Losing weight is no small feat—it often requires a complete lifestyle overhaul, and with so much information out there, it can be tough to know what strategy might work for you. And to top it all off, all the weight loss myths that just will not die threaten to throw you off track. That's why it's helpful to know what has worked for real people—in their own words. Here, we've gathered advice from 28 women who have lost between 26 and 174 pounds—and kept that weight off for good.

If you're not a fan of meat, you may do better on a weight-loss program that emphasizes fruits and vegetables. A 2012 study published in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found women over 50 were more successful at keeping the weight off when they followed diets that increased their intake of fruits and vegetables and ate less meat and cheese. Good weight-loss programs with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables that might help women over 50 lose weight include the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet and the Mayo Clinic diet.
The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers, according to the experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. Volumetrics came in second, and the Flexitarian Diet, Jenny Craig and the vegan diet were third on this overall weight loss ranking list, which takes into account short-term and long-term weight loss scores. Some other diets performed as well or better in our rankings for enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.
‘Do it for a couple of minutes in bed and you’ll actually be able to wind down and fall asleep more easily. But it’s a skill, so it requires a commitment to practice it, as with anything. Think of it a bit like dating – the first time you do it it’s terrible, it’s uncomfortable, nobody knows what they’re doing, but the more dates you go on the better it gets.

As a result, about four in 10 Americans are obese -- that’s a whopping 93.3 million adults -- which increases their risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and early mortality, and cost the country $147 billion in medical costs in 2008, according to the CDC. Nearly 80% of American adults are also not getting enough aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, which is linked to about $117 billion in annual health care costs and 10% of premature mortality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Markwald, R. R., Melanson, E. L., Smith, M. R., Higgins, J., Perreault, L., Eckel, R. H., & Wright, Jr., K. P. (2013, April 2). Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(14), 5695–5700. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619301/
This principle involves eating low-energy-dense foods and can help you lose weight by feeling full on fewer calories. Healthy choices in each of the other food groups in moderate amounts make up the rest of the pyramid — including whole-grain carbohydrates, lean sources of protein such as legumes, fish and low-fat dairy, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
In fact, a study published in 2016 in the International Journal of Obesity looked at the metabolic health markers of more than 40,0000 adults and found that nearly half of people who are overweight, and 29 percent of people classified as having obesity, were cardiometabolically healthy. It also found that more than 30 percent of people at so-called “healthy weights” had poor cardiometabolic health—which can include hypertension, high cholesterol, inflammation, and insulin resistance.
Anecdotally, many people say they feel great on the Paleo diet -- losing weight and lowering health markers such as blood pressure and cholesterol. However, like most programs, many simply don't stick with this way of eating over the long term -- they keep lapsing and going back -- the same issue we see with all eating plans. Again, there is no formal "Paleo" diet, but there are plenty of books and online resources for anyone interested in exploring the idea.
"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
Yasmine Farazian, a professor at an art and design college, can thank Rania Batayneh, M.P.H., author of The One One One Diet, for the easy rule of thumb that helped her shed 50 pounds: At each meal, she made sure to eat one carbohydrate, one protein, and one fat. Finally, Yasmine had the template for making a healthy, well-balanced meal that she needed. "I would have the bun, beef patty, and avocado," she says. "And if I wanted fries, I'd ask for lettuce instead of the bread."
When you have the option to choose between dried fruit and fresh fruit, always opt for the fresh variety. “Dried fruits have a lot of calories and added sugar for very little volume,” says Summer Yule, MS, RDN. “For instance, one cup of raisins (not packed) contains 434 calories and 86 grams of added sugar. By comparison, a cup of grapes contains only 62 calories and 15 grams of sugar. This means that you could eat 7 cups of grapes for the same amount of calories as 1 cup of unpacked raisins.”
Stavrou, S., Nicolaides, N. C., Papageorgiou, I., Papadopoulou, P., Terzioglou, E., Chrousos, G. P., … Charmandari, E. (2016, July 31). The effectiveness of a stress-management intervention program in the management of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence. Journal of Molecular Biochemistry, 5(2), 63–70. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4996635/
Verreijen, A. M., Engberink, M. F., Memelink, R. G., van der Plas, S. E., Visser, M., & Weijs, P. J. M. (2017, February 6). Effect of a high protein diet and/or resistance exercise on the preservation of fat free mass during weight loss in overweight and obese older adults: A randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal, 16(1), 10. Retrieved from https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-017-0229-6
●Put tempting foods out of sight, out of mind. We naturally gravitate toward foods that are easiest to reach. So put candy on a high shelf or inside another bag behind something else so you’ll be less likely to go get it, says Cynthia Sass, co-author of “The Flat Belly Diet!” Put smarter choices, such as fresh fruit or popcorn, in bowls where they’re visible and within arm’s reach. Keep a water bottle with you so you won’t have to rummage through the fridge or walk to a vending area to get a drink.
"It’s easy to become impatient and frustrated when you’re trying to lose weight and haven’t seen the results yet. But be realistic – you won’t see the affect overnight. Your brain’s wiring plays a huge part in resisting changes in lifestyle, and it takes time to establish new habits – up to 12 weeks. Stick with it for at least eight weeks and you should notice a change."

