confident, happier. That's what motivates me."

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