The holidays have come and gone. Life as you know it is back to normal. Except, of course, for those extra pounds you may be carrying as a hefty reminder of holiday revelry. You can reach and maintain your desired weight with the following tactics.

Keep These Tips in Mind:

Find a Good Time to Start

Losing weight is a challenge, and requires the same careful consideration that you would give to changing your job, moving, or choosing a college. Create a plan that really suits your lifestyle. Plan to start during a quiet time in your life, not when work and family responsibilities are likely to be at their peak.

Check With Your Healthcare Provider If You Have Any Medical Problems

You want to be certain that your eating and exercise plans are compatible with your health status. This is especially important if you have diabetes, as losing weight may change your requirements for insulin or other medicine.

Plan an Exercise Program

Walk, join a gym, do a video—just move! Dietary changes without exercise are unlikely to produce long-term results. Exercise will make you feel better about yourself, increase your cardiovascular fitness, and enhance your weight loss efforts.

Consider Your Approach

While quick weight loss is always most desirable, it is not healthy, nor is it lasting. You want to choose a plan which will allow for 1 to 2 pounds of fat loss per week while preserving your lean body mass and water.

Don't Forget Fluids

Drink plenty of water each day. Water is noncaloric, fills you up, and prevents dehydration. And do not forget the psychological benefit—water gives you something to put in your mouth when you are trying to forget about eating. Flavor your water with a spritz of fresh lemon or lime.

Keep Track of Your Progress

If the scale intimidates you, look for other ways to chart your progress. Also, take the scale with a grain of salt. If you are exercising, especially lifting weights, you could be losing fat and gaining muscle. The scale will not reflect this healthy change. Try other ways of measuring your weight loss. For example, try on a snug pair of pants every other day. As the waist band becomes less snug, you will become more motivated. Or use a measuring tape to measure your waist, hips, or other body part, and chart your progress once a week.

Don't Punish Yourself

One splurge does not undermine your overall efforts. Learning to forgive yourself and overlook your indulgences are key to long-term weight control. If you have one bad meal, move on, do not turn it into a bad day or bad week. One bad meal is no big deal, but giving up is damaging to progress.

Elicit Support

Recruit your significant other, work colleagues, or children for encouragement and support. Remind them that although you do not need the diet police, you would appreciate that they not sabotage your efforts. Also, there are many commercially available weight loss programs that are helpful.

Reward Yourself

Both small and large treats will help you to realize your goals. Break your weight goal down into smaller segments and compensate yourself as you reach each one. The more you reward yourself, the more motivated you will be to continue.

Keeping the Weight Off

Losing the weight is your first challenge. Keeping it off is the next. While there is no simple formula for maintaining your new physique, the following motivational keys may be helpful:

Break the Maintenance Commitment Into Small Intervals

Make one commitment to losing weight and a second commitment to maintaining your weight loss. It is easier to commit to keeping your weight steady for one year than for "the rest of your life."

Create New Habits

Trigger these habits on a daily basis. If you decide to eat breakfast every day, set out the cereal bowl or the dry ingredients the night before.

Avoid Deprivation

Although strict diet regimens are successful for short periods, deprivation over time is self-defeating. Food should be enjoyable. Keep a list of foods that you like and that are compatible with weight maintenance. When you find yourself craving a less healthful meal, treat yourself to the foods on your list.

Monitor Your Weight

Get on the scale, try on a predesignated pair of slacks, or use a tape measure. The method is not important. Just be sure that you are able to keep track of the pounds. If you find that you have put on one to three pounds, just be extra watchful for a few days. If you put back more than four pounds, however, you should gear up for "relapse recovery." As you build your recovery plan, enlist the support of at least one person who really understands the ups and downs of weight reduction.

Nurture Yourself

Remember that you are a capable, intelligent person who can accomplish whatever you set out to do. Learn to cope with the stress that leads to overeating. Keep a mental picture of your total weight loss experience—your new body, the feeling of being in control and taking care of yourself, or even your new clothes.

Be Flexible

Weight maintenance involves shifting from restricted eating to more flexible eating. This flexibility is harder to handle than a simple set of rules. Just accepting the fact that weight maintenance is difficult is an important step to continued success. Recognizing that some setbacks are inevitable will help you cope with them as they occur.