When it comes to major weight loss, it’s no surprise that in many cases, losing it is the easy part. Maintaining that weight loss, however, is a whole different story. A recent study from the Penn State College of Medicine found that only about 1 in every 6 Americans who has ever been overweight or obese loses weight and then somehow manages to keep the pounds off. Difficult, yes, but impossible, no. These 10 women have bucked the trend and share their tips and secrets to slimming down for good.
Joanne Giannini, 44
Total weight loss: 60 lbs. Has kept it off for: 4 years
How I did it: I finally realized that I had to make a permanent lifestyle change, not just go on a temporary diet. I started looking at eating as a way to nourish my body to maximize performance and prevent illness. I eat every few hours and focus on consuming plenty of lean protein, vegetables, fruit and complex carbs. I try to plan all meals/snacks at least one day in advance whenever possible so that I always have good food on hand and no excuse to grab something unhealthy. I use exercise DVDs and try to get between 30 and 60 minutes of exercise a day, alternating between cardio and resistance-training workouts with plenty of core training. Adding lean muscle to my frame was absolutely essential to changing the shape of my body from pear to hourglass, and the muscle really helps speed up my metabolism.
Top Tip: Focus on health rather than vanity. Make these lasting lifestyle changes to safeguard your own health and well-being.
Carlotta Marie Turner, 30
Total weight loss: 74 lbs. Has kept it off for: Almost 2 years
How I did it: I followed the Jenny Craig program to change my eating habits. I also began jogging (slowly at first) and gradually increased my time and distance. I incorporated more natural activity into my daily life by taking the stairs, walking more, etc.
Top Tip: Pitch your “big” clothes. Once you lose the weight, you need to lose the clothes you once felt so bad in, even if they’re just one size bigger! If you keep the old clothes around, you have something to slip in to be comfortable. There should be nothing comfortable about gaining weight.
Carla Birnberg, 41, blogger at MizFitOnline.com
Total weight loss: 35 lbs. Has kept it off for: 16 years
How I did it: I did about 30 minutes of cardio six days a week and lifted weights for 20 minutes or so four times a week. It may have taken me a bit longer to lose the weight (eight months), but it paid off in the end because it’s stayed off! The approach I use in regards to food is referred to as Intuitive or Mindful Eating. All that really means is I took the time to figure out what worked for me. Through some trial and error, I discovered what I could eat to keep myself satiated, energized, healthy and content. A few of my favorite meals that accomplish this are oatmeal with peanut butter mixed in, scrambled egg whites with veggies, grilled salmon on a green salad and chicken with brown rice. I eat small meals six times a day and grew to love how clean eating (i.e., no processed foods) made me feel.
Top Tip: Consistency. The secret is to move a little, day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out. The same goes for eating. No matter what approach to food you take, simply aim to be as consistent as you can with your plan. Deviating from our healthy paths every now and then isn’t what packs the pounds back on. It's when we lose sight of our path entirely.
Dana McKeen, 27
Total weight loss: 110 lbs. Has kept it off for: 2½ years
How I did it: Tracking my caloric intake with SparkPeople.com and exercising. I started by walking for just 30 minutes three times a week, and then gradually increased to running. Then I trained for and completed a marathon!
Top Tip: Choose goals that you can sustain over time. If you choose a goal that is unrealistic, you set yourself up for failure, and this includes day-to-day goals as well. For example, if you know you will have a super-busy week and little free time, commit to working out just 15 minutes per day, rather than one hour, because there’s a good chance that won’t happen.
Lisa Eirene, 30, blogger at 110Pounds.com
Total weigh loss: 110 lbs. Has kept it off for: 2 years
How I did it: Once my brother announced he was getting married in a year, I knew I wanted to lose weight. I started swimming because that was an exercise I'd always loved and I knew I'd stick with it. Counting calories was a logical method for me. That first day I counted calories, I did not change my eating habits at all. I wrote down everything I ate and by lunchtime I'd already consumed over 2,000 calories. I knew in order to lose weight I had to eat less than 2,000 calories a day. So that became my goal. I saw immediate results with the combination of swimming and calorie counting. I lost 11 pounds in that first month. I stuck with it.
