4. Enjoy healthier foods

Adopting a new eating style that promotes weight loss must include lowering your total calorie intake. But decreasing calories need not mean giving up taste, satisfaction or even ease of meal preparation. One way you can lower your calorie intake is by eating more plant-based foods — fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for variety to help you achieve your goals without giving up taste or nutrition.

In particular, get your weight loss started by eating a healthy breakfast every day; eating at least four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruits daily; eating whole instead of refined grains; and using healthy fats, such as olive oil, vegetable oils and nut butters. In addition, cut back on sugar, choose low-fat dairy products and keep meat consumption to a 3-ounce portion (about the size of a deck of cards).

5. Get active, stay active

While you can lose weight without exercise, exercise plus calorie restriction can help give you the weight-loss edge. Exercise can help burn off the excess calories you can't cut through diet alone. Exercise also offers numerous health benefits, including boosting your mood, strengthening your cardiovascular system and reducing your blood pressure. Exercise can also help in maintaining weight loss. Studies show that people who maintain their weight loss over the long term get regular physical activity.

How many calories you burn depends on the frequency, duration and intensity of your activities. One of the best ways to lose body fat is through steady aerobic exercise — such as brisk walking — for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

Any extra movement helps burn calories, though. Think about ways you can increase your physical activity throughout the day if you can't fit in formal exercise on a given day. For example, make several trips up and down stairs instead of using the elevator, or park at the far end of the lot when shopping.

6. Change your perspective

It's not enough to eat healthy foods and exercise for only a few weeks or even months if you want long-term, successful weight loss. These habits must become a way of life. Lifestyle changes start with taking an honest look at your eating patterns and daily routine.

After assessing your personal challenges to weight loss, try working out a strategy to gradually change habits and attitudes that have sabotaged your past efforts. And you have to move beyond simply recognizing your challenges — you have to plan for how you'll deal with them if you're going to succeed in losing weight once and for all.

You likely will have an occasional setback. But instead of giving up entirely after a setback, simply start fresh the next day. Remember that you're planning to change your life. It won't happen all at once. Stick to your healthy lifestyle and the results will be worth it.

Feb. 26, 2014 See more In-depth