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This Is the Safest Way to Lose 20 Pounds

So long, spare tire!

If you're thinking about losing weight, you're not alone. Every year, an estimated 45 million people in America go on a diet. In fact, losing weight is such a popular pastime that the weight-loss industry in the United States brings in almost $33 billion each year. And while some people might be trying to drop pounds to fit back into their favorite pair of pants, there are plenty of very good reasons to lose weight that lie beyond the superficial. Although it is possible to be above the BMI range that is "normal" for your height and still be perfectly healthy, being overweight or obese can increase the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, arthritis, and certain types of cancer.

But before you hit up the health food aisle at the grocery store, it's time to do a reality check. The Mayo Clinic suggests that the beginning of successful weight loss starts before you even step on the scale, by doing a self-assessment of the who, how, and why of going on a diet. The only way to really lose weight and keep it off is to do it for yourself, not for someone else, because sustainable weight loss means long-term lifestyle changes. Knowing how you're going to lose weight is another necessity. Hopping from fad diet to fad diet is a good way to burn yourself out and give up. It's also important to set goals for yourself to remember why it is that you're losing weight. Make a list you can keep in mind to motivate yourself if you feel your willpower flagging.

Once you're mentally prepared, losing weight doesn't have to be excruciating or boring or bland. Start by cutting back on refined carbohydrates, such as bread, baked goods, and chips, and starchy foods like potatoes. Instead replace them with foods full of healthy fats, like nuts, avocados, olives, and full-fat dairy. That's right—full-fat dairy. According to a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, eating full-fat dairy is actually associated with a lower risk of obesity. Plus, the added fat makes your yogurt taste better and will also keep you feeling fuller longer.

And while loading up on fats may be contrary to what we've always been told about both our weight and overall health, most people can safely increase their fat intake without adverse effects. In fact, the results of a large-scale study published in The Lancet reveal that, while high carbohydrate intake is associated with an increased risk of premature death, higher fat intake is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality. Even more surprising, higher saturated fat intake was actually linked to a lower risk of stroke. However, that doesn't mean a meat-and-cheese meal plan is all you have to look forward to. While shedding those pounds, you can also eat as many non-starchy vegetables as you would like. And the key word here is "like." There's no need to force yourself to eat a heaping pile of kale if it feels like a punishment.

If you make these changes to your diet, it would be reasonable to lose one or two pounds a week. That means it's entirely possible that, just 10 weeks after you start, you'll have already lost 20 pounds. The good news is that because this way of eating can be totally satisfying in the long-term in addition to being effective, those 20 pounds—or more—could stay off for good. And for more ways to keep to pounds off, steal these 20 Weight-Loss Techniques Successful Dieters Share.

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