When her daughter turned 1, Johns set a goal: to become a better example of healthy living. Her first step was ditching diet drinks loaded with fake sugar. "I was the person always holding a Big Gulp," she says. Johns began drinking H2O instead, and the first 10 pounds fell off. “Now I drink water all day long,” says the Lose Weight by Eating author. It helps her fill up before meals, and a cold glass can even satisfy snack cravings. "At 37, I look younger than I’ve ever looked before," says Johns.
“I’m predisposed to gain easily," confesses Muelrath. When she decided to include more fiber-rich whole foods in her diet, she wanted to find a healthier replacement for her favorite condiment, vegan mayo (made mostly of vegetable oil). The best alternative, she found, was fiber- and protein-rich hummus. That was 20 years ago, and the Mindful Vegan author has maintained her weight loss ever since. She says she just feels "lighter."
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Gina Neely shed 12 inches in 12 weeks
The swap: Fish and poultry instead of pork and steak
One of the secrets to Neely’s 20-pound weight loss: skipping red meat in favor of lean protein, like salmon and turkey. "Normally with my favorite vegetable, collard greens, I’d cook pork because pork has a great flavor—let’s be real," says the former Food Network star. "But when I started smoking my turkey wings, I got the same smokiness.” Switching to fish and poultry helped her get down to 135 pounds, healthy for her five-two frame. Nope, she doesn’t miss her old diet one bit: "I don’t even crave bacon anymore."
The swap: Sensible portions instead of oil overload
Ten years ago, the blogger at The Lemon Bowl decided to cut down her portion sizes. By cooking with the bold Syrian flavors she grew up with, she never felt deprived. The key, she says, was using smaller amounts of higher-quality fats, such as a teaspoon of olive oil instead of a heavy pour, and adding more ginger, garlic, and lemon juice. More than 60 pounds melted away.
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Michelle Tam said buh-bye to her muffin top
The swap: Greens instead of grains
When Tam’s husband first suggested the couple go Paleo, she didn’t have high hopes for the diet but knew she needed to make some changes: "I just felt terrible and hungry all the time, so I decided to try it." The creator of Nom Nom Paleo replaced pasta and rice with spiralized veggies and greens. "Even though everyone thinks Paleo is all about meat, I ended up eating way more vegetables," she says. Before long, she was hooked and seeing results as her body put on muscle. "I could finally do a chin-up!" she says.
What’s more, her digestive issues and canker sores went away, and she stopped feeling bloated all the time. "I lived with chronic issues my whole life that I just thought were normal," she says. "I didn’t know there was a better way."
To get fit for her wedding, the blogger behind Carrots ’n’ Cake knew she needed to curb her carb cravings, especially at breakfast time. "I was eating a lot of English muffins, bread, and toast,” she says. So at her morning meal, she switched to rice cakes or nutrient-dense sweet potato “toast”—and added protein and healthy fats (think nut butter and banana slices, or an egg, avocado, and tomato) that would keep her energized till lunch. “When I eat something colorful first thing in the morning, it helps me stay on track,” says Haupert.
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Richard Blais became a marathoner
The swap: Plant-based protein instead of meat
When Blais met his wife, his weight was at an all-time high. But the restaurateur (and Top Chef All Stars winner) wanted to train with her for a 10K, which inspired him to clean up his diet. He went vegan for a month, then slowly added back a limited amount of meat and animal products. He lost 60 pounds, and today he eats vegetarian a few days a week: “I don’t think we crave meat per se; we crave protein. As long as you get that from other sources, you’re not really missing anything.” Blais gets that protein with quinoa bowls, which he likes to top with Morningstar Farms veggie burgers. “I’m a big runner, and I try to train almost daily, so veggie burgers are a really convenient thing to just heat up and throw in a tortilla or over a salad or grain bowl.” He’s now training for his fifth marathon!