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5 Weight Loss Tips From People Who Have Actually Done It

Most Americans want to lose weight, but it’s no simple feat. Just ask someone who’s done it.

That’s exactly what TIME did in a recent cover story looking at new weight loss science. After speaking to people who had successfully lost weight (after failing many times), it became clear that there’s no best way to go about it. Instead, evidence—both scientific and anecdotal—show that it’s possible for anyone to reach a healthy weight through a strategy that works best for them.

Here’s what worked for five people who lost weight and kept it off.

Go slow and steady

“I’ve been overweight my entire life. I’d try different diets, lose a few pounds and then gain it back. When I turned 25, I was 485 lb. and I knew I was fighting for my life. I want to have kids one day and be more active with my husband. I wanted to stop sitting on the sidelines of my own life. At the beginning of 2016, I started tracking my calories, working out and making healthier versions of the foods I loved. Ultimately, I fell in love with taking care of myself. My advice is to focus on each day, not how far you have to go. Weight loss is a journey, not a sprint.”

Lexi Reed, age 26, lost 278 lb. in 16 months

MORE: 9 Science-Backed Weight Loss Tips

Keep a journal

“Don’t just write down everything you eat. Write down how you feel that day, what is going on in your life and how you feel after eating. After a while, look through your journal for patterns. Chances are you’ll find some. I’m a recovering food addict, and nothing was more freeing than realizing what behaviors or events were triggering my addiction. It wasn’t that I had no willpower; my brain was reacting to certain habits that made it hard for my willpower to do its job. Once I removed those patterns—like keeping cookies around the house—my willpower muscle could finally flex.”

Erika Nicole Kendall, 33, lost 170 lb. over two years

Give yourself a break

“You don’t have to eat salad all the time to lose weight. There are so many ways to tweak ingredients and make food you actually love to eat—even pancakes. (Try almond flour.) That being said, the type of food you eat also defines your lifestyle. You can eat junk food and lose weight, but you will probably be hungry all the time. So give yourself an occasional cheat day or reward for sticking to your plan. In the end, you want to lose weight in a healthy way, without feeling like you’re hurting yourself.”

Nivedith Renga, age 26, lost 65 lb. in nine months

Find something that sticks

“When I graduated college in 2012, I was at my highest weight ever. I was embarrassed about my weight and what I looked like, and I was terrified of being the person in the gym who didn’t know what they were doing. I sat in my doctor’s office and remember deciding that I was going to do whatever it took, however long it took, to change my life. I tried a variety of different diets that worked, but I felt like I was losing my mind not being able to eat certain foods, and I hated that even though I was ‘losing weight’, I still had a really disordered relationship with food. Food is supposed to bring joy and happiness.

I decided to give ‘macro counting’ a whirl. It’s similar to calorie counting, but rather than keeping track of your calories, you keep track of the number of grams of protein, fat, and carbs you eat per day. Following this is what ended up giving me the biggest change overall. I felt like I wasn’t starving myself or depriving myself to lose weight. You have to find something you can stick to. What works for one person may not work for another. Whatever you choose, it has to be for life.”

Kelly Rojek, 27, lost 50 lb. in 18 months

Manage expectations

“You have to make slow and steady adjustments, that worked for me. I measured and weighed food to become more aware of portion size. I wrote down what I ate and ate more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day. I try to include protein in each meal to control hunger. I don’t deprive myself, and I’ve gotten rid of ‘all or nothing’ thinking. People could still look at me and consider me overweight. You have to accept you’re never going to be a willowy model, but I am at a very good weight that I can manage.”

Jody Jeans, 52, lost 75 lb. over five years.

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5 steps helped woman lose 165 pounds, transform her life

In 2014, LeAnne Manuel was preparing to graduate from Ivy Tech Community College with her associate’s degree. She was excited to buy her cap and gown for the ceremony, but when the gown arrived, it didn’t fit. She tried squeezing into it, but it was 8 to 12 inches too small and simply wouldn’t close. Sadly, it was the largest gown available.

