Weight-loss wisdom: no one knows more about taking off extra pounds and getting in shape than the women from our Success Stories column. Here, they share their best tips
Year in and year out, Shape’s Success Stories has proven one of the best-loved columns in the magazine. I’ve been editing it for five years, and during that time I’ve been consistently impressed with how much these inspiring women know about losing weight healthfully. Which is not to say that taking off the pounds was easy for them: Most, if not all, of the women we’ve profiled had struggled to lose weight for years before eventually hitting on their personal formula for success–whether a delicious, no-deprivation eating plan; an energizing workout; or a new outlook on food. When I contacted a number of past Success Stories to find out how they continue to stay healthy and fit, they shared dozens of tried-and-true tips. Here, we offer a selection of their best advice.
“Aim to lose 1-2 pounds a week. If you lose weight any faster than that,
you’re likely to gain it back.”
–Kelly Lemire, 36, Florida; lost 125 pounds, December 1999
“Pay attention to food labels and serving sizes. Keep your portions
under control and you can eat whatever you want.”
–Cindy Spicka, 40, Illinois; lost 40 pounds, February 1999
“You’ve gotta eat! I thought that eating six small meals a day was going
to blow me up–it just went against everything I ‘knew’ about weight
loss. But I started eating six [mini-] meals a day and lost weight.”
–Kim M. Smith, 41, California; lost 65 pounds, April 1993
“Write down everything you eat. Seeing it in writing really makes you
accountable for every morsel you put in your mouth.”
–Alice Pareti, 33, lowa; lost 65 pounds, May 1999
“Don’t punish your body by starving it or giving it nutritionally empty
food. Fill it with healthy food so you can be strong and fit. Food is
your body’s fuel.”
–Tricia DeBoni, 34, California; became a Spinning instructor after
undergoing two heart surgeries, June 2003
“I never deprive myself of my favorite foods. Instead, I’ve replaced
unhealthy ones with healthier ones. For example, I don’t deprive myself
of dessert–I just eat something nutritious.”
–Kristen Taylor, 30, Oregon; lost 70 pounds, August 2002
“Cooking with the freshest possible ingredients will enhance the flavor
of your food, and you won’t have to add too much fat when you’re
preparing healthful meals.”
–Jacey Bloom, 25, Massachusetts; lost 55 pounds, December 2002
“Opt for a piece of fruit rather than fruit juice or a smoothie whenever
you can. An occasional smoothie is fine, but don’t rely on them as a
meal [substitute]. Not only can they be high in calories, but they won’t
fill you up as much as the real thing.”
–Whitney Muellner, 31, California; lost 40 pounds, July 2002
“Join a gym you like, even if you have to spend a little more money on
the membership fee. If you’re going to go there four or five times a
week, you want it to be a fun and pleasant place.”
–Karen Neylan, 44, Connecticut; lost 60 pounds, October 1998
“You can’t magically shrink a certain part of your body with exercise;
there’s no such thing as spot-reducing. Cardio exercise is a good way to
burn calories, but if you really want to change your body, you must do a
[total-body] weight-training routine.”
–Leslie Nease, 35, South Carolina; lost 50 pounds, November 2002
“Hire a trainer. Even if it’s just for a couple of sessions, it will be
well worth it. She will get you started on the right track.”
–Tara Martin, 40, Massachusetts; lost 120 pounds, January 1998
“Stick motivational sayings on your bathroom mirror, on your computer
and on your refrigerator. They’ll reinforce your belief in yourself and
your ability to reach your goals.”
–Amy Smith Bunting, 30, North Carolina; lost 80 pounds, May 1998
“The first few weeks of any weight-loss regimen are going to be the
hardest. Tough it out and it will get easier.”
–Heather Oldford, 29, Ontario, Canada; lost 75 pounds, April 2002
“Success is not about losing 20 pounds or fitting into a certain outfit.
It’s about lifestyle modifications that enable you to live a long and
–Lisa Stafford, 33, Indiana; lost 35 pounds, July 1997
“Don’t worry about perfection. I used to turn a bad day into a bad week,
which turned into a bad month; it became an endless cycle of eating and
regret. Now I take it one day at a time.”
–Kathy Rohr-Ninmer, 37, Wisconsin; lost 50 pounds, April 2003
“Stick with it. You can’t change the past, but you can change the
–Faith Sommers, 23, Ohio; lost 105 pounds, December 2003
RELATED ARTICLE: 7 top tips
To keep you on the path to success, save and display these seven tips we’ve heard again and again, year after year, from our Success Stories.
1. Lose weight slowly.
If you want it to stay off, set small, realistic goals. Start when you are ready.
2. Weight train.
It’ll build muscle. A vigorous workout boosts your metabolism temporarily, which will burn extra calories.
3. Eat five or six small meals a day …
instead of three large ones. Serve meals on salad plates instead of dinner plates so you can clean your plate without feeling guilty.
4. Keep a food and exercise journal.
Schedule your workouts in your calendar just as you would any other important appointment or meeting.
5. Find a program that works for you and stick with it.
There’s no perfect formula for weight-loss success.
6. Indulge–a little.
Nearly all foods can fit into a healthy diet, so if you’re craving something unhealthful, have a small portion and enjoy it. Then get back to your balanced eating habits.
7. Don’t get down on yourself.
If you have a bad day, look ahead and see how you can do better next time.
Tajinder Rehal, a freelance writer based in Northern California, has been inspired by past Success Stories to try Pilates, Spinning and kickboxing.
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