28 Tips From Real Women Who Lost Weight and Kept it Off
Real tips from real women
Losing weight is no small feat—it often requires a complete lifestyle overhaul, and with so much information out there, it can be tough to know what strategy might work for you. And to top it all off, all the weight loss myths that just will not die threaten to throw you off track. That's why it's helpful to know what has worked for real people—in their own words. Here, we've gathered advice from 28 women who have lost between 26 and 174 pounds—and kept that weight off for good.
To submit your own weight loss story head to health.com/i-did-it.
Start with small, attainable goals
Whether you've got 5 or 50 pounds to lose, beginning your weight loss journey can be daunting. Instead of tackling it all at once, start by setting small goals for yourself that you know you can achieve. To lose 174 pounds, Annabelle Goetke did exactly that. "I decided to get more active, parking farther away in lots and taking the stairs whenever possible," she says. "I was tired and breathless at first, but I worked up to an hour of run-walk intervals on the treadmill six days a week."
Additionally, many women have to face one lifestyle change before getting to another, such as overhauling eating habits before taking on exercise. For example, Michelle DeGennaro got a handle on her diet and soon after found that she was more inclined to exercise. "Feeling lighter on my feet was thrilling, and it gave me the confidence to start walking every day," she says. And as Blanca Valdez noticed, "Eating right made my energy soar, which I channeled into exercise." She has kept off 78 pounds.
Just get moving
If you're mostly sedentary (and let's face it—with 9-to-5 desk jobs being the norm, it's hard to avoid), you'll start to see noticeable results with just a slight increase in your activity level. Break up the hours in front of the computer by using your lunch break to move around. "I started walking for 45 minutes during my lunch break," says Melissa Leon, who ultimately dropped 53 pounds. "The area was super hilly, but feeling the burn in my butt and quads as I powered up those hills let me know I was making progress."
Walk before you run
Ease into running. You might get discouraged if you attempt a jog without building up that type of strength—and this could put a damper on your motivation. "I started walking, and before long, I was running," says Cipriana Cuevas, who lost 60 pounds and eventually completed a half marathon. "Getting lighter made running easier, and, in turn, more fun."
But make the most of those walks
There is plenty that you can do to get even more out of your walks. Stephanie Cyr began her 102-pound weight loss journey by walking for an hour each night—but there was a catch. "I mapped out a 3-mile course that took me through the hills in my neighborhood," she says. Live in a flat area? Alternate 1 minute of super-fast walking with 1 minute of slower walking for a calorie-torching interval routine.
Stick with it
Remember that in order to keep the pounds off and maintain your happy weight, you need to develop a healthy lifestyle. That means forming a routine and keeping up the habits so you can hang on to them for life. "I forced myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. four to five times a week to run," says Erin Bowman who has kept off 69 pounds. "My first few were horrible. But I stuck with it, eventually trading my run-walk intervals for steady 45-minute jogs," she says.
Download an app that's right for you
There are hundreds of healthy living apps that can help you lose weight. Find one that aligns with your goal, whether it's to get stronger, get faster, get off the couch, or eat healthy. Cyr found that using MyFitnessPal helped her get a better grip on what she was eating every day. "Once I started logging my meals, I realized I was scarfing 1,700 calories a day," she says.
Find a mantra
Replace the negative voice in your head that's telling you to quit with a motivational saying that will inspire you to keep going even when it gets tough. "I powered through workouts telling myself, 'I can do hard things!'" says Megen Karlinsey, who kept off 150 pounds. Her mantra helped her accomplish a triathlon, which she signed up for to blast a weight loss plateau.
Hang up your motivation
To keep herself on track during her weight loss journey, Mindy Badgley hung her motivation right on her fridge. "I have a picture of a swimmer on my fridge with a quote, 'Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments,'" she says. This visual cue can serve as a daily reminder of your goals.
Mix up your workouts
Not only can doing the same thing day after day get boring, it might also become ineffective. "I kicked up my exercise and added in twice-weekly workouts with a trainer. She introduced me to circuit training, indoor cycling, and running," says Jaclyn Fehringer, who credits her 73-pound weight loss to this change.
Pick a power song
Listening to music during exercise can help you to work out longer and harder because the tunes distract you from fatigue. "Music makes me feel like I can conquer any workout," says Jamie Weil, who lost a total of 85 pounds. "My favorite push-through tunes: Kelly Clarkson's 'Stronger' and Keith Urban's 'Used to the Pain.'"
Add in strength training
Not only does strength training tone your body and help to prevent injuries, but it also increases your metabolism for days after the fact, meaning you'll burn more calories even after the workout is finished. To supplement her cardio training, Goetke started lifting weights. "It totally transformed my body," she says. The extra calorie burn will help the pounds melt right off of you.
Make exercise fun
In order to make a routine stick, you want to keep it fresh and exciting so you don't burn out mentally. "I love running, but it can get monotonous," says Barbara Delamarter, who lost 53 pounds. "To beat boredom, I sign up for wacky races with friends. The more fun I make exercise, the more likely I am to keep doing it."
