Americans lose millions of pounds a year - only to gain most of it back within a year. You've probably heard over and over again that the real secret to losing weight permanently is to make permanent changes in your eating habits and lifestyle. Throughout decades of high protein, low protein, Air Force diets, Atkins, Scarsdale diets, cabbage diets,eat-all-you-want-and-still-lose-weight diets that is the one piece of advice that has remained strong. No matter what the latest diet craze, over and over throughout the years, the one "diet" that effected a long-term, permanent weight loss was the 'eat a well-balanced, portion-controlled diet and exercise regularly'.

Why are fad diets so popular? Diets feed our need to be actively doing something. Weighing, measuring, counting - whether its calories,exchanges or carbs - all give us the feeling of gaining control over our bodies and our weight. In the long run, though, all the measuring and obsession with what, how much and when we eat becomes overwhelming. When we stop living by strictly controlled guidelines set out by other people -the latest diet guru - the weight comes back.
There is a practical way to lose weight that doesn't involve arcane combinations of foods to set up an ideal balance of foods that burn more than they give, or that promise to 'turn your body into a fat-burning machine'. It is to simply eat a healthy balance of all types of foods in portions that are reasonable for your body, while at the same time raising your activity level to burn more calories than you take in. Below are some practical guidelines to help you adjust your diet and lifestyle to help you lose that weight - and keep it off permanently.

1.Adjust your attitude. You're not going on a diet - you're eating what your body needs. To maintain your weight loss, you'll need to maintain your new eating habits for the rest of your life - and that's a far easier prospect if your diet plan is one that makes sense and is easy to maintain.

2.Think square when you plan your meals. Like a square has four corners, so should your meals. At every meal, include a protein, a healthy fat, a grain/legume and a fruit/vegetable.

3.Eat three squares and at least two snacks every day. Your snacks should be in the grain/legume or fruit/vegetable corner.

4.If you're under stress, eat something every two hours. Your body sends out distress signals when you're putting it under stress. Give it healthy fuel to keep it working right.

5.Aim for no more than 60 grams of carbohydrate per day at first.Spread the carbohydrates over the course of the day - 15 at each meal and 7 at each snack.

6.Limit dairy products to 3 or less daily.

7.Completely avoid soft drinks - even the diet ones.

8.Drink 6-10 glasses of water each day.

9.Eliminate 'white foods' from your diet. Do away with white sugar,white flour and white cereal products.

10. Take a nutritional supplement - at least a good multivitamin daily.