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The 7 things this woman did to lose — and keep off — 275 pounds

After a dinner out with her family where the staff struggled to find a seat that she would fit into, Jennifer Butters knew she needed to lose weight. At the time, the 5-foot-5-inch woman weighed 410 pounds.

After three and a half years of hard work, she dropped a total of 275 pounds.

“The most difficult part for losing the weight was in admitting to myself that I was out of control with my emotional eating and that if I didn’t stop, I was likely going to die from the damage it was causing,” Butters, 53, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, told TODAY via email.

RELATED: Joy Fit Club: Mom, 51, reveals dramatic 275-lb. weight loss on TODAY

Like so many women, she put on weight during her three pregnancies and failed to lose it. That, combined with a love of baked goods and comfort food, meant Butters’ weight increased dramatically before she realized that if she didn’t change her habits, her high cholesterol and pre-diabetes would become bigger problems.

“I’ve learned that whenever we live in an unbalanced way … our lives can’t be truly healthy or happy,” she said.

For the past three years, she’s maintained her weight loss thanks to a focus on mindful eating.

“I hope that people know what seems impossible is possible with God and no matter what our stories have been in the past, we can write a happier ending,” she said.

Butters shared her advice for losing and maintaining weight loss.

Courtesy of Jennifer Butters

RELATED: How this man shed 374 pounds, more than half his body weight

1. Start now!

Before losing 275 pounds, Butters tried — and failed — to lose weight many times. People told her she’d “never lose weight and keep it off.” But she started anyway.

“Don’t let any excuses get in your way,” she said. “Choose a healthy, balanced weight-loss plan and surround yourself with as much support, encouragement and inspiration.”

2. Find a plan that works with your lifestyle.

Butters keeps a food journal — it helps her make smart food choices and count calories. She also walks and bikes for exercise instead of going to the gym. These changes make sense with her life, so adding them feels easy.

“I focus on keeping balance,” she said.

3. Shop around the outside of the grocery store.

Vegetables, fruits, lean meats, low-fat dairy and whole grains make up the bulk of Butters’ diet. She buys them and stays away from the center of the grocery store, often where processed foods, snacks and sugary beverages are.

“I basically stick to eating foods found in the perimeter of the grocery store,” she said.

Courtesy of Jennifer Butters

RELATED: Weight-loss success: 6 Joy Fit members who have lost over 100 pounds

4. Remember being overweight is hard work.

While Butters worked hard to lose weight, it did not feel as difficult as being overweight. Feeling exhausted from doing the smallest task or being humiliated when she couldn’t fit somewhere took more energy than eating healthfully and exercising.

“Being morbidly obese is harder. Choose your hard. I choose living healthy,” she said. “Staying healthy and keeping the weight off ‘tastes’ much better than any kind of food.”

5. Give yourself off days.

For birthdays, anniversaries or holidays, Butters enjoys foods that aren’t part of her eating plan. But she doesn’t worry about over-indulging.

“It feels so much better to be at a healthy weight and to be free of all the emotional baggage I carried around that I don’t completely enjoy eating ‘off plan’ for very long. After a day or so off, I am ready to get back on,” she said.

6. Be mindful about your eating habits.

Butters gained a lot of weight by simply not paying attention. She’d binge on food without thinking about it. But those habits make living a healthy life almost impossible.

“Continue focusing on healthy, balanced eating and living. Don’t think you can go back to mindless eating and careless living again and stay at a healthy weight and lifestyle. It’s not possible,” she said.

7. Be positive.

“Too often, we view our struggles as proof that we’re weak … and this leads us to more and more negative thoughts and doubts,” she said. “But I have learned that the struggles we go through are proof that we have not given up.”

For more inspirational stories, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page!

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Lose weight, live better with Nutrimost

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Exactly How To Use Cheat Days To Lose Weight

Check out these three winning strategies and let us help you treat yourself.

Related: Is Weight Loss Really 80 Percent Diet and 20 Percent Exercise?

The Mini Cheat

Best if: You’re constantly fighting cravings, says Krista Varady, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Why it rocks: If your diet regularly leaves you fantasizing about all things salty-sweet, a daily splurge of 200 to 300 calories may help you stay on track better than white-knuckling it all week and then caving in a big way come cheat day. (Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women’s Health’s Bone Broth Diet.)

The Cheat Meal

Best if: You feel deprived at social events.

Why it rocks: Got a bud’s birthday coming up? Having a once-a-week indulgence to work with allows a burger and fries to fit into your plan. “A weekly cheat meal is beneficial for those who like to bond over food during holidays and events and feel left out—and are therefore more likely to overeat eventually—if they don’t partake,” says Varady.

Check out the craziest things people have tried to lose weight.

Relatd: The 8 Best Bedtime Snacks for Weight Loss

The All-Out Cheat Day

Best if: You’re sick of logging cals.