Sign up for a challenge
Sometimes, you might need an external motivator—like a race or a competition—to keep you on track. After a slow start to her slimdown, Maribel Contreras decided to sign up for a 12-week body transformation contest at her gym. She swapped out her fast-food trips for healthy homemade meals and revved up her workouts, which ultimately helped her win the competition. She now maintains a 77-pounds-lighter frame.
Fit in workouts when you can
Busy schedule? That's not an excuse! You can still use the 5 or 10 spare minutes you get a couple times a day to work up a sweat. Cindy Kern coupled walking and jogging with living room workouts to lose 118 pounds. "I made sure to stay active throughout the day, even just by doing leg lifts while I watched TV," she says.
Make it a family affair
Including your significant other in your workouts can help to keep you on track, even if your goals aren't necessarily the same. "My hubby and I make exercise outings 'our' time," says Twyla Grimes, who knocked off 26 pounds by combining an hour on the stairmill or treadmill with strength training. "We'll go to the gym for an hour and lift weights together. Having him there keeps me accountable."
Find workout buddies
Schedule a workout with a friend—you'll be less likely to skip out on it knowing that she is expecting you to show up. Or, use your workouts as "dates" where you can catch up with friends. "Every Wednesday, I take a Zumba class with the friends I met at Weight Watchers," says Michele August, who lost 117 pounds. "It's our weekly girls' night. We catch up, bond, and even enjoy a fun workout that burns a bunch of calories!"
Eat a nutritious diet
Swapping out unhealthy foods for nutritious ones gives you benefits beyond just losing weight. "I cleaned up my diet, swapping deli sandwiches with high-sodium meat and mayo for Tupperware containers or big butter-lettuce salads topped with carrots, walnuts, feta, and homemade dressing," says Jennifer Lasher, who lost 75 pounds. "I found that ditching processed foods left me with more energy, a clear head, and better skin, too."
We know by now that breakfast is the most important meal of the day—but it's also the one that is easiest to skip or opt for not-so-great food options. "If I skip breakfast, I overeat later," says Sharon Cline, who lost 80 pounds. Instead, choose a healthy breakfast food that will keep you satiated and that will set you up to fuel your day.
Know your portions
It's not just what you eat that can make you pack on pounds—it's also how much. Before dropping 102 pounds, DeGennaro did not have a grip on proper serving sizes. "Sitting down to dinner with my husband and three kids, I'd scarf down mounds of pasta and endless rolls," she says. "Adjusting to smaller portions was tricky at first; I'd round out meals with extra veggies to keep from getting hungry."
Use smaller plates
Think about it: If you have a big plate, it may be easy to pile on the food until the plate is full, leaving you with portions that are way too large. "Since I regularly ate balanced meals, I knew it was my portions that had to be fixed," says Erika Cataldi. "I began using toddler plates; I could load them up and still feel like I was getting a lot." That optical illusion help Cataldi drop 70 pounds.
Satisfy your cravings
Yes, you can treat yourself to a your favorite indulgence from time to time (as long as you keep your portions in check). "I don't deprive myself—especially when it comes to rocky road ice cream," says Leon. "So I'll scoop some into a teeny-tiny bowl I have. It doesn't even hold half a cup, but it looks like a lot when I have it in there."
Make your own snacks and bars
Find better sweet treats
Satisfying your sweet tooth doesn't require a refined sugar-packed snack. The key is retraining your taste buds to recognize naturally sweet foods, like fruit. "To curb my hankering for treats, I eat mangoes," says Tamyala Ezell, who lost 105 pounds by making over her eating habits and working out three times a week. "They have a natural sweetness that does the trick. Plus, they're low in calories and high in fiber." Another example? "I top berries, nectarines, and cherries with homemade whipped cream, nuts, and dark chocolate," says Goetke.
Make sleep a priority
People who get enough sleep tend to weigh less than those who don't. Additionally, researchers found that well-rested dieters lost more fat than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle. "Whenever I don't sleep enough, I'm ravenous the next day," says Weil. To keep her hunger in check and help her maintain her slim figure, she tries to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
Find a local resource
Or join a larger weight-loss community
Julie Real lost 104 pounds through Weight Watchers, and she credits the weekly meetings to her healthy lifestyle change. "The healthy eating tricks that I picked up through the group sessions, like snacking on fiber-rich berries instead of crackers, helped me ditch 15 pounds in the first month," she says.
DIY a home gym
Gym memberships can be expensive, and some days you just can't make it into the gym. Or maybe, you might not feel comfortable in a gym quite yet. At the start of her weight loss journey, Suheily Rodriguez says he was too embarrassed to go to a gym. "So I built a home one," she says, "where I exercised an hour a day, six days a week." She credits this to her 96-pound weight loss.
Schedule your workouts
Plan your workouts into your day just as you would schedule anything else. You wouldn't miss that 3 o'clock meeting or the kids' school drop-off, right? Putting it in your calendar ensures that you will get your sweat session in. "I treat workouts as meetings that I absolutely cannot miss," says Erica Calderon, who lost 85 pounds.