By Tina Haupert

My weight loss didn't happen overnight. It took me almost a year and a half to lose 20 pounds and reach my Feel Great Weight. I wasn’t “dieting.” I made lifestyle changes—figuring out what worked best for me through trial and error. These changes have stuck with me and helped me maintain my weight for nearly six years now. (Well, minus those post-marathon pounds, which I am actively trying to lose!)

I often receive questions about my weight loss. Here are my answers to some of the more common ones.

How many calories do you eat per day? And how many calories did you eat when you were losing weight?
Currently (and while losing weight), I eat 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day. Before finding my FGW, I ate closer to 3,000 per day, which was the reason for my weight gain in the first place. Once I reduced that amount and started exercising regularly, the weight slowly came off.

How long did it take you to get to your maintenance stage?
It took me a good year and a half to drop from 153 to 130 lbs. It was definitely a journey to get there—lots of hard work!

I know you love dessert, so when you first started losing weight, did you let yourself have these treats?
Yes, absolutely! I knew when I was trying to lose weight that giving up delicious foods would make me miserable. I still treat myself to dessert (everyday, in fact!), but I typically keep the portion small, around 200 to 300 calories. This small indulgence makes a big difference in how I view food: Nothing is “off-limits” to me.

How did you stay motivated during your weight loss?
Losing weight was tough, but staying motivated was even tougher! What kept me going through it all was knowing that I was making a lifestyle change. Even though I was changing my eating and exercise habits, I still slipped up and overate every now and then. However, I always made sure to get myself back on track at the very next meal. Losing weight is all about consistency, so if I slip up, I refocus and try not worry about it.

How do I find out how many calories I should be aiming for in a day if I’m trying to lose weight?
To lose one pound a week, you need to cut 500 calories a day. I used an online calculator to figure out how many calories I needed to lose about 1/2 pound a week. The calculator will give you the approximate number of calories you need to lose, maintain, or gain weight based on your height, current weight, age, and activity level.

I recently started working full time after graduating from college and I have a really hard time sticking to my regular healthy diet. Do you have any suggestions that would help me get back on track?
I too gained weight after graduating college. I sat at a desk most of the day, didn't exercise regularly, and indulged in happy hour frequently! My best advice is to become a morning exerciser. If I don’t work out first thing in the morning, I find plenty of excuses not to go to the gym after work. Plus, starting my day with some heart-pumping exercise sets a healthy tone for the entire day, and I'm more likely to stay on track with healthy eating and other good-for-me habits.