Here’s a truth no one wants you to know: dieting doesn’t work. On average, , sticking with each only 19 days before giving up. 97% of dieters gain back everything they lost while dieting within 3 years. Only 5% keep it off for more than five years. Before you get depressed and stop reading, let me be quick to say that there is hope! Don’t think it’s a lost cause to lose and keep weight off long term. While a diet will help you initially lose weight, only a complete change in lifestyle and mindset will help you keep weight off and stop dieting altogether. Ready to know the secret to get off the diet roller coaster once and for all? Here are four steps you can take: Step 1: Have realistic goals. This is a subjective rule, but one that can’t go without saying. Your weight loss, fitness, and lifestyle goals absolutely must be realistic. If they aren’t, you won’t stick to them long term. Center your aspirations around being healthy instead of being skinny. Every body is different, and a healthy weight for you might include a few more pounds than what popular culture might say… and that’s ok! Being healthy and happy is more important than skinny and miserable. Here are a few tips about making and keeping realistic weight loss goals: • Weigh yourself once every two weeks on the same day at the same time. This is enough to keep you accountable without obsessing over your weight. • Be specific in your exercise goals, but make sure they’re reasonable for your lifestyle. Step 2: Know thyself – and thy temptations. Only once you’ve identified and faced your demons will you be able to beat them when they come knocking. Whatever your vice, stay alert and aware so you don’t fall back into old habits. Common triggers and temptations include emotional stress, boredom, tiredness, too much screen time, and sheer busyness. • Beat stress and boredom by finding better ways to cope. Crafting, coloring, and exercising are popular alternatives. • Plan your food ahead so busyness and exhaustion don’t compromise your ability to make wise decisions. • When you’re watching TV (or any other stationary activity), avoid eating altogether or give yourself a small portion of a snack instead of grabbing the whole bag. Step 3: Eat well. The worst part about dieting is feeling deprived. While kicking some habits like a sugar addiction will require going without foods you crave until you stop craving them, for the most part a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to make you feel like you can’t eat. The point is to start eating good food that tastes good and fuels your body with nutrition. • Keep things interesting. Take a cooking class if you need to, try new recipes, and stay as consistent as possible in your eating habits. • Stay full! Fill up on good food and don’t deprive yourself of healthy, nutritious food. • Eat breakfast – it’s a proven fact you’ll lose weight faster and stay slimmer. • Put a focus on eating a high-protein, fiber-rich diet. Step 4: Stay active. Don’t be fooled: exercising is as much a part of helping you keep weight off as it is a part of helping you lose it in the first place. Embracing an active lifestyle is one of the most important ways you can set yourself up for long-term success. • Focus on exercising in ways you find fun. When working out is enjoyable, you’ll be far more likely to do it! • Be sure to incorporate resistance training of some kind to your workout routine. This will help your cardio workouts be more efficient and will prevent the loss of muscle mass. • Aim for 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week. This works out to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. • Change it up! Boredom will kill your motivation faster than just about anything else. Try new ways of working out and join communities to keep things interesting. Maintaining weight loss is the real victory. Dieting is not a permanent solution, but by choosing to make healthy lifestyle changes, you can be part of the 5% who keep weight off long-term.