If you’re searching for the “best” diet program, you’ll find a ton of results on Google, but you likely won’t see any results in the mirror.

The secret to losing weight and never seeing those pounds again is to create a lifestyle that helps you live lean and healthy. Research shows that successful dieters create their own strategy to cutting calories that they stick to, even when it’s the weekend, holiday, vacation, or when they don’t have any weight to lose. Bottom line: They never take “time off” from their healthy eating plan.

If a diet program is too restrictive or includes foods you don’t like or that are essentially “foreign” to you, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you’re a carb-lover, a plan like Paleo or Atkins would be less likely to be successful compared to a vegan or low-fat approach. Likewise, if you like to cook, a commercial weight-loss program that requires you to eat boxed meals, bars, or shakes will be less satisfying for you.

According to results of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) and other studies, there are several tactics associated with weight-loss success. Apply these six lifestyle strategies and create your personalized program to peel off pounds once and for all.

RELATED: For more smart, starvation-free ways to lose weight, try one of these non-diet diets.

1. Write Your Pounds Off
Dieters who keep food journals lose more weight and are more likely to keep it off compared to those who don’t keep tabs on what they eat. Keeping an eating log—whether it’s with an online program like MyFitnessPal or recorded in a notebook—will help you become more mindful of what and how much you put in your mouth. Record the time, what you ate or drank, and rate your hunger before and after eating. (A hunger scale is a great tool to help you monitor your appetite.)

2. Think Quality Calories
Nearly 90 percent of the dieters in the NWCR restrict unhealthy junk foods and beverages to achieve a slimmer physique. A recent study from the University of Pittsburg, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that those who had the most diet success limited desserts, fried foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages. These foods are considered to have the most “addictive”-like qualities and are primed to be stored as body fat, while they stimulate hunger and cravings for more of the junk. On the other hand, foods such as fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains are nutrient-rich and keep you satisfied.

RELATED: Kick of your new, healthier way of eating with this seven-day clean-eating plan.

3. Put the Brakes on Booze
Alcohol is a two-for-one in a bad way, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: It acts directly on the brain to stimulate appetite and simultaneously makes high-calorie foods more appealing. If you can’t give up alcohol altogether, max out at one to two drinks a week.

4. Turn Off the Tube
Those who watch more than two hours of TV a day also eat more calories and exercise less than those who limit screen time. Eating while catching your favorite programs is also associated with overeating because the distracted nature shuts down your hunger-regulating hormones. In addition, other studies show that images of desirable foods shown on TV trigger ghrelin, the hormone that makes you hungry. The best bet is to limit the telly to no more than two hours a day and use commercial time to do bodyweight exercises.

5. Go with the Pro(tein)
Studies show that protein provides more metabolic advantages over either carbohydrates or fats when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off. Many experts suggest that the success of low-carb diets is due to the higher amounts of protein rather than the low amounts of carbohydrates. Shift some of your carb and fat calories to protein, striving for 20 to 30 grams in each of your main meals for the most benefit.

RELATED: Hey vegans! Whip up some of these high-protein vegan meals to be sure you meat your pro needs. (Non-vegans will love them too!)

6. Move It!
Just 1 percent of successful losers from the NWCR say they lost weight with diet alone and 9 percent slimmed down with only exercise, whereas 90 percent combined diet and exercise. A fitness program that provides aerobic conditioning, intervals, and strength training—which helps the body retain more lean tissue while losing body fat—are most effective to torch calories and keep your metabolism revving.

 

Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., is a registered dietitian and coauthor of The Real Skinny: 1001 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions (Penguin 2013) and cofounder of Appetite for Health

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