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You lost the weight -- congratulations! Now it's time to shift your strategy to make it last.

Maintaining weight loss takes a different approach than losing the weight. You can do it, and you can make it easier by following advice from people who have been there and kept the pounds off for years, and even decades.

Surprise: It’s not all about food anymore.

1. They do it for themselves first.

"Your desire to maintain must be driven by something that's deeper and consistent with your own internal values," says Scott Kahan, MD, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness.

Take some time to think about what's really important to you and how your weight ties into it. For example, you want to be there to see your grandkids grow up, or to take that biking vacation you've always wanted to do.

2. They prize exercise.

You could lose weight based on your diet alone. But to maintain weight loss, physical activity is an absolute must, says James O. Hill, PhD, co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry, a national database of more than 10,000 people who have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off an average of 5.5 years.

Most people in the registry move for about an hour a day, and walking is their preferred activity. If walking for 60 minutes straight sounds daunting, it's fine to break it up, or do something else you enjoy, Kahan says.

3. They get their baggage in check.

Many people turn to food when they're stressed. If that's you, learning new ways to handle your emotions is a must.

Experiment to find things that work for you. Some ideas: Get into your garden, go for a walk, torch stress (and calories) with a serious workout, do yoga to chill out, or connect with a friend.

Want more ideas? Consider booking a few sessions with a counselor who has experience working with people to overcome their emotional eating.

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