1. Commit to Small Changes
After successfully losing weight, studies show that up to two-thirds of dieters gain it all back—and then some. Here, what four women did to beat those odds.
Weight lost: 125 pounds
For how long: 7 years
After more than a decade of yo-yo dieting, Katie Foster, age 35, decided to take a more moderate and doable approach. “I wasn’t going to make any changes that I wouldn’t be willing to stick with for the rest of my life,” she says, focusing instead on healthy-lifestyle tweaks that she could follow long-term.
For Foster, that meant cutting down portion sizes of her regular junk food and making manageable food swaps, such as subbing in apple slices for potato chips. Over time, she was able to add more changes to her daily routine, including walking for exercise and, later, running. Those small but lasting changes resulted in Foster not just losing 125 pounds the first time around, but also her being able to keep them off for seven years—even while eating one treat every day.
And there’s science to explain her success. According to a meta-analysis in JAMA, researchers found that different popular diets led to relatively similar levels of weight loss in the short term. However, the findings suggest that diets people can actually stick to may lead to the greatest sustained weight loss.
2. Build Strength
Weight lost: 45 pounds
For how long: 7 years
When Josie Maurer, 44, first started on her weight-loss journey, she focused on what many of us do: cardio (by walking more) and watching what she ate (by counting calories). “But as I lost weight, I still felt like [my body] looked wobbly,” she says. “So, I started integrating strength training and everything changed. The weight fell off so much faster, and I began to look and feel so much better than I had before.”
Seven years and 45 lost pounds later, Maurer says strength training has been vital to boosting her ability to keep the weight off—even after two pregnancies. She spends about 30 minutes every morning performing upper-body and core work then, during the workday, she integrates lower-body moves—such as squats and lunges—into downtime, such as when she’s waiting for the microwave to heat up her packed lunch.
The good news about strength training is that a little time spent doing it can go a long way. One study found that as few as 80 minutes a week of resistance training (or aerobics) helped prevent belly fat regain after losing weight.
3. Get Cooking
Weight lost: 100 pounds
For how long: 1 year
When Arielle Calderon, 28, set out to lose weight, her main goal was to get healthy. “I would get spotty vision for about 30 minutes per day and had trouble seeing. I was so scared,” she says. So, in the name of health (and at the recommendation of her optometrist), she knew she had to start by improving her nutrition. Until then, Calderon ate mostly processed convenience foods and cooked virtually none of the food she ate. For her, “cooking” had always meant microwaving mashed potatoes.
“I started YouTube-ing things like ‘How to properly cut an apple’ and ‘How to roast Brussels sprouts,'” she says. “I legitimately had to start at the beginning. But it helped give me an overall sense of the basics.” After learning to master meals such as canned black beans, instant brown rice and baked chicken breasts, she took on full-blown Pinterest recipes such as spaghetti-squash boats and zoodle bowls and made them her own.
“Now, I prepare about 90 percent of my meals,” says Calderon, who regularly shares her healthy-meal ideas and cooking endeavors with her 180,000 Instagram followers. “I created a habit around cooking and love it.” With that healthy habit in tow—one research has found to be common among those who successfully keep the weight off—she has lost more than 100 pounds and kept it off for a year.
4. Find the Right Workout
Weight lost: 35 pounds
For how long: 9 years
We know that regular exercise helps to keep the pounds away. But there’s one main factor affecting whether you’ll actually work out: exercise enjoyment. Kelly Gause, 59, can vouch for that. When she joined a gym for the first time nine years ago, she hated all of her workouts, which included walking and jogging on the treadmill and lifting dumbbells a few days a week. “Every 15 minutes felt like an hour,” she says.
Then she tried a group exercise class. “It took me six months to work up the courage to venture into the group-fitness studio, but I immediately loved the energy and had fun with the workouts,” she says. “My whole life changed with that class.” Gause began taking strength, cardio and dance classes five to six days per week and dropped 35 pounds. Nine years later, she is certified to teach four Les Mills group exercise classes, and gets her sweat on while instructing roughly six hours per week.
Now, she doesn’t do her workouts because they helped her to lose weight or to keep it off, she says, but because she really loves doing them. They also just happen to keep the weight off.
Originally Written for Oprah.com