How many times have you gone on a diet for a specific event like a wedding or a reunion? Probably more than once. You may lose that 5 or even 20 pounds for your special event, but keeping them off is the true test.

Fad diets might help you shed a quick 7 to 10 pounds, but eating cabbage soup or beef jerky all day long does little to help you learn how to eat balanced, healthy meals. Once your month-long diet is over, you'll probably go back to skipping breakfast, eating fast food lunches and enjoying takeout for dinner. This isn't because you're a bad person or you lack willpower - it's because dieting doesn't teach you how to eat properly.

Healthy Diet and Exercise: A Winning Combination

Healthy eating and regular exercise are the only proven methods for long-term weight loss. For many people, this combination feels like a life sentence, but it should really feel like a new lease on life. Hectic schedules are the most common reason why people say they don't exercise. The truth is that 30 minutes of exercise each day - whether walking the dog or playing tennis - is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall quality of life, and that is worth reshuffling your schedule.

People also complain that they have no time to cook. Cooking does take time, but if you cook "smart," you may only have to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen each week. Even if you don't cook at all, there are plenty of healthy convenience items on the market (like low-fat burritos and ready made salads) that make quick work of nutritious meals.

Taking care of your body - both inside and out - is an investment in your future. If you stay at a healthy weight for your lifetime, chances are that you'll avoid Type II diabetes, high blood pressure and even several types of cancer. You'll also have a ton more energy to do the things you enjoy. So, drop those quick weight-loss plans, carve out some time for exercise, and eat your fruits and veggies. With a few simple changes, you're guaranteed a lifetime of good living.

Frances Largeman, R.D., earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York. Frances has appeared on local and national TV and has been quoted in Cooking Light magazine, as well as food and health sections of local newspapers across the country.