“It wasn’t like I could get a pair of Spanx and fit in it,” she told TODAY. “That really got me to a point in my life to being ready to face my demons with food.”

She visited her doctor in January 2015 and Manuel, now 27, weighed 395 pounds. She told her doctor that she wanted to lose weight. Her doctor said it would be impossible to shed pounds without surgery.

But she already had a lap band in 2008 and experienced problems with it. While Manuel originally lost about 100 pounds, she ended up gaining it back — plus an extra 70 pounds. She had the band removed in 2012 and kept gaining. This time, she wanted to try other options before turning to surgery again.

“It lit a fire inside of me because I don’t like to be told I can’t do anything. I wasn’t going to let her dictate my life when I was ready to lose weight,” said the business analyst who lives in Plainfield, Indiana.

So, Manuel started teaching herself what to eat and how to move. She started with a high-protein, low-carb diet with reasonable portion sizes.

“Instead of piling up (my) plate until it was full I started measuring my food,” she said.

At the same time, she started to become more active. She gave herself an initial goal of 180 minutes of exercise a week.

“I had to get up and get moving,” she said. “I couldn’t do a lot in the beginning.”

Courtesy LeAnne Manuel

Over the past two years, Manuel lost 165 pounds and now carries 230 pounds on her 6-foot frame. She’d like to lose about 40 more pounds, and has started running races, such as the Indy Mini half-marathon race.

“I’m not a fast runner. I am not competitive at all. I run for me. I enjoy running and listening to music and not thinking about anything,” she said.

While she’s happy with what she’s accomplished, losing weight has never been about fitting into a certain size or looking skinny.

“I didn’t want to live on the sidelines anymore,” she said. “The point of my journey was to ride rides with my kids and go zip-lining with my wife and see things.”

Manuel regularly updates her followers on Instagram and shares some tips that helped her shed weight.

Courtesy LeAnne Manuel

1. Buy a food scale.

Before, Manuel never looked at serving sizes and had no clue how much she ate. When she started measuring her portions, she soon learned she was always greatly overestimating serving sizes.

“What I used to think was a 6-ounce chicken breast was actually closer to 10 or 12,” she said. “That was a hard lesson to learn; I have to measure my food or I am going to overeat.”

2. Don’t drink your calories.

Before losing weight, Manuel drank caramel macchiatos and soda throughout the day. She estimates she drank nearly 1,000 calories a day.

“That’s a tremendous amount of calories,” she said. “I started drinking lots and lots of water.”

3. Get active!

Like many people, Manuel sits at a desk all day. She knew she had to exercise to improve her health.

“I found little ways to do that like walking around the parking lot,” she said. “That is where I started.”

As she dropped pounds she started running, weight lifting, practicing yoga and spinning.

Courtesy LeAnne Manuel

4. Do your research.

When Manuel first started meal planning she struggled to find recipes. But with some digging she could find easy, healthy meals with ingredients she regularly stashed at home.

“For low-carb recipes, I use a lot of zucchini and mushroom and those are a lot staples I keep,” she said.

5. Find what’s right for you.

As Manuel started running she needed to find a program that built her strength and endurance. And, she found the perfect mix as she can see her stamina improving. When it comes to exercise, finding what’s fun and works for you remains essential, Manuel said.

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For more weight-loss success stories, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page. Sign up for our One Small Thing newsletter for more diet and fitness tips!

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How to lose weight after 40: 6 new habits to start now

Very soon, I’ll stand up in front of the graduating class of my former high school and give the commencement speech. I’ll focus on the usual “work hard” and “follow your dream” themes, but, in reality, I just want to shout out to all those 17-year-olds — “have that ice cream cone, you’ll still fit into your skinny jeans tomorrow! ” Or “it’s OK to skip a workout, your muscle mass will help you bounce back!”

