For most people, diets aren't enjoyable, and they never seem to yield lasting results either. Although dieters may lose weight initially, most relapse and soon regain the pounds they shed, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The good news? You can healthily maintain and even lose weight without depriving yourself of the foods you love. The key, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, is making small lifestyle changes that become routine and have long-term effects. To get started, familiarize yourself with the following guidelines.

Crunch the Numbers

The basic formula for weight loss is simple: Your caloric intake must be less than the number of calories you burn. One pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories, so to lose one pound a week, you'll have to cut 250 calories from your daily intake and burn another 250 calories a day.

What's 250 calories of food? Two to three cookies, one cup of ice cream, or one-quarter of a full-size bag of potato chips. For a complete list of foods and their caloric and nutritional value, visit the USDA National Nutrient Database. When it comes to burning 250 calories, there are several options that don't require a gym membership, such as an hour of walking or raking leaves.

Don't Starve Yourself

Contrary to popular belief, skipping meals is actually more likely to help you gain weight, because you'll be hungrier than normal later, and as a result, you'll overindulge. If you're prone to skipping meals because you're too busy, stash some healthy snacks in your desk drawer or glove compartment. Snacks will help keep hunger—and the temptation to go to a drive-thru—at bay.

Along these same lines, keep in mind that fast foods and other high-fat items are never the answer. Fat turns to body fat faster than carbohydrates and proteins. So, while the lit-up drive-thru sign may seem like a saving grace, it will undermine your weight-loss efforts in the long run.

Get in the Groove

According to the National Weight Control Registry, people who have shed significant pounds and kept them off have something in common: lots of exercise (60 to 90 minutes daily). So be sure to stay active, especially if you have a job that has you sitting at a desk all day.

Also remember that small lifestyle changes can make a big difference when it comes to fitness. For example, when you're walking in the mall shopping for jeans (one size smaller because of improvements in your lifestyle), use the stairs, not the elevator, to get from one floor to the next.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Perhaps most importantly, remember that weight loss doesn't have to mean torture—it can even be fun. Find activities you enjoy doing, such as yoga, low-fat cooking, or walking around your neighborhood with friends. Remember that moderation is the key, and create a rewards system that works for you, whether it's treating yourself to a massage or splurging on a new outfit when you've hit your goals.

In addition, encourage family and friends to join you. According to weight-loss experts, support is one of the keys to long-term weight management. After all, if everyone in your home is trying to get healthier, nobody will bring those tempting bags of chips into the house!