1. Make healthy changes one at a time and build on each one.
“I started walking home from work … a 3.5-mile walk. I did this for six months and then started eating healthy: I cut out all sugar, all processed foods, and then a year into walking home three to five days a week I hired a personal trainer and started lifting weights and doing circuit training (weights, push-ups, squats, etc.) and interval training (sprints).
Take it slow in the beginning: Build a routine into your schedule that you can commit to. I stopped buying my bus pass home so I had to walk home. Once you have a routine you can try building upon it — add in healthy food or start lifting weights. Keep changing it up and adding in new challenges to push yourself.”
—Signe Heffernan (lost 126 pounds in about two years)
2. Take advice but follow your gut.
“There are so many ‘experts’ out there in the health and fitness industry. It is imperative that you do research and try different workouts and meal plans. What I have found is that every single person is different, and we all react and benefit from certain things in a different way. Having said that, keep in mind that no one knows your body more than yourself — and not everyone on the internet is an expert.
Find your niche, and own it.”
—Hunter Montgomery, 28 (lost 105 pounds in a year)
3. If cardio sucks, find something else that you love.
“The biggest revelation I’ve had is that cardio sucks. Cardio REALLY sucks when you are 275 pounds; it makes you feel really bad about yourself. A friend introduced me to strength training and I fell in love with it. It was doable at my heaviest weight and I realized I was kind of strong. I would do cardio a few times a week but it was lifting that kept me coming back to the gym. Then in October, about halfway through the year, I found boxing. I had built up just enough endurance and strength that it was really fun.
I box three days a week and strength train the other three … Cardio is much easier now at 175 pounds and I’m hoping to do my first 5K this summer!”
—Olivia Sullivan, 28 (lost 100 pounds in one year)
4. If you’re self-conscious about working out in a gym, try some gym-free activities until you build up your confidence.
“I started with walking for as long as I could (about 15 minutes) then started Aqua Fit classes when I had lost 15 pounds. I continued with Aqua Fit classes four times per week for nine months until I felt ready to conquer the gym. I never thought that I would be ‘that girl’ who lives to work out but here I am. I go to the gym at least five times per week where I do cardio and strength training.”
—Diana Noesgaard (lost 90 pounds in 15 months)
5. You might cry your way through a workout. Just know that your next workout will be easier.
“I’ll never ever forget my first workout. I cried, I would like to say I teared up but I cried, pretty hard and it was in my work’s gym and random coworkers looked at me and tried to avoid eye contact. At one point during the workout I sat down and thought, I can give up right now…or I can suck it up because next time I do this workout it won’t be as hard. So I sucked it up and I decided that giving up was too easy.
My favourite quote [is] ‘the difference between falling and failing is whether or not you decide to get back up.’ I realized that no matter how hard everything was if I just continued to get back up it would be easier every day.”
—Jackie Kankam (lost 70 pounds over two years)
6. Don’t go on a diet. Go on a journey to change your lifestyle.
“The challenging part of my journey is … the complete lifestyle overhaul. It’s not a diet, it’s not an exercise, and it’s definitely not a pill, it’s an entire lifestyle change. There’s been so many times where I wish I could go back and sit on my couch eating an entire pizza, a bucket of wings, and what have you. But I don’t because I know what I’m working towards, and I don’t want to go back to the person who I was.”
—Gurinder Pabla (lost 70 pounds in three years)
7. Find a community that will support you and cheer you on.
“Surround yourself with the most supportive people possible. I was lucky enough to have my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) by my side supporting me the entire way. She has been running next to me throughout our entire relationship, and cheered me on while I raced. My parents were also there every step of the way checking in with me on my progress and cheering me on when I completed my first marathon. My best friends all supported me throughout the entire experience, with one of my friends even trying to complete what I was doing for just a month.
The support of the running community … provides such a great running environment you don’t have to be a marathoner to run with them. They are accepting of every level. I’ve created great friendship with guys I ran with at the store.”
—Zachary Rieger (lost 52 pounds in a year)
8. Identify your unhealthy habits and educate yourself on how to change them.
“It took one and a half years to lose the 100 pounds, but the journey continues even to this day. Food was my drug, particularly sugar. The fight still continues.
I started to educate myself on nutrition. Mostly calories. I looked at macro and micro nutrition later on, as I started to really build muscle.
The temptation of food, especially sugar, has always been the toughest part of my journey. You overcome it by not keeping it around the house and by not going out to eat much. I prepare all my meals ahead of time and only buy nutritious food.”
—Timothy Reed (lost 100 pounds in 18 months)
9. Figure out what psychological blocks stand between you and changing your life.
“I started going to counseling for my generalized anxiety disorder…and once I did that a lot of the fears I had about losing weight started going away.It sounds weird to say that losing weight scared me but it did. The thought of possible failure scared me a lot. But letting go of all that and dealing with my day to day anxiety made a huge difference.”
—Vanessa Nelson (lost 70 pounds in five months)
10. Sign up for a race with a friend.
“I was weighing in at 240, was always tired and ready to get my body back. I set a goal, I wanted to run a 5K, but two months before the 5K I was still a couch potato. I mentioned to my co-worker that I was running the Color Run and she said she would do it with me. By lunchtime she was all signed up and I think I said, ‘Shit just got real!’ We started running at the beach after work.
That first couple weeks I couldn’t run more than one min at a time. Little by little I started being able to run whole stretches between lifeguard towers. She motivated me not only to push myself but to relax a little. That Color Run was the turning point. I think I saw a glimpse of what could be.”
—Jenn Flores (lost 60 pounds in about 16 months)
11. Celebrate every single victory — no matter how small — and reward yourself.
“When I first started my journey I would lose five to 10 pounds a week! That started to slow down and some weeks I would lose one to two pounds. Many weeks were even just a pound. I still felt excited about every weigh-in because I was still making progress.
From the very beginning I thought about how I would reward myself when I reached certain milestones. Every time I met a goal I would buy a new outfit or shoes.”
—Athina Garza (lost 185 pounds over two and a half years)
12. Know that life might interfere with your weight loss; take setbacks in stride.
“During law school I continued to battle with my weight, having good success until a viral infection forced me to take steroids due to incredible debilitating joint pain and swelling. I gained 70 pounds in just a few months during my third year of law school.
It took about six months to beat the virus but I got off the steroids and started working on my weight again … I lost the 70 pounds, plus 50-plus more, and have now lost 123 pounds total.”
—Kelly Geistler (lost more than 123 pounds in about a year)