At 41, these are the things that I notice the most. My body does not bounce back as easily as it once did and I have to work a lot harder to manage my weight. Genetics play a role in the aging process, but our lifestyle choices can help dictate how well our genes treat us as we get older. After turning 40, these are six of the top lifestyle habits to focus on.

1. Fight the dreaded spread

Fat in the mid-section is metabolically active and we gain more of it as we age. That’s not a good thing. As opposed to the fat we gain in our thighs and rear, abdominal fat can lead to several chronic conditions.

A 2014 study found that the type of fat we consume might make all the difference. Participants in the study were asked to eat 750 extra calories every day for seven weeks. Those having excess calories from saturated fats had activated cells that promoted fat storage in the belly and increased insulin resistance. However, individuals who had had a high consumption of polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds, gained less abdominal fat and were more likely to increase muscle mass instead.

Multiple studies have demonstrated this connection between saturated fat intake and belly fat, especially when it is coupled with reduced levels of estrogen.

2. Get your biceps back

Jump off the treadmill, if want to lose weight. If you change nothing about your exercise routine now, it’s almost a guarantee you will find the pounds creeping up. This all boils down to a loss of muscle mass — a condition called sarcopenia that begins at 40.

In fact, up to 40 percent of muscle mass is lost between the ages of 40 and 80. This alone is the kiss of death to metabolism. Muscle weighs more than fat making it a metabolically superior calorie burner.

So, the more we lose, the more we gain.

Additionally, attempts to lose weight on low-calorie diets can lead to even more lost muscle. Studies have found that regular resistance or strength training may be a better alternative than your daily runs to preserve and gain muscle — even when coupled with a low-calorie diet. Aerobic exercise is still important, just don’t make it your only form of activity.

3. Fall in love with plants

A study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that healthy behaviors, like eating fruits and vegetables daily, significantly improved the odds of successful aging. Plants provide a protective measure against oxidative stress and free radical formation — two things that go hand-in-hand and increase with age.

Oxidative stress occurs when the balance between free radicals in the body and our ability to fight against is uneven, with free radicals prevailing. Free radicals can cause disease and there is an association with an increased risk of formation of free radicals as we age. That’s why after a certain age, building up our defenses (through having lots of antioxidants in plants) can help reduce this imbalance and stack the cards in our defense system instead.

4. Find your own ‘om’

The more years we live, the higher our risk of developing a disease, especially heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. All of these conditions are tied, in some way, to inflammation. A 2017 study from Georgetown showed that mindfulness meditation had a significant impact on reducing stress hormones and inflammatory proteins and a 2014 study found that just 25 minutes of meditation a day could alleviate stress levels.

If you don’t have 25 minutes to spare each day, a 5-minute meditation helps. Or 1-minute meditations can calm your mind. It’s that easy.

5. Think about your magnesium

Even individuals with relatively healthy diets can be deficient in magnesium. Adequate magnesium is important to protect our bones. In addition to promoting bone health, magnesium plays a role in protecting our brain, heart and nervous system. It’s also associated with keeping energy levels up and bathroom habits regular.

Women between ages 31-50 need 320 milligrams daily, according to the National Institutes of Health. Pay special attention to getting plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet. Examples include:

  • Seeds, especially pumpkin seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach, swiss chard and collard greens
  • Beans and legumes

Fast and Easy Lemon-Crusted Salmon with Garlic Spinach

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Don’t Need to Lose Weight For Summer | Instagram