You do have to track everything you eat, which is easy if you're following a Weight Watchers' recipe or eating a prepackaged food with the points pre-calculated. It gets a bit trickier when you prepare your own recipes as you have to break down the ingredients and do the math -- although that's certainly simpler if all you're doing is, for example, grilling a chicken breast and making a salad. And, under the new "Freestyle" program, that's a meal that could be points-free under the current guidelines, depending upon whether or not the salad is dressed.
Even better, once you start lifting challenging weights, you'll see major changes happen in your body, more than you do with cardio which burns calories but doesn't help you build muscle. Don't forget that you're building strong bones and preserving your muscle mass, which means you can control the weight gain that comes with age and lack of exercise.

1 Reference for 5%: Blackburn G. (1995). Effect of degree of weight loss on health benefits. Obesity Research 3: 211S-216S. Reference for 10%: NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/ob_gdlns.pdf Cdc-pdf[PDF-1.25MB]External
Stay motivated. Often times, people lose motivation to stick with a diet or an exercise routine. Finding a reason to stay motivated beyond belly fat goals, like overcoming a genetic predisposition to excess body weight or working toward fitting into your favorite article of clothing again, can help you stay motivated to meet your fitness and lifestyle goals.[40]
Very low levels of thyroid hormone usually indicate an autoimmune reaction to the thyroid gland itself. This means you’ll have to take thyroid hormone supplements orally, usually the stable form T4 (Levaxin), which your doctor can prescribe for you. Your body will transform this into the active T3 hormone when necessary. The supplement dose should be adjusted so that you reach normal hormone levels (TSH, T3, T4) and sufficiently alleviate symptoms – though a few people feel best when keeping TSH slightly below normal.
"Your body needs a healthy balance of exercise and rest. Doing too much prevents the body from shifting excess fat. Exercising without rest can impact our levels of the steroid hormone cortisol and cause an increase of stubborn fat stored in the belly. Not allowing your body to recover can increase the risk of injury too, so make sure you factor in rest days to your plan."
Here’s a shocker: When a group of U.K. researchers told 30 women to avoid chocolate, then packed them into a room filled with the stuff; the women were much more likely to sneak a bite than individuals who hadn’t been given the order. Blame the allure of the forbidden: The more you tell yourself you can’t eat something you love, the more you’re going to want it.
Jillian Michaels is now a well known name in the US, providing expert workout videos and diet tips to help you to shape up. The website provides recipes, diet plans, workouts, tracking and measuring tools, as well as a supportive community to help keep you motivated. First off, it’s worth mentioning that the Jillian Michaels system is probably more exercise-intensive than other diet and...
It's not just what you eat that can make you pack on pounds—it's also how much. Before dropping 102 pounds, DeGennaro did not have a grip on proper serving sizes. "Sitting down to dinner with my husband and three kids, I'd scarf down mounds of pasta and endless rolls," she says. "Adjusting to smaller portions was tricky at first; I'd round out meals with extra veggies to keep from getting hungry."

