Many (but not all!) people with health goals are striving to lose weight. It’s one of the toughest things to do (that is, until you get into better habits) and there’s no one-size-fits-all advice.
These 60 people all lost 40 or more pounds – that’s a lot of weight! And while diet and exercise were the keys (sorry, that’s really the only way to do it) each had their own twist on how to make new food and fitness choices easier and/or more pleasant.
So if you’re struggling with some extra pounds, click ahead to see if you can find some inspiration to set you on the right track.
1. Don’t feel like you need to change everything all at once
While she put herself on a Paleo diet – which is a big step – she did it slowly.
And she didn’t change her whole life at once. First, she concentrated on her diet, and now she is starting to incorporate exercise.
As a result, she lost 55 pounds in 11 months.
2. Cut out the empty calories
“I did it the old-fashioned way by watching what I ate. I first cut out soda and dropped 20 pounds easily. Then, I ate smaller portions and started walking. I’ve kept the weight off for three years and two pregnancies so far.”
3. Take baby steps
“I first started by making tiny changes in my diet (like substituting regular cream and sugar in my coffee for skim milk and Splenda). After the first two months of changing what I was eating, I joined a small local gym that does HIIT (high-intensity interval training). I never thought I’d love working out so much, but I felt so strong and really started to see my body change. It was a total lifestyle change.”
4. Find your motivation
This man remembers being in the hospital and holding his newborn only to realize that if something didn’t change, that baby would lose his dad.
“I was hospitalized this summer with a two-foot-long blood clot in my leg. I weighed 352 when they weighed me in the ER. The doctor told me the clot was due to my weight, which made circulation difficult, and I very well could have died if I waited another few hours to go to the hospital. I was lying in my hospital bed with my newborn son in my arms and realized that if that didn’t spark a change in my life, nothing would. In five months I lost 50 pounds by counting calories, and I plan on losing another 75–100 pounds.”
5. Walk everywhere, then do more when you’re ready
College is infamous for setting people spiraling towards weight gain.
“I used to be a super active teen, but when I got to college I started having really bad anxiety. I didn’t have time to exercise, and my food habits were terrible. When I graduated I decided I need to get back to my old habits. I wanted to be healthier again because I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I started walking a little bit every day. When I felt comfortable and confident enough to do more, I started trying other things, like pilates and boxing. Now I do pole dancing and even go running a few times a week. I’m down 50 pounds!”
6. Sometimes you just have to eat it
Despite keeping track of meals and calories, this woman learned that sometimes you just have to eat what you crave.
“Through this process I stuck to one big rule: If you’re craving something, eat it! I was already a pretty active person (I’m a teacher and on my feet all day) so I didn’t change my activity level too much…So far I’ve lost about 60 pounds and managed to keep it off for over three years. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but I’m okay with that! My biggest suggestion to people starting out is to find something that works for you. You don’t need to make drastic changes to becoming a healthier version of yourself!”
7. Learn to eat healthily and share your knowledge with others
“I went from 170 to 120 in less than two years after committing to a plant-based diet. I’ve always loved cooking, but I focused my attention on creating nutrient-packed recipes and posting them on my Instagram to hold myself accountable. I am the lightest I have been since I was about 11 years old and feel better than I ever have in my life!”
8. Commit piece by piece
“For the first 30 days, it was extremely hard and frustrating. After about 45 days, it all sort of became second nature. My body adjusted to waking up early, my tastebuds adjusted to eating less salt and sugar, and I had fewer cravings for the unhealthy things I previously enjoyed. Following the 90 days, my new routine wasn’t hard to keep up with at all. It turned into my new normal. I lost 40 pounds in about a year.”
9. Educate yourself
“…in March, I came across an ad for a program called Noom. It peaked my interest, so I downloaded it and quickly realized it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
The program taught me about my own food habits, portion control, and how to set healthy and obtainable goals…In 9.5 months I’ve lost a total of 111 pounds, and I’m officially under 200 for the first time since middle school!”
10. Invest in your health
“I saved some money and signed up for three months of personal training (twice a week, non-refundable). Since I already spent the money, I felt like I had to fully commit so it ‘wasn’t a waste.’ That quickly translated into my eating healthier and logging meals to ensure I was getting the best results possible from my ‘investment.'”
