Sometimes getting to your happy weight requires gaining pounds; sometimes it requires losing them. If shedding weight is part of your health plan, you want tried-and-true advice, and it can be hard to sort through the copious amounts of information out there and to figure out what can actually help you on your own journey. With that in mind, we asked seven real people who have lost weight (and kept it off!) what actually helped them see real results. Here’s what they said.
1. Know your body type.
"I have an hourglass figure. When I was younger, I didn't understand this and would often do weight-loss tactics that were harmful to my body to achieve a super-thin look (or simply be disappointed with my lack of progress, and give up way too soon). Once I realized that I'm never going to be super-skinny or have small boobs, it changed everything for me. At most, I can have a toned frame, but that frame will always have curves. This helps me keep my weight-loss expectations and goals realistic and attainable."
—Colette, 38, lost 19 pounds
2. Cut out the booze.
"The biggest factor in my weight loss is cutting out alcohol. Booze and beers already have a high calorie count, but then factor in unhealthy eating from bar food or fast-food hangover cures, and you can see how someone will put on 20 to 30 pounds in a short period. Beyond that, I try to avoid processed carbs and eat as many veggies and fruits as possible."
—Alice, 34, lost 25 pounds
3. Do less cardio.
I used to run a ton, until I worked with a trainer who told me to quit the cardio since it just made me hungry. Instead, switch to weight training—even if you use super-light weights. I did this and immediately began to lose weight, when the pounds had stuck on before. Now, I'm down 18 pounds, and I seldom feel hungry. It's made a huge difference.
—Kevin, 58, lost 18 pounds
4. Do it for how you feel—not how you look.
I've tried to lose weight a ton of times, but when it actually worked, it was because I wanted it for myself and not other people or to look a certain way. I just wanted to feel better, to be happier and healthier. It takes a full-on lifestyle change, with eating healthy and working out but finding that balance to still stay true to yourself and enjoy life. I eat lots of veggies and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats like avocados and cheese, fish, chicken, and I still allow myself two meals a week to eat whatever I want. I also keep 72 percent dark chocolate squares around for sweet cravings.
—Kim, 34, lost 70 pounds
5. Batch cook.
As I got older and older, I started getting heavier and heavier and was faced with the decision of buying new pants or losing weight. The main thing that's made a difference for me is meal prepping since finding a store or restaurant that fits your definition of clean eating is really hard. I'll go to Costco and buy things in bulk, then prepare six-plus meals at a time (this guy has been a godsend for me). I also leaned on vinegars and spices to add a ton of flavor without salt and fat.
—Brian, 31, lost 30 pounds
6. Do your own research.
I took a pretty academic approach and read lots of different articles about nutrition, exercise, weight training, and so on and tried to weed out any pseudoscientific/useless stuff and suss out the common patterns to form my own plan of action. That way, I had a concrete plan that I trusted (I had vetted it, after all!) to follow, which made it much easier to stick to. You can find tons of articles and studies online, and if you go to the original source, you're not getting the influence of everyone trying to spin that information their own way.
—Matt, 42, lost 50 pounds
7. Cut out carbs.
I tried lots of diets in the past, but nothing actually stuck. What really worked for me was a twofold approach—eating right and staying active consistently. I stuck with a low-carb diet—no bread, pizza, noodles, pasta, wraps. The only carbs I ate came from carb-rich vegetables or legumes, like sweet potatoes and lentils. I ate tons of protein, greens, fruit, white meat, and seafood. I also invested in a trainer—working out regularly was key to keeping the ball rolling.
—Sacchin, 34, lost 90 pounds
Want to get started batch-cooking? Here's a ton of meal-prep inspo. Plus, here's what happens when you quit drinking.
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.