Why it rocks: If tracking nutritional facts 24/7 becomes tiring, taking a full day off per week can keep you motivated and prevent you from ditching your plan out of frustration. But if cheat days turn into cheat weeks, one of the two strategies above might be the better move.

For more weight loss advice, check out the April 2017 issue of Women’s Health.

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Does Contrave actually help you lose weight? – KABC

Controlling cravings and suppressing hunger have been big challenges for people trying to lose weight. A prescription weight loss pill called Contrave claims it can help with both of those things.

But the experts at Consumer Reports warn that weight loss medication can come with some major health risks.

Contrave, which has been featured in commercials on TV, is the combination of two older drugs: the antidepressant bupropion and the addiction-treatment drug naltrexone.

Its ads state the drug works on the brain to reduce hunger and control cravings. The FDA approved Contrave is for obese people or people who are overweight with a body mass index of 27 or higher.

It’s also approved for those who suffer from serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes.

The commercial cites studies in which patients who took Contrave along with diet and exercise lost approximately two to four times more weight than those who did diet and exercise alone.

However, a Consumer Reports analysis of the three clinical trials used to gain FDA approval of the drug showed that while the drug works, the amount of additional weight loss was small and could pose serious health risks.

“Contrave can cause anxiety, insomnia and headaches. But also serious health problems such as liver damage, seizures, increased blood pressure and possible heart risks,” said Ginger Skinner, with Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports found that people who took Contrave up to 56 weeks lost only five to nine pounds more on average than those who took a placebo. Consumer Reports health experts said it’s best to lose weight the safer, proven way, by eating less and exercising.

If you’ve been unable to lose weight on your own, ask your doctor about intensive behavioral programs that have at least 12 sessions a year and multiple strategies to help you eat better and exercise more.

How this man shed 374 pounds, more than half his body weight

When Sal Paradiso was a senior in high school, his father died of a heart attack at age 42. The teen, who had always been the heaviest student in his class, comforted himself with food and steadily gained weight.

By the time he was in his early 30s, he weighed about 700 pounds. As he struggled to stand in the shower, get out of bed or cook food without getting winded, he thought life shouldn’t be so difficult.

“I wasn’t getting any younger and I realized I had to make a drastic change or I would end up like my father,” Paradiso, 35, of Land O’ Lakes, Florida, told TODAY.

RELATED: 3 steps helped this woman lose more than half her body weight in 3 years

In February 2014, he visited a doctor for a consultation for weight-loss surgery. He was so heavy that the office scale couldn’t register his weight. The doctor and nutritionist put him on a strict low-carb, high-protein diet, noting he had to shed weight before surgery.

“As someone who was eating upwards of 10,000 calories a day prior to it, it has been a monumental change and it is what worked for me,” he said.

Sal Paradiso

RELATED: Combined, this couple lost 298 pounds in a year

While he dropped pounds right away, he wasn’t sure how much he lost initially because he didn’t know what his starting weight was. Then he started dropping seven or eight pounds a week. Because he weighed so much, exercise was difficult.

“Early on, I really couldn’t work out. When you are that big, it is hard to move around. Fortunately for me, my family has a swimming pool,” he said.

Paradiso swims laps — he must do low-impact exercise because his years of being extremely obese ruined his knees.

As he slimmed down, he added free weights to his routine and also started riding an exercise bike.

Over two years, he lost 254 pounds and underwent surgery in the summer of 2016, which helped him lose another 120 pounds.

In total, he lost 374 pounds. The tremendous weight loss means he has excess skin hanging from his 6-foot frame — about 65 to 80 pounds worth of it — and Paradiso is trying to raise money for skin removal procedures.

These surgeries can be expensive, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gusenoff, a plastic surgeon and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s BodyChangers, a lifestyle and support program for people who are trying to lose weight or have lost weight. On average, each surgery costs between $4,000 to $6,000, plus extra costs for anesthesia and a hospital stay.

“(Insurance companies) often will cover the abdominal skin removal, but insurance companies often require that the patient proves medical necessity by having persistent rashes that require either prescription creams or oral antibiotics to treat rashes under the skin folds,” explained Gusenoff. “This extra skin must also hang low enough to block the genital region or thighs. Arms, thighs, breasts, buttocks and other areas are often not covered and are considered cosmetic.”

Paradiso’s excess skin causes him physical pain — it chafes and he gets sores and infections — and it makes him feel insecure at times.

“You are making all this progress,” he said. “But your shell resembles someone you no longer are.”

Sal Paradiso

RELATED: Weight-loss success: 7 steps this woman took to lose half her size

Yet, Paradiso wants others to feel inspired by his story.

“Change is possible. I speak as someone who was 700 pounds,” he said. “I’m a pretty happy guy and I am a lot happier today than I was three years ago.”

Here is his advice to others hoping to lose weight.

1. Get by with a little help from your friends.

Friends and family supported Paradiso as he worked to lose weight. Hearing encouraging words motivated him on days when it felt too hard.