11. Eliminate soda from your diet
“I started making tiny changes, like eliminating soda (which was a huge help) and walking instead of driving when possible. The usual things you’d assume – like focusing on your nutrition and exercising – really do work over time. I promise.”
12. Workout the way you want
“A year ago I started using the ‘Lose It!; app. I found a way to make working out fun, and now I actually like doing it. I’ve even gotten into running, which I swore I’d never do! But it’s fun! Same with biking and hiking. And now I’m down 64 pounds!”
13. Set a small daily goal
“I learned that weight loss is a form of self-care, and I got there by treating my anxiety and depression, eating healthy, cutting out alcohol, and setting daily exercise goals for myself (I used a Fitbit to track my steps, shooting for 20,000 every day). I also learned that to take care of your mind, you need to take care of your body too.”
14. Look for unconventional ways to work out
This woman lost 60 pounds in a year by taking up martial arts which she found to be more appealing, despite having some limitations.
“I’ve lost 60 pounds this year by taking up martial arts. My beginning weight was 250 pounds, and a lot of the movements were difficult for me. I also started working with a nutrition coach who I check in with every week. She has me count my macros every day, and I’ve learned so much about the nutrients my body needs.”
15. Focus on achievable lifestyle changes
Losing over 100 pounds took 4 years, but by the end the lifestyle changes were permanent, setting this person up for a healthy life instead of multiple rounds of dieting.
“My biggest saving grace was meal-prepping. Instead of continuing my unhealthy relationship with food, I began appreciating how to create healthy and sustainable eating options that worked with my busy schedule and kept me from getting bored and from emotionally overeating. As soon as food became an ally rather than an enemy, everything else started to fall into place.
Another huge lifestyle change was switching from unrealistic goals (like wanting to loose xx pounds in a year) to achievable lifestyle changes (like wanting to work out three times a week, or replacing sugary drinks with water).”
16. Educate yourself about serving sizes and calories
First, he learned about calorie counting from a friend, then realized that exercise was good for body and brain.
“I reached out to a friend who helped teach me about calories, and I worked my ass off. It was a pain in the butt to count everything at first, but it kept getting easier and easier. I also found that going to the gym really helped me feel better emotionally…I still have a long way to go, but I’m comfortable right now. I’ve lost 52 pounds in about a year, and I feel phenomenal.”
17. Let your pet guide you
“…I got a dog (two puppy Australian Cattle Dogs, to be exact). They were nuts, and I couldn’t keep up with them. They deserved more, and I knew it was time for a change. I started to eat better, and from there I took baby steps.”
18. Walk it off
By the time this woman was in college, she couldn’t walk downhill to class without getting winded.
“From that day forward, I walked to class (about a mile), started lifting at the gym, and introduced myself to foods that weren’t just bread, bread, and bread. I finally hit a healthy BMI after about six months. Now I weigh about 130, but my weight isn’t the only thing that’s changed. I can walk a mile without wheezing for breath every two minutes, my legs no longer chafe, and I don’t wake up feeling like death because of what I ate the night before.”
19. Don’t use the word “diet”
“I started by getting a trainer to teach me proper technique and to help me get rid of my fear of the gym. I also decreased my fried food and carb intake. I tried not use the word diet, because I found that the word made it harder for myself, like I was restricting myself to certain foods. I also read nutrition labels for the first time so I could educate myself on the foods I was eating.”
20. Put your focus in the right places
“Over four years I lost 130 pounds. It all started with my mom’s unexpected death from a heart attack, which caused me to reevaluate my own health choices. I started making tiny changes, like eliminating soda (which was a huge help) and walking instead of driving when possible. The usual things you’d assume – like focusing on your nutrition and exercising – really do work over time. I promise.”
21. Cut back on processed foods
“I had always been pretty active – I played on various sports teams and even ran obstacle course races like Spartan and Tough Mudder. It wasn’t until I moved to South Korea and started walking to and from work that I noticed my clothes were getting a lot looser. I then started to eat more real, unprocessed foods. All of this helped me lose a little over 70 pounds, and I plan to run my first half-marathon in 2019!”
