Last updated: Jun 19, 2009
Karen Pearson
Health magazine

Shedding pounds doesnt always require a radical overhaul. Adding one little something to your everyday routine—or subtracting one small thing—can transform your body and help you lose weight. And this kind of tweak is more likely to lead to last­ing results, according to Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating.

“The thing about small changes is that they happen every single day and tend not to fall prey to the tyranny of the moment,” Wansink says. Also, one positive habit often leads to another, so a minor adjustment has a ripple effect. Just ask these women—they lost a total of 207 pounds.

She added a lunchtime walk
Colleen Bohn, 40, administrative assistant
She went from: 222 to 169
What she lost: 53 lbs

Her no-diet solution: “I started walking during my lunch hour. By exercising during my workday, I didnt give myself the chance to go home, get comfortable, and then blow off the gym. All I had to do was change my clothes, grab my iPod and go!

Another bonus: The last thing I wanted after walking was a fatty lunch, so I started grabbing Lean Pockets instead. After 10 months of pounding the pavement, I dropped 53 pounds. I vary my route now to keep things interesting. But I still walk by myself, every day, rain or shine.

Why it adds up: “Its so important to integrate exercise into your day, like Colleen did,” says Beth Lewis, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesotas School of Kinesiology and a specialist in exercise psychology and motivation strategies.

“The walk itself can become very reinforcing because it offers a welcome break from work. And many people find it helpful to exercise at the same time every day, because then it becomes a habit.” Walking is an ideal option for newbie athletes like Colleen, she adds, “because its convenient and doesnt require any special equipment or cost anything.”


Karen Pearson

She cut out cream and sugar
Dee Dee Johnson, 35, detective
She went from: 208 to 177
What she lost: 31 lbs

Her no-diet solution: “The guy at the deli where I buy my tea used to have it waiting for me every morning. Hed yell, ‘Light and sweet! meaning lots of cream and sugar with a little tea mixed in. He couldnt believe it when one day I had him remake the tea with just a bit of cream and only one sugar.

Within a month, I wasnt even craving my morning fix. Eventually, I also cut out my two daily afternoon iced coffees (also light and sweet), the occasional sodas, and ice cream. Once I stopped automatically having so much sugar, I realized that I didnt have a taste for it anymore.

The crazy thing was, I didnt notice anything different about my body until about two-and-a-half months after I had implemented my no-sugar policy, when everyone at work was like, ‘What are you doing to lose all that weight? That was some serious motivation to keep up the good work! Its been about eight months and 31 pounds since I had the deli guy dump out that tea.”

Why it adds up: By cutting calories in her drinks, Dee Dee removed more than 900 calories from her daily tally. She lost a lot of weight quickly just by forgoing parts of her diet that she could give up without feeling deprived.

“A lot of what we do, its because of a habit,” Wansink says. “What I suspect may have been going on with Dee Dee was what we call a script. ‘Well, Im getting tea because it gives me a break. By cutting back to just a bit of cream and sugar, Dee Dee still satisfies what shes truly craving—a few minutes of calm.”


Karen Pearson

She got a baby workout buddy
Felicia Starr Powell, 31, stay-at-home mom
She went from: 170 to 112
What she lost: 58 lbs

Her no-diet solution: “After my son, Broderick, was born a year ago, I kept asking myself, ‘How am I ever going to lose 52 pounds of baby weight? With a newborn to take care of, I couldnt make time for yoga or exercise at all. But then there were a couple of nights when I couldnt get Broderick go to sleep, so Id put on the Dance Channel and bop around my room with him until he drifted off.

Eventually, I thought, ‘Im up, so I better get my legs high enough to get some cardio out of this! If you add up the 45 to 60 minutes of bouncing or jogging in place it would take me to get the baby to go to sleep and the slightly shorter bouncing and jogging sessions I was getting before nap time, thats a couple of hours of light cardio every day.

Pretty soon, I added a few minutes of baby strength-training to my routine. I lift Broderick over my head to work my arms. This guy isnt getting any lighter: He really helps me get strong! Now, I weigh less than I did before I got pregnant.”

Why it adds up: “Taking an activity that you already do, whether
its shushing the baby or cleaning the house, and turning it into a vigorous physical activity is something I always recommend,” Lewis says. “When cleaning, do a few lunges when moving around the kitchen, and finish up by going up and down the stairs a few times.” Playing tag or dancing with your kids gets your heart rate up, too.


Karen Pearson

She entered a friendly competition
Danielle Oviedo, 30, American Cancer Society special-events director
She went from: 215 to 185
What she lost: 30 lbs

Her no-diet solution: “When I signed up for a weight-loss contest at work, I hoped to lose a few pounds. But it wasnt about the number on the scale as much as it was about wanting to be a smaller size and feel better about myself. The big­gest loser stood to gain $300, which was also a huge incentive! There was one co-worker, in particular, who was clearly the one to beat. Having my number-one rival looking over my shoulder at lunch made me want to make better choices.

Still, we were friendly, so wed support each other. On those days when I didnt want to drag myself to the gym, knowing that my friend was probably working out kept me going. In a way, my rival policed me better than Id ever policed myself during my previous attempts to lose weight. I lost 12 pounds but ended up coming in second to her, which only motivated me more when I signed up for the next contest, during which I lost 9 pounds. That one, I won! I went on to lose another 9 pounds during a third contest.”

Why it adds up: “Contests fit into the concepts of setting goals and rewarding yourself, which are really important in maintaining physical activity,” Lewis says. “Whether Danielles biggest goal was to beat her co-worker or to lose weight, she benefited! The only drawback to contests is that once the contest is over and the motivation of the competition is gone, so is the incentive to keep making good choices. After a contest, find other rewards, even if its just downloading new workout music for every run.”


Karen Pearson

She adopted a dog
Miriam Bouchma, 33, director at a forensics-accounting-and-consulting firm
She went from: 169 to 134
What she lost: 35 lbs

Her no-diet solution: “I saw an ad on Craigslist looking for someone to foster a rescue dog named Bailey. It was an accidental commitment. I figured I could give it two weeks (at most). Six months later, Baileys mine. I knew a dog would enrich my life, but I was shocked that Bailey helped me lose 35 pounds in about five months. I expected the opposite because she required so much time that I rarely made it to the gym after work.

Plus, I never considered dog-walking exercise. I thought you had to go to the gym, change your clothes and sweat for it to count. It was nice to discover that I actually like walking. It calms me down after a stressful day at work. Bailey and I take a short 20-minute walk in the morning, log up to an hour-and-a-half at night (depending on weather and how long I was at work), and put in up to three hours a day on the weekends.

In general, we do a lot of walking and throwing things! I live in a fourth-floor walk up, and I used totime my comings and goings so that Id only have to climb the stairs once a day. With Bailey, I cant do that anymore. So now I climb about 30 flights a day. Plus, Bailey begs when she sees me eating, so I try not to eat in front of her, which means a lot less snacking at night, too!”

Why it adds up: “One of the biggest factors with physical activity and adherence is having a cue for exercise,” Lewis says. “Bailey is definitely that cue for Miriam. Every time she looks at the dog, her brain says, ‘Time to exercise,whether or not she actually thinks of dog-walking as a workout.

Whats also interesting is that Miriam is walking for more than an hour every day. Miriam could be getting more exercise with the dog than she was at the gym, especially if the dog causes her to walk faster than if she were walking by herself.”