Sal Paradiso

“My friends and family continue to push me every day,” he said. “If you can surround yourself with a decent enough support system … you can overcome 10 or 15 years of beating yourself to the ground by putting on so much weight.”

2. Set reasonable goals.

Paradiso wanted to weigh between 200 to 225 pounds, a loss of 475 to 500 pounds, and more than half his starting weight (though about 65-85 of it is skin, which cannot be lessened no matter how intense the dieting and exercise).

Thinking of losing so much weight seemed insurmountable.

“Looking at it in smaller pictures … it is possible to conquer the mountain,” he said.

3. Know what motivates you.

Looking at pictures of his father encouraged Paradiso when he struggled.

“He is a constant reminder of why I do this,” he said.


For more inspirational stories, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page! And if you’d like to support Sal Paradiso in his efforts to raise money for skin removal surgeries, please visit his Go Fund Me page.

More Weight Loss videos

How this man shed 374 pounds, more than half his body weight

When Sal Paradiso was a senior in high school, his father died of a heart attack at age 42. The teen, who had always been the heaviest student in his class, comforted himself with food and steadily gained weight.

By the time he was in his early 30s, he weighed about 700 pounds. As he struggled to stand in the shower, get out of bed or cook food without getting winded, he thought life shouldn’t be so difficult.

“I wasn’t getting any younger and I realized I had to make a drastic change or I would end up like my father,” Paradiso, 35, of Land O’ Lakes, Florida, told TODAY.

RELATED: 3 steps helped this woman lose more than half her body weight in 3 years

In February 2014, he visited a doctor for a consultation for weight-loss surgery. He was so heavy that the office scale couldn’t register his weight. The doctor and nutritionist put him on a strict low-carb, high-protein diet, noting he had to shed weight before surgery.

“As someone who was eating upwards of 10,000 calories a day prior to it, it has been a monumental change and it is what worked for me,” he said.

Sal Paradiso

RELATED: Combined, this couple lost 298 pounds in a year

While he dropped pounds right away, he wasn’t sure how much he lost initially because he didn’t know what his starting weight was. Then he started dropping seven or eight pounds a week. Because he weighed so much, exercise was difficult.

“Early on, I really couldn’t work out. When you are that big, it is hard to move around. Fortunately for me, my family has a swimming pool,” he said.

Paradiso swims laps — he must do low-impact exercise because his years of being extremely obese ruined his knees.

As he slimmed down, he added free weights to his routine and also started riding an exercise bike.

Over two years, he lost 254 pounds and underwent surgery in the summer of 2016, which helped him lose another 120 pounds.

In total, he lost 374 pounds. The tremendous weight loss means he has excess skin hanging from his 6-foot frame — about 65 to 80 pounds worth of it — and Paradiso is trying to raise money for skin removal procedures.

These surgeries can be expensive, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gusenoff, a plastic surgeon and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s BodyChangers, a lifestyle and support program for people who are trying to lose weight or have lost weight. On average, each surgery costs between $4,000 to $6,000, plus extra costs for anesthesia and a hospital stay.

“(Insurance companies) often will cover the abdominal skin removal, but insurance companies often require that the patient proves medical necessity by having persistent rashes that require either prescription creams or oral antibiotics to treat rashes under the skin folds,” explained Gusenoff. “This extra skin must also hang low enough to block the genital region or thighs. Arms, thighs, breasts, buttocks and other areas are often not covered and are considered cosmetic.”

Paradiso’s excess skin causes him physical pain — it chafes and he gets sores and infections — and it makes him feel insecure at times.

“You are making all this progress,” he said. “But your shell resembles someone you no longer are.”

Sal Paradiso

RELATED: Weight-loss success: 7 steps this woman took to lose half her size

Yet, Paradiso wants others to feel inspired by his story.

“Change is possible. I speak as someone who was 700 pounds,” he said. “I’m a pretty happy guy and I am a lot happier today than I was three years ago.”

Here is his advice to others hoping to lose weight.

1. Get by with a little help from your friends.

Friends and family supported Paradiso as he worked to lose weight. Hearing encouraging words motivated him on days when it felt too hard.

Sal Paradiso

“My friends and family continue to push me every day,” he said. “If you can surround yourself with a decent enough support system … you can overcome 10 or 15 years of beating yourself to the ground by putting on so much weight.”

2. Set reasonable goals.

Paradiso wanted to weigh between 200 to 225 pounds, a loss of 475 to 500 pounds, and more than half his starting weight (though about 65-85 of it is skin, which cannot be lessened no matter how intense the dieting and exercise).

Thinking of losing so much weight seemed insurmountable.

“Looking at it in smaller pictures … it is possible to conquer the mountain,” he said.

3. Know what motivates you.

Looking at pictures of his father encouraged Paradiso when he struggled.

“He is a constant reminder of why I do this,” he said.


For more inspirational stories, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page! And if you’d like to support Sal Paradiso in his efforts to raise money for skin removal surgeries, please visit his Go Fund Me page.

More Weight Loss videos

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