updated 1/29/2007 4:25:18 PM ET 2007-01-29T21:25:18

Enough with the dieting advice. Here is what actually worked for 99 percent of 5,000 people who lost weight and kept off at least 30 pounds of it.

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Count calories.

Researchers identified these “big losers” using newspaper and magazine ads, according to a new study published in the Mayo Clinic Health Letter. The average weight loss in the group was 72 pounds.

The successful dieters had various methods for counting and controlling their intake of calorie and fat grams, such as restricting their intake of certain foods and eating smaller portions.

More than 90 percent of the participants exercised regularly, mostly walking or doing something else to sweat out the equivalent of a one-hour brisk walk.

And forget about skipping breakfast. Bad plan if you want to succeed. Nearly 80 percent of the losers ate breakfast daily, usually cereal and fruit.

Frequent visits to the scale helped too — 75 percent weighed in at least weekly.

Keeping it off once the weight was lost amounted to maintaining these behavior changes and responding quickly when the pants started to feel tight again. Those who noticed and addressed it quickly when weight crept ever-so-slightly back on again were most likely to stop or reverse the gain.

The dieters who managed to keep off the weight for at least two years halved their risk of putting it all back on again.

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