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    Write it Down continued...

    But before you put pen to paper, think about yourself and your habits. Are you a member of the "Clean Plate Club"? Do you eat too fast, or while watching television? Assess your personal challenges and determine how you'll stay in control of your eating, physical activity, and sleep habits in the coming year. (It's important to address these three essential areas if you're serious about improving your health and your life.)

    Also keep in mind that resolutions that really work are those that are realistic, rather than idealistic. You don't have to move mountains. Making small changes is the easiest and most effective weight-loss strategy over the long term.

    Let's face it: as much as you might like to spend two hours a day at the gym, it's unlikely you can keep up that kind of commitment for more than a few weeks. Realistic resolutions are those you can live with day after day, week after week.

    To start, choose one do-able change, and stick with it until it becomes a habit. Ideally, each week you'll make another small change that you can live with for the long term.

    Experts suggest that if you do something for 21 days, it becomes a habit. Before long, your old habits will be replaced with healthier ones. It won't feel like a diet, just a new way of life.

    Diets Don't Work

    Losing one to two pounds per week is an example of a realistic weight-loss goal. If you take the weight off more quickly, it's usually because you're losing it in an unhealthy manner. And before long, you'll probably gain it all back (maybe with a few extra pounds to top it off).

    Fad diets work in the short term, but dieters get so tired of the impractical program that they soon return to their old eating habits. Once that happens, the weight returns with a vengeance -- and there goes that well-intentioned oath to lose weight.

    You can lose weight on virtually any diet, from cabbage soup to the popular high-protein diets, but the real question is: can you maintain the weight loss when you go off the diet? The mind-set of being "on" or "off" a diet is counterproductive.

    What works is a commitment to change the lifestyle that led you to gain weight in the first place. A well-balanced eating plan with enough calories to keep you satisfied, which includes small portions of your favorite foods, is the kind of plan you can sustain. Eating healthier foods, and getting regular physical activity and enough sleep are the kind of resolutions that lead to permanent weight loss and better health.

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