Given the thousands of diet schemes, diet experts, and weight loss products marketed to Americans daily, it’s easy to believe that if you could just identify the right approach for your body type, you could lose weight quickly and for good. But is it really that simple? Yes—and no. A recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that any diet that reduces calories—regardless of whether those calories come from carbohydrates, proteins, or fats—leads to weight loss. But many dieters gain the weight back in the first year, and many more after five years. So what’s the secret to losing weight and keeping it off?

First, you need to get a handle on how you eat and why you may overeat, says Michelle May, MD, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat (Greenleaf, 2010). Second, weight loss must be a long-term commitment. When you’ve lost weight, your body needs fewer calories forever (a smaller body needs less fuel) and there’s some evidence that weight loss causes metabolism changes that also result in needing fewer calories. Finally, it’s important to think about losing weight as part of a greater plan to take care of your body. (Wanting to fit into your “skinny” jeans is not reason enough!) If people start eating a certain way only for the sake of weight loss and then do not lose as much as expected, they are likely to give up the healthy habits, says Janna Fikkan, PhD, a psychologist and mindfulness researcher at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. “If [they] have a bigger idea of how they could care for their bodies by using food as nourishment and add pleasure to their lives by being physically active, they might adopt behaviors that will make them feel better. They also might get to healthy weights that are right for their bodies,” says Fikkan. If you’ve tried everything and still struggle with weight issues, you’re not alone (that’s why the diet industry made $59 billion in 2008). Here are some of the most common hurdles to lasting weight loss—and what really works to overcome them.

Learn how to break the emotional barrier to weight loss and check out our easy tips for portion control.