Interested in following a more historical approach to eating? The Primal Blueprint is similar to the Paleo diet, which has roots in how our long-ago ancestors supposedly ate. This plan ditches grain, sugars, and processed foods while focusing on clean eating with plenty of protein (both animal- and plant-based), lots of vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. The Primal Blueprint acknowledges other health factors too, advocating for lots of low-intensity activity, some high-intensity exercise, strength training, and plenty of sleep.
"Your body needs a healthy balance of exercise and rest. Doing too much prevents the body from shifting excess fat. Exercising without rest can impact our levels of the steroid hormone cortisol and cause an increase of stubborn fat stored in the belly. Not allowing your body to recover can increase the risk of injury too, so make sure you factor in rest days to your plan."
There are lots of individuals and companies out there keen to get their slice of the pie, so to speak. With the US weight loss industry’s net worth sitting at around $66 billion at the end of 2017, it’s obvious that diet supplements, plans, and programs are doing well but that doesn’t mean you have to help them. Pay for a plan, by all means, but try to sustain yourself on natural foods rather than dietary supplements or detox drinks.

There is plenty that you can do to get even more out of your walks. Stephanie Cyr began her 102-pound weight loss journey by walking for an hour each night—but there was a catch. "I mapped out a 3-mile course that took me through the hills in my neighborhood," she says. Live in a flat area? Alternate 1 minute of super-fast walking with 1 minute of slower walking for a calorie-torching interval routine.

Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. What that means for you: You're less likely to go back for seconds or thirds. Plus, it'll help you relax post meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories, quickly.
Here's something else most people probably don't know: Fidgeting is good for you. It's considered a nonexercise physical activity, and it's an important way to burn energy. You get more health benefits if, in addition to exercising, you are a more fidgety, more active person the rest of the day. This means gesturing while you're talking, tapping your foot, just moving around.
You know the drill: Replace refined, overly processed foods with more natural, whole foods. Sure, all foods fit, but they don’t all fit equally. Here’s why: Every time you eat, your metabolism increases as your body works to process your meal. Studies that compare the metabolic boost of calorie-matched whole foods to processed ones find that your body can burn up to 50 percent more calories after a meal made with more real food ingredients compared to a similar meal made with more processed fare. The fact is, your body has to work harder to break down whole foods in order to grab the raw materials it needs so if you exist on a lot of packaged foods and fast foods (think: chips, donuts and drive-thru fare), it’s going to be tougher to lose weight and keep those pounds from coming back.
Proponents of the Paleo diet say it's a much healthier way to eat than the standard American diet, which is often heavy on added sugars and processed foods. Critics say it's too restrictive, banning dairy, wheat and legumes -- food groups that many nutritionists feel should be part of a healthy diet. However, as we noted earlier in this section, veganism and vegetarianism also ban entire food groups and do not come under the same cloud of criticism.
Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios — at GH, we're nuts about nuts! People who snack on nuts may have lower abdominal fat than those who munch on carb-based treats, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, a heart-healthy (and more satisfying) pick than their grain-based counterparts.
The very notion of going “on” or “off” a diet is self-sabotaging. The key to sustainable weight loss is creating habits that you can (happily) live with pretty much forever, registered dietitian Georgie Fear, R.D., C.S.S.D., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss, tells SELF. And in a previous review from the University of Toronto, after examining 59 scientific weight-loss articles, including 48 randomized control trials, researchers concluded that how easy a diet is for you to stick with may actually be a much better predictor of your weight-loss success than the actual diet you choose.
If you want to shrink your gut, get enough protein in your diet. In this case, about 25 percent of calories. Why? For starters, protein makes you feel full and helps you build muscle (which increases metabolism, thereby making it easier to lose weight). Just as important, high-protein diets have been shown to be the best way of attacking belly fat. In one study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, Danish researchers put 65 people on either a 12 percent protein diet or a 25 percent protein diet. The low-protein dieters lost an average of 11 pounds, which isn't bad. But the high-protein subjects lost an average of 20 pounds--including twice as much abdominal fat as the low-protein group.
“While kombucha is wonderful due to its containment of various probiotic strains, many commercial kombuchas are loaded with sugar,” says Auslander Moreno. “Moreover, consumers don’t read serving sizes close enough and what’s depicted on the label can be 2-3 servings within the whole bottle, and sugar content all of a sudden is tripled.” These are the 50 things doctors wish you knew about losing weight.
Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss. That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
Ah, the über-popular “know your why” strategy. One Brown University study found that when people are motivated to lose weight for appearance and social reasons, they stick with their weight-loss habits for significantly less time than those who are motivated by their health. After all, these external motivators (like looking a certain way or fitting into a cultural ideal) aren’t going to get you going when you’re feeling down, have had a bad day, or are frustrated with a plateau, Albers says.
And as people get older they tend to become less active, which means you burn fewer calories all day long. Plus, you naturally lose muscle mass due to hormonal changes, which further drops your daily calorie-burn rate. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, so a body with less lean tissue has a lower metabolism and is prone to weight gain.
Making a smoothie and ordering a smoothie at a shop are two very different things. When you make a smoothie yourself, you can measure the exact amount of fruit, swap water or almond milk for juice, and avoid any additional sweeteners. But many pre-made smoothies contain between 600 to 1,000 calories, on average, and are loaded with sugar. “An average height woman who is trying to lose weight is probably on a 1,200 to 1,400 calorie diet,” Amidor says. “So consuming one smoothie with 1,000 calories can easily sabotage any weight loss efforts.”
Add a cup of low-fat milk, a part-skim mozzarella stick, or a half cup of low-sodium cottage cheese to breakfast, and you may have a belly-busting win. While lots of research links calcium with lower body weights, results from a 2014 study suggest that calcium-containing foods may reduce waist circumference in those genetically predisposed to carrying weight in their midsection.
Avoid sweetened drinks. Drinks that are sweetened, whether artificially or naturally, will have little nutritional value and add lots of empty calories to your diet. Do not drink fruit juice or other sweetened drinks. Even natural sugars will increase your daily calorie intake and prevent weight loss. If you chose to drink juice, do not exceed 4 oz per day (1/2 cup). Instead of drinking sweetened beverages throughout your day, drink unsweetened, calorie-free beverages. Some beverages to avoid include:
1000 crunches a night may get you strong abdominal muscles, but with a full layer of fat on top, you will not get the results you really want. Instead of all those crunches, do exercises that engage multiple muscle groups and work your cardiovascular system. Try planking, where you hold yourself in a push-up position, resting your forearms on the ground. Try 3 or 4 sets of holding for 30 seconds each. Getting up and moving throughout the day by going for walks will also help.
Cut back on calories. The most important part of losing weight is not working out until you collapse — it's your diet. If you burn 500 to 750 more calories than what you eat every day, you will lose 1–2 pounds every week (any more than that is considered unsafe weight loss). There are tons of little changes you can make to cut calories from your diet, from replacing high-calorie dressings with vinaigrette and asking for all dressings/sauces served on the side, eating at the table instead of in front of the tv, skipping cheese and other fatty additions to your salads and meals, using smaller plates, leave off the whipped cream on your coffee drink, and on and on.[2]
Carbs aren’t evil -- but sugar might be. “The concept of carbohydrates has really gotten such a bad reputation, and we need to understand that there are complex carbohydrates and ancient grains that can really help us not only lose weight, but increase satiety so we stay full longer and want to eat less. It actually decreases the cholesterol and stabilizes the blood sugar, and all of these things are a really important part of a weight loss program,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, an American Heart Association volunteer medical expert. These “good” carbs include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans; the refined carbs (including refined grains and starches like white bread, white rice, pasta and mashed potatoes) should be consumed in limited amounts. “They are high in simple sugars, and that’s what adds weight,” said Dr. Steinbaum.
Aside from offering customizable diet plans, some companies offer consultants and diet experts for developing personalized diet programs for their clients. These experts help formulate diet plans or recommend food substitutes for people with health conditions such as diabetes for example. They could also help you come up with a diet program that is best suited for your budget.
To drop serious lbs, you need the one-two punch of aerobic exercise plus strength training. Resistance helps build and preserve metabolism-boosting lean muscle while burning fat and is especially key when you hit a plateau. Amanda Green lost 15 pounds in two months doing hour-long cardio DVDs, but it wasn't until she started running outside and lifting weights three times a week that she was able to ditch the last 15 of her 30-pound goal.
"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
Fitness and diet guidelines are also a good way of educating clients about the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. Armed with this information, clients can have a better appreciation of the diet program and how this can help them achieve their desired results. Online resources, guidelines and consultants give clients a better understanding of the diet program and increases compliance.
Without alcohol, they’re less fattening, right? Yes and no. It’s true that alcohol adds calories, but so do the ingredients you’re swapping in. Virgin margaritas, pina coladas, and daiquiris are made with fruit juices and sometimes syrups, which have loads of calories and sugars. Instead, Amidor recommends sticking with alcohol—in 5 ounces of wine or a 12-ounce light beer. Here are the weight-loss motivation techniques 22 real people used to lose weight.
“Patients can diet themselves down to any weight they put their minds to, but to maintain that weight, they need to actually enjoy the lifestyle that got them there,” writes Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., the medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, Canada, and Arya M. Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., the founder and Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, in Best Weight, a manual for clinicians who treat patients pursuing weight loss. “A patient’s best weight is therefore whatever weight they achieve while living the healthiest lifestyle they can truly enjoy.”
As funny as it sounds, sleep deprivation may make you fat — and not just because you're susceptible to cases of the late-night munchies (although there's that too). There's tons of research that demonstrates getting less than the desired amount — about 7 hours — of sleep per night can slow down your metabolism. Plus, when you're awake for longer, you're naturally more likely to nosh. So don't skimp on your ZZZs, and you'll be rewarded with an extra edge when it comes to shedding pounds quickly.
When you eat foods that are low- or no-fat, other ingredients are added in so that the food tastes like its full-fat counterpart. Those extra ingredients don’t add in the nutrients that have been stripped away, however, so you end up craving more because, despite the fact that you just ate, your body is still lacking in the vital nutrients it needs. You end up eating more calories than you would have if you’d just eaten the full-fat product.
“There are many diet plans on the market today that promote good health,” says Emily Kyle, RDN, who is in private practice in Rochester, New York. “The key is finding one that does not cause you stress or agony.” Ask yourself questions such as: Would the diet guidelines make you happy? Anxious? Stressed? Are you able to follow them long term? “Factors such as enjoyment, flexibility, and longevity should be strongly considered,” adds Kyle.
“We try not to vilify any food, except sugar,” added Dr. Aronne. “Having it as a treat is what sugar is for; it’s not meant to be the main part of your meal.” Yet added sugars in the form of sweeteners and syrups to flavor processed foods sees the average adult eating 20 teaspoons of hidden added sugar every day, or an extra 320 calories, according to the USDA’s recent nationwide food consumption survey. And then there’s sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, sports drinks, juices and flavored coffees and teas stirred with empty calories. “The typical glass of orange juice has three oranges in it; that’s the calories of three oranges. But it’s easy to drink a glass of orange juice and still eat a number of other things,” added Dr. Aronne. “You’re better off just eating a single orange and feeling full.”