BREAKING NEWS: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LOSE WEIGHT TO BE WORTHY OF WEARING A BIKINI THIS SUMMER. · I know that goes against every ‘Get Beach Body Ready!’ message you’re seeing right now. Trust me, I used to believe those messages too. I used to spend every single summer starving and sweating to get the body on the left, telling myself that I was only allowed to be seen in swimwear once I’d hit that goal weight (and even once I did, it still wasn’t enough). Not once did I ever hear the message that you don’t have to shrink your body to deserve a summer in the sunshine. · Which is why I’m telling you now, so that you know the truth: you do not have to lose weight to be worthy of wearing a bikini. · This year I didn’t set a goal weight to hit before my holiday. And I didn’t sit by the pool sucking my stomach in and worrying what everyone else thought about my body either. I just went. I laughed and played and ate and swam and wore every damn bikini I own without changing my body one bit. And guess what? It was so much better than all the self hatred filled holidays that came before. · Because the only thing I really needed to lose through all those years wasn’t weight. It was the bullshit idea that a bikini body is something that you have to earn, when in reality I had one all along. We all have bikini bodies already, and we all deserve a summer in the sunshine. 💜💙💚🌈🌞 #bodypositivepower

A post shared by Megan Jayne Crabbe 🐼 (@bodyposipanda) on May 19, 2017 at 10:38am PDT

Megan Jayne Crabbe, author of Body Positive Power is pretty well known in the Instagram world for encouraging women to love their bodies, and as a woman who’s conquered anorexia, she has the most important message you’ll hear this Summer: “You do not have to lose weight to be worthy of wearing a bikini.” Megan shares, “I used to spend every single Summer starving and sweating to get the body on the left, telling myself that I was only allowed to be seen in swimwear once I’d hit that goal weight (and even once I did, it still wasn’t enough).”

Not once did she ever hear the message that she should stay exactly the same, embrace her body, and just enjoy Summer. The message was that unless her body looked a certain way, she shouldn’t dare be seen in a bathing suit. But this year was different. “I didn’t set a goal weight to hit before my holiday. And I didn’t sit by the pool sucking my stomach in and worrying what everyone else thought about my body either.” She went outside and “laughed and played and ate and swam and wore every damn bikini I own without changing my body one bit. And guess what? It was so much better than all the self-hatred-filled holidays that came before.”

Megan goes on, “Because the only thing I really needed to lose through all those years wasn’t weight. It was the bullsh*t idea that a bikini body is something that you have to earn, when in reality I had one all along. We all have bikini bodies already, and we all deserve a summer in the sunshine. 💜💙💚🌈🌞”

How to Lose Weight? Latest Weight Loss Method Involves Inflating a …

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Scientists have created a balloon that can be swallowed to help millions of obese people all over the world lose weight. The hi-tech gastric balloon was developed by researchers at the Sapienza University of Rome and presented this week at the European Congress on Obesity in Portugal.


Reuters/Lucas JacksonAn overweight woman sits on a chair in Times Square in New York, May 8, 2012.

Called Elipse, the balloon is swallowed in the form of a pill and inflates inside the stomach, making the subject feel full. The balloon deflates itself after four months and is excreted out of the body naturally. What makes it unique is that it is the first non-surgical plastic gastric balloon.

Developers presented the 42 patients who underwent clinical trials who had an average weight of 108 kilograms at the start of the experiment. Four months after, their weight dropped by about 15 kilograms or nearly a third of their excess weight. Improvements were also observed on the subjects’ overall metabolic health including blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar control.

Doctors are inspired by Elipse’s prospects of lowering the cost of curing obesity. More than 6,400 patients undergo weight-loss surgery every year in England, mostly involving gastric bypass costing £8,000 or $10,320. On the other hand, the gastric balloon costs almost $3,000 to nearly $4,500 only.

Moreover, the procedure is very easy as patients need only to pop a pill and they’re good to go. Being non-invasive, the procedure doesn’t require endoscopy, anesthesia and surgery, resulting in significant savings in time and cost. Even the removal of the balloon won’t need an operation.

But study leader Dr. Roberta Ienca cautioned that a permanent cure for obesity will depend on the patient’s behavior afterward, adding that discipline in eating and exercise is still required. “The balloon itself represents only a part of the treatment,” she said. “We aim to change the mindset of the patient,” the study leader added.

