Many people struggle to lose a pound or two—but 100? That's a feat. Below, women who've lost a whole lot of weight reveal the strategies that changed their lives:
Shanna Fichera, 31
- Camarillo, California
Total weight loss: 110 pounds
1. Start small. "I began walking or jogging for 15 minutes a day. I worked up to 30 minutes, and then increased it again. It was a very gradual process."
2. Don't give up when your weight loss plateaus. "I remember hitting the first plateau and feeling so defeated, but you have to push through and keep putting in the effort for your plan to work. You can't get discouraged."
3. Be realistic about which habits need to go. "When I was heavy, I'd eat French fries every single day, plus carbs at almost every meal—like a sandwich for lunch or bread with pasta for dinner. A diet so heavy in fried food and carbs just isn't conducive to weight loss. To lose the weight, I went from three large meals a day to six small meals, mostly made of fresh vegetable salads with lean meats and nuts. And no more bread!"
Brianna Blank, 22
- Westbrook, Connecticut
Total weight loss: 150 pounds
4. Find a healthy meal you like, and eat it all the time. "In college, I researched the food available in the dining hall to find the healthiest options, settling on a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread with mustard. I ate that for most lunches and dinners—and I was so focused on achieving my goals that it didn't even feel repetitive."
Maria Gordon, 31
- Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Total weight loss: 104 pounds
5. Start with one small change. "I realized that a lot of sugar and calories that I consumed came from drinks, so I challenged myself to drink only water—no sugary drinks!—for 30 days. After just one successful week, I decided to add another challenge: to cut back on the carbs I was eating. When I did eat bread, I switched to wheat bread and when I wanted rice, I used brown rice."
6. Make your old favorites healthier. "I've always loved burgers and fries, so I also started making healthier versions of foods that were familiar to me, like turkey burgers with wheat bread and sweet potato fries."
7. Prepare for heavy meals. "When I know I'm going out for dinner, where I'll probably want to eat extra calories, I eat lighter meals throughout the day, like a smoothie for breakfast and a salad for lunch."
Alyssa Ann Heidemann, 34
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Total weight loss: 131 pounds
8. Swap out snacks that don't serve you. "I used to snack on chips, candy bars, and other junk food throughout the day, but now I make healthier choices six times a day. My new snacks include protein bars or shakes, pistachios, celery sticks with PB2 (a lower-fat peanut butter), and low-fat string cheese."
9. Order smarter salads. "I cook most of my meals at home now but make healthy choices at restaurants like Applebee's if I go out. For instance, while I used to eat tacos, burgers, fries, and shakes, I now have salads without croutons and ask for a low-fat dressing on the side."
10. Cook for yourself. "I bake fish with olive oil or make barbecue-style ground turkey. I eat green beans, carrots, celery, low-fat cottage cheese, string cheese, pistachios, olives, low-fat yogurt, grapes, and tangerines. And I usually don't feel hungry."
11. Double down on veggies if you're unsatisfied after eating a snack or meal. "If I'm still hungry, I turn to vegetables rather than junk food."
12. Pack snacks for late nights at work. "At my heaviest weight, my downfall was eating fast food on my way home from work at 9:30 or 10 p.m. Now I bring food and snacks to work so when I get home I'm not starving and feel more in control."
13. Say no to free refills. "I used to drink diet and regular pop regularly—restaurants gave me refill after refill, and I would lose track of how much I drank. Now I ask for water instead of pop, which I've given up altogether."
Sara Lugger, 39
- Oxford, Michigan
Total weight loss: 149 pounds
14. Move during your lunch break. "During my lunch, I'll walk on the treadmill at work or outside for 30 to 40 minutes."
15. Stash snacks everywhere. "I carry protein bars in my purse and car. This way, I fend off hunger so I don't overeat later."
16. Eat more often. "I switched from three meals a day to six small meals a day."
17. Split restaurant meals with a friend. "When I share meals, I end up eating smaller portions without being tempted by leftovers on my plate. If I don't have a person to split a meal with, I immediately put half of the portion I'm served into a takeout box and vow not to pick at it for at least two days."
Stephanie Aromando, 31
- Sandyston, New Jersey
Total weight loss: ~100 pounds
18. Lift weights to lose weight. "While cardio has helped me burn fat, power-lifting has been such a huge part of my success. Lifting heavy weights with a trainer really helped me sculpt my body. After about four months of training, I was able to squat holding 360 pounds—25 more than I weighed when I began my weight-loss journey."
19. Always move, even on rest days. "I work out six days a week and take an active rest day once a week, when I hike or take a yoga class."
20. Don't use exercise as an excuse to eat poorly. "When I began my journey, I decided that I didn't want to "ease" into a healthy life. I immediately cut out all the unhealthy foods I was eating so I wouldn't use my fitness program as a license to continue to eat poorly under the guise of, "Well, I'm working out, so it's OK."
21. Keep it simple. "I take a minimalist approach to nutrition: My diet consists of lean protein (chicken breast, egg whites, ground turkey), complex carbs (quinoa, sweet potatoes, oatmeal), healthy fats (coconut oil, almonds, avocados), and leafy green veggies. I eat as clean as I can—locally-grown vegetables, organic when possible, and minimally-processed everything."
22. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. "Everything I need is in the produce section, at the meat counter, or in the dairy section. I avoid the center aisles of the grocery store unless looking for specific pantry items, like quinoa or oatmeal."
23. Prepare food in advance. "I eat five small meals a day, but only prepare them twice a week in big batches so that everything is made and ready to go when I get hungry."
24. Drink all the water. "I carry a gallon of water with me all day long until it's finished. Dragging it around campus looks ridiculous, but I don't care."
Tanisha Shanee Williams, 33
- Brooklyn, New York
Total weight loss: 140 pounds
25. Put on music when you don't feel like going to the gym. "Being physically active has nothing to do with going to the gym, but moving your body and burning calories is what matters. When I don't want to go, I just turn on my music and either dance or hula hoop with my niece."
Jade Socoby, 28
- Bangor, Maine
26. Find a physical activity you actually enjoy. "Cardio really bores me. Powerlifting is what changed and saved my life."
27. Use tech and other tools to your advantage. "I started out just by cutting little things like soda out one by one so I wouldn't burn myself out mentally and give up. I then discovered counting calories on MyFitnessPal, which was a huge help for me in my weight loss. A few years in, I lost my way a little bit and found Renaissance Periodization diet templates, which helped me rebuild a healthy relationship with food."
28. Eat a mix of carbs and protein at every meal. "After I began counting calories, I started tracking macros fat, protein, and carbs and my body started changing even more, for the better."