22. Invest in a personal trainer
“A trainer at my gym came up to me and asked if I needed some help, and she’s really helped me get into fitness. I started to lift weights – just benching, deadlifts, and squats. It made the biggest difference.”
23. Join a gym that emphasizes community
“About a year ago my friend invited me to try her gym for free for a month. It’s bootcamp-style training, and I had NOOO idea what I had signed up for. This gym is different because it’s centered around women and moms, and it’s a truly supportive gym community. Also, every day is different and you never know what kind of wild workout you’re going to get…With the help of my “Burn Sisters,” I lost 60 pounds in 14 months.”
24. Don’t deprive yourself of enjoyment
“I’m a flight attendant, so I’m always on the go and eating at fast-food places. The WW [Weight Watchers] app was the backbone to my success, because they have the point value of all the menu items at every chain restaurant, and it steered me in the right direction! Everyone thinks they have to meal prep to lose weight, but most fast-food joints have hopped on the healthy trend, so it’s actually easy to eat healthy on the go! I’ve lost 70 pounds in about eight months!”
25. Level with yourself
“I was as honest as I could ever be, and the letter was heartbreaking. However, it was real, and I needed it many times. It helped me get through my hardest days. As a result, I lost 95 pounds in about 18 months.”
26. Don’t push yourself too hard and make time for rest
“I also started Weight Watchers and learned how to change my relationship with food. I learned how to love myself and be proud of everything I’d done and can do. I also started to celebrate smaller goals I’d accomplished (like running my first 5k, and then cutting off three minutes during my second race). I prioritized my health now and make sure I get the activity, rest, and sustenance my body craves. And through it all, I’ve learned it’s so important to be kind to myself. I’m really enjoying this journey.”
27. Use the buddy system
“I was still eating the same way, but after a month or so I got on the scale and found out I lost 10 pounds! I never thought I’d actually lose any weight, so this was huge and a great motivator. I started to eat healthier and got more into exercising. I’d even wake up early to swim laps most mornings. I’m now down almost 80 pounds. To say my life has changed is an understatement.”
28. Embrace the power of strength training
“I do strength training three times a week. I started with mostly bodyweight exercises (lunges, squats, and push-ups) and now use a lot of free weights. Strength transformed my body. Suddenly I had… muscles, and I’ve lost inches all over and my clothes fit better. I also just love being strong and being able to lift things.”
29. Learn about food substitutions, especially when dining out
The goal is simply to make better choices overall.
” lost 51 pounds over the last year by changing my diet and portioning. I never deprive myself, but I make better choices. I haven’t exactly hit my goal yet, but I am so happy.”
30. Get a group together
“In the summer of 2012, I moved to a new city and some of my new co-workers invited me to join them on a weekly Saturday morning run. They were inviting, not intimidating, and so supportive. Those runs are what helped me stick with it. It was certainly hard, but that group included runners of all skill and experience levels. Not only was a group run a way to hold myself accountable, but it was also a lot of fun.”
31. You are what you eat
“I slowly cut out fast food and alcohol, and after about a month I no longer wanted them.
I feel so much better every day. In the beginning my body felt sluggish and tired. But after a few weeks I had more energy and was able to do more. I could also put more into my gym routine after cutting all of that out. Now I even prefer to eat something healthier for myself.”
—Rachel Silski, 29
32. Patience and consistency are key
“Going to the gym consistently, eating when my body told me to eat, and drinking a lottttt of water were also habits I created slowly. Don’t pressure yourself, and don’t take it too seriously. Being patient, kind, and loving to yourself can be the biggest factors to becoming the better version of you that you want to be.”
33. Look inward for answers
“I ignored all of the signs that something was wrong, but reality smacked me in the face with a major health scare due to my being overweight, out of shape, lacking in vital nutrients, and depressed. It scared me enough to finally ask myself the “why” and face the root cause before it potentially killed me. I realized it was toxic excess baggage in the form of people and circumstances.