Top Tip: Pick an activity you love and can stick with. For me, it’s swimming (and now running, which I started doing after losing 80 pounds). The more I worked out, the more I enjoyed it and now it’s a part of my everyday life.
Leeda Bacon, 58
Total weight loss: 75 lbs. Has kept it off for: 6 years
How I did it: As a funeral arranger, I saw obesity listed on far too many death certificates as an underlying cause of death, so when I saw that on my medical chart, I knew I had to take action fast. I started by cutting out most sugar, white flour, greasy fried foods and processed foods. I also reduced portion sizes. I started eating small meals of fresh fruit, veggies, lean meats, whole grains and good fats. I incorporated some easy, low- to moderate-impact exercise like walking, biking on my at-home recumbent bike and strength training exercises with 3-lb dumbbells.
Top Tip: Accept that there will be challenges, but realize that you can, and will, overcome them. If you mess up along the way, just start again without guilt and keep moving forward. If you’re not moving forward you are either stuck or going backward.
Suzanne Pantazis, 47
Total weight loss: 100 lbs. Has kept it off for: 3 years
How I did it: I made slow and steady changes to my attitude, diet and activity levels. I educated myself about emotional eating through Internet research and a little bit of soul-searching. I learned about sugar addiction by reading about the glycemic index in books such as The Zone Diet and The G.I. Diet. I worked on getting happy and putting more of my focus on living life to its fullest, rather than looking to food to fulfill me.
Top Tip: Put food in its proper place in your life. Food is for nutrition. Many of us eat when we are stressed, anxious, depressed, angry, lonely or bored. We need to deal with these emotions and our stress in a healthy manner, so that we don't need to use food for this purpose.
Dayna Pierce, 36
Total weight loss: 90 lbs. Has kept it off for: 6 years
How I did it: After many years of yo-yoing with fad diets, I finally decided to follow Weight Watchers online. I also began doing Pilates in the office with coworkers during our lunch break, three days a week, and walked the other two days. I started to love how exercise made me feel in addition to the results I was seeing, and began self-taught strength training at home with the Bowflex. The combo of smarter eating with Weight Watchers, Pilates, walking and weight training took me from a size 22 to a size 8.
Top Tip: Find an eating plan that works with your daily life. Make changes that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life.
Shelley Johnson, 40
Total weight loss: 85 lbs. Has kept it off for: 3 years
How I did it: I started limiting portions and read Tosca Reno’s story (a mother of three who lost a significant amount of weight, got healthy and went on to write a book called The Eat-Clean Diet), which inspired me to also eat cleanly. I began exercising at home by literally just turning on the stereo in my basement and jumping around. I would do whatever I felt like: dance around, jog in place, squats, jumping jacks, weight lifting. I just made sure to break a sweat and have fun for 30 to 40 minutes.
Top Tip: Be a little crazy! Do fun things that put you out of your comfort zone on a regular basis and help you stay in shape—like belly dancing, which I just started!
Roberta Ricks, 57
Total weight loss: 46 lbs. Has kept it off for: 3 years
How I did it: To lose the weight I adopted a change that I could do for the rest of my life and feel comfortable with. I eliminated refined sugar from my diet and replaced it with whole grains and fruit. After three weeks I no longer craved sugary treats, which made it a lot easier for me to lose the weight and keep it off. I never skip breakfast and eat small healthy meals and snacks throughout the day as well as drink plenty of water. When I eat something every 2½ to 3 hours, I'm always satisfied and hardly ever tempted to overeat. I also had some help from Jackie Keller, certified wellness coach and the founder of NutriFit, who gave me great nutritional tips and coaching in regards to living a healthy life.
Top Tip: Don’t underestimate the power of exercise! Exercise is a crucial part of my weight-loss and weight-maintenance regimen. I lost 15 pounds by changing my eating habits, then I hit a plateau. Once I incorporated exercise, I easily dropped the other 31 pounds. My exercise of choice is dance, which I do for an hour three to four times a week. I feel great after each workout!