Anyone who has tried losing weight knows that after a while, the pounds just come back unless you learn how to manage your weight. Now a new kind of diet makes you learn weight-management before you can lose any weight.

Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine, say that making small changes to diet before starting off any real weight loss regimen can help people lose weight and maintain it.

"Losing a significant amount of weight requires a lot of focused attention to what you're doing, and most people can't keep up that intensity long term," said Michaela Kiernan of Stanford University School of Medicine, in California.

Researchers found that women who spent eight weeks making small changes to their diet and working on mastering weight loss techniques were better at keeping-off the lost pounds.

"Those eight weeks were like a practice run. Women could try out different stability skills and work out the kinks without the pressure of worrying about how much weight they had lost. We found that waiting those eight weeks didn't make the women any less successful at losing weight. But even better, women who practiced stability first were more successful in maintaining that loss after a year," said lead author Michaela Kiernan, PhD, senior research scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

267 women who were either overweight or obese were involved in the study. These women were divided into two groups; the control group started with 20 weeks of weight loss program followed by eight weeks learning skills to maintain weight, the other group first began with weight management followed with weight loss program.

The study group that was first put on weight-management program was discouraged to lose weight initially. In fact, researchers asked them to gain weight if they lost some pounds during the first eight-weeks of study.

After 28 weeks, both groups lost about 17 pounds. Researchers had planned the study so that it ended in the month of October so that the women would have to rely on their knowledge about weight loss during the holiday season.

Participants were weighed after a year. Researchers found that women who mastered weight management first gained just 3 pounds compared to 7 pounds of weight gained by the group that lost weight first.

Researchers say that by learning how to maintain weight, people can adapt to real-world situations where they would be tempted to eat food high in calories.

"This approach helps people learn how to make small, quick adjustments that can help them maintain their weight without requiring a lot of effort," said Kiernan in a statement.

The study is published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.