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Ready for weight loss? Here are some tips to set you on the right path

Beginning a diet to lose weight and improve health is a worthy goal, but it can be a bit overwhelming. There are bound to be challenges whenever you start something new, especially when it involves something you do several times each day -- like eating and drinking.

Still, as long as you don't try to change everything at once, you can meet your weight loss goals. Read on to learn some secrets of the masters -- those who have lost weight and, more importantly, kept it off. After all, what good is losing the extra weight if you gain it right back?

1. Follow a Healthy Eating Plan

A healthy eating plan (like the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic plan) should include foods you enjoy along with plenty of healthy, not-too-processed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, seafood, beans, and nuts. Thanks to their ability to satisfy, these low-calorie foods will actually help you stick to your diet. The most satisfying foods have lots of fiber (like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts) and/or low-fat protein (found in meat, fish, dairy, and soy).

Ideally, you'll slowly wean yourself off favorite foods that are heavily processed and high in fat or calories, and replace them with more nutritious options. At any time during this process, feel free to come up with a new eating plan that increases some healthful foods and decreases others. It's best for WLC members to create a new plan at the end of the week. When you do so, the WLC electronic journal wipes your slate clean.

Don't worry if you are a vegetarian, or have allergies or intolerances. Your personalized WLC eating plan may not include all of the recommended food groups, but it will provide adequate nutrients. We recommend that everyone take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement to fill in any nutritional gaps.

2. Take Baby Steps

Change is hard. Making small, gradual changes in your eating patterns is the best way to overhaul your diet. Some experts suggest making just one change each week, to give you time to get used to the new behavior. Your ultimate goal is to establish new eating habits that can be sustained for a lifetime.

An excellent way to start is to stock your cupboards and refrigerator with healthy foods, and plan to prepare healthier meals at home. Pick up a new cookbook or cooking magazine specializing in healthy cuisine; post a favorite family recipe on the WLC "Recipe Doctor" board for tips on how to lighten it; or try one of the recipes from the Weight Loss Clinic collection.

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