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Mindful eating may help people lose weight, study finds

People looking to lose weight should try to give meals their full attention rather than eat while doing something else, such as watching television or working. So suggests a new study that evaluated the effect of being more mindful about eating in a weight management program.

Recent research has shown that combining mindful eating and participating in a weight loss program can help people to lose significantly more weight.

The study – led by Carolyn Dunn, a professor and nutrition specialist at North Carolina (NC) State University in Raleigh – is being presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity, held in Porto, Portugal.

Prof. Dunn and colleagues evaluated the effectiveness of increasing mindful eating in an online weight management program called Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less (ESMMWL), developed by NC State University and the NC Division of Public Health.

Obesity is a global public health problem that affects more than twice as many people today as it did in 1980.

According to estimates for 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults worldwide are thought to be overweight, including 600 million with obesity. In fact, most people now live in regions of the world where obesity is a bigger killer than being underweight.

Obesity is a major public health concern not only because it reduces quality of life, but also because it raises the risk of poor mental health and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

In the United States, where more than 1 in 3 adults (37 percent) have obesity, the condition is a huge burden on the economy. The total medical bill for treating obesity in the U.S. in 2008 came to $147 billion.

Focus on food and eating

Although it is preventable, obesity is not an easy problem to solve; many causes and contributing factors – including behavior, environment, and genetic predisposition – work together to initiate and maintain the disease.

Individual behavior affects diet, amount of physical activity or inactivity, and medication use. Environmental factors – such as availability of a range of foods, opportunity for physical activity, education, and food marketing – also have a big impact.

Mindfulness is a type of Buddhist meditation during which a person focuses on their present thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and what is in their environment “right now.”

An important feature of mindfulness is to pay attention without judgement or evaluation – there is no right or wrong thought or feeling, there is only the awareness of what it is right now.

Mindfulness entered the mainstream as a therapeutic practice in the 1980s through the work of people such as Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, where there is now a Center for Mindfulness.

In his book Coming to Our Senses, Kabat-Zinn writes that when we pay mindful attention to the sense of taste, “even the simplest of foods provide a universe of sensory experience.”

Mindful eating in online weight management program

ESMMWL, the 15-week online program evaluated in the new study, uses the idea of “planned behavior” to help participants to alter habits that are known to be linked to weight management.

A live instructor delivers training online at the same time each week to a group of participants who link up via their computer, tablet, or smartphone.

To evaluate the effect of adding mindful eating to the program, the researchers asked participants to fill in a 28-item questionnaire called the Mindful Eating Questionnaire (MEQ). The MEQ assesses five different areas of mindful eating.

The program uses an approach to mindful eating where the participant is invited to focus on many facets of dealing with and interacting with food, such as paying attention to how it tastes, noticing hunger and fulness cues, and planning mealtimes and snacks.

Mindful eating also invites you to just have “one or two bites” of foods that are higher in calories and “just savor the flavor.”

For their study – which takes the form of a randomized controlled trial – the researchers asked people looking to enrol on the ESMMWL if they would be willing to take part.

Of the 80 participants who said yes, 42 were randomly assigned to the intervention group and 38 to the control group (they were effectively placed on a waiting list).

The results showed that the participants who completed the program (28 in all) lost more weight than the 36 who remained in the control group for the duration.


The average weight loss in the group that completed the program was 1.9 kilograms (4.2 pounds) compared with 0.3 kilograms (0.7 pounds) average weight loss in the control group – a result that the researchers describe as “statistically significant.”

All participants completed the MEQ, but the before and after differences in the total score and the scores on the subscales were significantly larger in the group that completed the program than the control group. The authors remark on their findings:

Results suggest that there is a beneficial association between mindful eating and weight loss. The current study contributes to the mindfulness literature as there are very few studies that employed rigorous methodology to examine the effectiveness of an intervention on mindful eating.”

Learn how mindfulness meditation helps to control emotions.

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