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Rita Powell

It may be tempting to try something exotic and short-term for fast weight loss—an all-kumquat diet, perhaps, or a one-weekend exercise marathon.

But it wouldn't be healthy, and any weight you lost would probably be back in a heartbeat.

If you want to lose weight, a long-term program of healthy eating and exercise is still the best method around. It's not new, and it may not be the fad of the moment. For most people, however, it works.

What's on your plate?

A healthy eating plan for weight loss combines fewer calories with more nutrition, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

You can achieve both with a diet that:

• Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.

• Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.

• Limits saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugars.

• Controls portion sizes.

You should aim to lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week, experts at the NIH recommend. It's both a healthy and realistic goal. For many people, that requires eating 500 to 1,000 fewer calories daily.

One trick that works for many people: Keep a record of everything you eat. It may help you spot problem areas in your diet.

Time to get active

Exercise is good for you in so many ways. Of course, it helps you manage your weight by burning calories. It also: 
• Lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

• Strengthens your lungs and muscles.

• Improves your sleep.

Most adults should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week to meet weight-control goals, according to the NIH. But the more you exercise—and the more vigorous it is—the better.

Make sure to talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.