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Losing weight can seem like an insurmountable task, especially when you have a significant weight loss goal. But it turns out, most people bounce around within a range of about ten pounds — depending on the time of year, their motivation to exercise, and whether a high school reunion is around the corner. It’s amazing to consider what gaining or losing just ten pounds can do for you. A study recently presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions found that for every nine-pound increase in body weight, a person’s risk of developing heart disease increases by 50%. Researchers tracked height, weight, and heart disease in over 80,000 people, and found that there is a direct cause-and-effect link between body weight and this increase in heart disease.

I find, when advising patients about weight loss, that there are several ways to encourage success. The first is to have a goal. Not just a weight goal, but also a health goal. We spend so much time concentrating on the “how-to” that we sometimes forget about the “to-what.” Reducing your risk of heart disease is a tangible and realistic goal. Second, think small. When we feel motivated to lose weight and get healthy, our enthusiasm sometimes gets the best of us, and we set our goals to lofty heights. The problem with lofty goals is that it’s harder to reach them and easier to get discouraged and go back to less healthy behaviors. So think small. Ten pounds is a great place to start. You can tackle your first ten pounds with these three easy weight loss tips.

1. Keep a food diary. Record every single thing you eat and drink. Studies show that this is the single most effective weight loss tactic. The act of documenting your meals will impact the food choices you make.

2. Weigh yourself — every day. Keeping close tabs on your weight will keep you honest with yourself and warn you if you start to stray in the wrong direction.

3. Get enough sleep. Research shows that sleeping more than seven hours each night is associated with weight loss. Sleep tips your hunger hormones in the right direction.

Any tricks of your own to share? Connect on Facebook and let me know!