So, I stopped trying to hide from it. I left my ex-fiancé, I stopped eating out, and I started hitting the gym. It took me about two months before I finally became consistent with a gym routine. Then I started making little nutritional changes, and everything else fell into place. I learned how to meal prep, I got a 32-ounce water bottle and made sure I drank and refilled it several times a day, and I even took a nutrition class to gain a greater understanding of diet, macronutrients, and food in general. But, most importantly, I remained consistent and persisted.
I’ve lost 112 pounds in about a year. I’m happier, more confident, and so much stronger than ever before.”
34. See a professional if you truly have issues with food
There are therapists who specialize in these issues and seeing one may be covered by your insurance.
“Though I didn’t know it at the time, a lot of my weight gain could be attributed to my struggle with major depression and my need to self-medicate with food. I rarely exercised and used to sneak out late at night for fast food binges. At the recommendation of a friend, I began speaking to a therapist to not only work out the issues regarding my physical health, but to heal in all aspects of my life. I was wary of seeking professional help in the beginning — solely based on the stigma alone — but I wouldn’t have been able to turn my life around without it.”
—Arya Roshanian, 25
35. Fall in love with vegetables
You don’t have to go entirely vegetarian, but finding veggies you like (cooked the right way!) can be a huge step forward in your quest for health.
“I had toyed with the idea of becoming a vegetarian before, so going plant-based didn’t seem like too big of a stretch. I removed meat and most or all dairy. I began eating as many vegetables as I could and cooking the majority of my meals.
It was hard at first because I was so used to the high-fat, high-calorie diet that I had been fed my entire life. But seeing I was down around 10 pounds made it worth it! I was still eating a TON of calories but they were foods that were better for me. I now crave things I never thought I would want. I love Brussels sprouts and I slather hummus on almost everything. It’s made me so much more adventurous in what I eat. Sometimes I miss the things I gave up, but I have my health and life back and I never thought I would be able to say that, and yet here I am.”
—Sarah Cutting, 31
36. It’s a lot of work and you have to keep doing it to stay healthy
When BuzzFeed Editor Arielle Calderon lost 85 pounds she learned it was no easy task. In fact, she gathered over 300 tips for those trying to lose weight here.
Not only does a lot go into getting healthy if you have bad habits, but you have to think of it as a life-long commitment if you don’t want to end up right back where you started.
“Like just because you’ve reached most of your goals doesn’t mean you no longer need some of the structures that got you there in the first place. Be patient and kind to your body because progress takes time, and if you stick with healthy eating, you may actually start craving fresh produce and whole foods, which is an amazing feeling.”
37. Be real, stop editing your photos
If we all stopped editing our perceived flaws and learned to accept ourselves “as is,” we could help ourselves and stop creating unreachable goals for others.
“…I set a goal for myself, and that was to delete any photo-editing software off of my phone. This way, I’d make peace with my image issues but also find true value in who I am, inside and out. I was going to put myself first because I’m important and I deserve to be happy. This mental change in how I saw and appreciated myself helped me lose 50 pounds. It was difficult, I’m not going to lie. But I’m doing this for me. Just for me this time.”
38. Don’t drink your calories
Yes, you’ll crave it for a while, but you’ll also get over it.
“I stopped buying regular Coke at the grocery store, fast food places, and restaurants. I also started drinking coffee for the first time to get my caffeine fix. I can’t say I don’t still have a sweet tooth sometimes, because I do. But if I’m going to splurge on sugar, I’m not going to waste it on a soda.”
…But it didn’t take long for that to subside and for me to get used to my new soda-free lifestyle. I felt more energized and less lethargic, less dependent on short-term sugar highs to get me through the day. My mood improved and I felt healthier in general. I won’t look back.”
—Erin Miller, 30
39. Celebrate small victories
Long term victory is about getting healthier and watching your body redistribute fat in more healthy ways to reduce your disease risk.
“In February of 2016, I got a Fitbit. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. It taught me about calorie counting, exercise, and overall wellness. The biggest thing that helped me was realizing that your weight isn’t always going to drop. You’ll have weeks where things stay the same, weeks where your weight goes up, and weeks where it goes down, but don’t focus on your weight in the short term. Focus on the long term.”