It's frustrating to go on a diet, lose weight, then regain it.

It's frustrating to go on a diet, lose weight, then regain it.

Frustrating, but common.

Studies show that 90 percent of dieting attempts fail. Yet diets may be one of the few things that intelligent people will keep trying even after repeated failures.

The problem is that people usually confuse weight loss with fat loss. Actually, the faster the weight is lost, the more likely it is that the weight lost is water or muscle, not fat. But it's fat that people want to lose, and they want to lose it for good.

So don't just go on another diet. First, stop and think.

If you have a long history of on-and-off dieting, it's time to face the fact that what you've been doing doesn't work.

Maybe you've tried a bunch of diets with different names, like the Low-Carb Diet, the Blood-Type Diet, the Grapefruit Diet. But consider what was similar about them. Did they eliminate particular foods completely? Did they emphasize fast weight loss? Did they not include exercise?

If you want your next weight-loss attempt to be your final effort because it actually works, try these tips:

Focus on the behaviors (portion control, increased activity, better nutrition) that help you lose fat, rather than achieving a weight goal number. Make sure to include consistent aerobic exercise in your plan. Don't set a time limit for your goal. Instead, keep your mind focused on the forest (the rest of your life) instead of the trees (an upcoming wedding or bathing-suit season). Don't go on a rigid, stringent, fad diet. If it is deprivation-based, consider something else. Make sure that the eating and exercise plan you choose is one you can follow for the rest of your life. Are you really going to be able to keep buying expensive food through the mail? Your body has genetic limits. You don't know whether your body will be able to reach the ultimate weight goal you have in mind. Instead, keep doing what will make you healthier and let your body take care of the weight. It will show you what its best weight is. Take time to keep your fridge stocked with easy-to-prepare, nutritious alternatives. Get rid of those foods that don't fit a healthy lifestyle and fill the fridge with luscious, colorful, fresh foods. It may require more frequent stops at the grocery store, but fresh food requires less cooking or even no cooking, which saves time in the end. Reinforce, compliment and pat yourself on the back often. Stop the criticism and judgment. The psychology of weight management is a key factor that is usually ignored.

You don't want to put all that effort into losing weight only to regain it. Do it differently this time.