Many people would love to lose 5 pounds, but there are those who need to lose, as much as 30, 50, or even 100 pounds. A journey like that is not short nor is it easy and often includes ups, downs, plateaus, and setbacks.

So how can it be accomplished? You’ve seen the stories of heroic triumphs plastered across the Internet, social media, talk shows, and infomercials, the ones with amazing headlines such as, “Amazing Mom With 5 Kids Finds Time to Hit the Gym” or “Spectacular 100 Pound Weight-loss With Common Sense Tactics.”

These are not miracles, these people did not find a magic pill, they used sensible tactics to reach their goals.

1. Treat Yourself as a Human

To err is human. The truth is willpower is not an endless supply of magic beans, you run out and at some point might fall off the wagon. You will find a stressful situation you can’t seem to manage. You may binge while you are all by yourself or in front of everybody at a celebration.

The key is to forgive yourself. Know that it happens to everybody and one bad day doesn’t mean you are failing or that you have worked for all this time for no reason. A cheat day or wavering in your willpower means you are human. Be prepared and expect it, they key is to move on and get back on track immediately.

The most important thing is to recognize when you start to cheat more often, and then refocus yourself, and remember why you are doing this. You will get there, but the more you need to lose the more disciplined and patient you need to be.

2. Set Manageable Goals

A 50 or 100 pound loss while impressive is not by any means unattainable, but reaching goals renews your motivation. If you want to keep your weight loss on track, break it down into bite-sized nuggets.

Plan to lose about 5 to 10 pounds a month (as about a one to two pound loss each week is considered healthy and sustainable weight loss). Anything more than that, is a celebration. Anything less is still a victory. The important part is you are setting manageable goals with healthy ideas about what your body is most likely capable of supporting.

And if you find a diet that you like, it becomes more easy. For me it’s intermittent fasting, because it allows me to fuel my body with healthy nutrients in the eating window that I’m allowed to eat, and a free meal to eat whatever I want at dinner time.

I found this so easy to maintain because it’s not so much of a mind struggle to resist temptation. I can allow myself temptations, but only for the meal that I chose. And you know what, the longer I did my intermittent fasting, the healthier I started to eat, and the less I’m getting tempted for unhealthy meals…

3. Find A Buddy

Weight loss in particular is easier when you decide not to go it alone. A workout buddy is a big help. You can diet at home with your spouse, join a weight loss app or program, and hire a nutritionist or a physical trainer. The bigger your support group the more people’s energy you have to draw on and the more consistently you feed off that energy and camaraderie the better off you will be.

Personally, I have been struggling on and off with weight loss and fitness. And it wasn’t until I met someone from the British army that looked so much younger than his age, that I asked how that happened. Seeing my interest, and since he was getting bored with his retirement, he offered me to teach everything he knows about nutrition, diet and fitness, and it has changed my life.

Obviously if you have a knowledgeable professional trainer or coach, it’s going to be better than someone who has no clue about what is healthy and good for you. Nevertheless, if someone has the ability to keep you accountable and motivate you to succeed, you’ll be way better off than trying to go it alone. Unless you are your own personal best coach of course…;)

4. Break the Plateaus

Wow, you are doing the work and it is really paying off you have lost 10, 15, even 25 pounds. You keep things going, but you can’t seem to shake anymore. It all stops working, the diet, the cardio, the strength training seems to stop being of any value. Your journey has plateaued and you find yourself a little bit hopeless all over again.

Power through a plateau by getting out of your rut. Often in weight loss, we find ourselves in routines for workout and food. Changing your routine by taking an extra or different workout class, adding strength session to your week or adjust your protein ratio. Shocking your system is one of the most effective ways to work through a plateau.

Also, if you’ve never tried intermittent fasting, do some research and give it a try. It might just what you need to not only make that next step, but to keep it off for life!

5. Make Your Biggest Changes Small Ones

The best ways to make your weight loss stick involve small sustainable changes you don’t really notice. Flavored waters instead of soda during the day and with meals, smaller plates when you eat, skipping dessert, or eating a little fruit instead of cake are all small sustainable changes to keep your weight loss on track. Most important, these profound habit changes ensure long-term weight loss success.

The best changes, the ones that make the most difference are the ones you can stick to for longer than the 6-12 weeks of your weight loss plan.