The good news is that if you're struggling with your size, reducing your calorie intake and increasing your activity level have been clinically shown to help you lose weight. The bad news is that there are no shortcuts and no short-term fixes. Fad diets, herbal supplements, "fat-burning" pills, and highly restrictive diets don't work for long, if at all, and some may cause more harm than good.

Because men are larger than women on average and have more muscle to support, men can usually eat more calories while still losing weight, compared to women. Portion control may be especially important for women. In one study, women who ate smaller portions of food (and less food overall) had lower BMIs than women who limited or avoided a certain type of food.2 This approach seems to work better for women than men.3
The best low-cal diet plan isn't a diet so much as it is a method. CICO stands for "calories in, calories out" and is based on the mathematically sensible principle that as long as you're burning more calories than you're eating, you'll lose weight. All you need to get started is a way to track your calories—there are plenty of apps on the market although a pen and paper works great too—and a food scale to keep you honest about your portion sizes. (Also read this guide on how to safely cut calories to lose weight.) People love the simplicity and straightforwardness of the plan. And while it may not be the fastest way to lose weight, you're guaranteed to have success long term. (Just know that some weight-loss experts actually don't recommend calorie counting.)
Certain carbohydrates have a tendency to be poorly absorbed in your intestines and then rapidly fermented, leading to gas and bloating. Common culprits include refined carbohydrates and simple sugars—like those found in processed foods with added sugars. Excess sodium can also cause bloating due to increased water retention. Opt for freshly prepared foods and reduce processed, packaged foods to cut back on belly bloaters. In the morning, swap your sugar-laden bowl of cereal for this Green Smoothie, made with fresh fruits and vegetables to get your day started the right way.
Tapsell, L. C., Dunning, A., Warensjo, E., Lyons-Wall, P., & Dehlsen, K. (2014). Effects of vegetable consumption on weight loss: A review of the evidence with implications for design of randomized controlled trials [Abstract]. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 54(12), 1529–1538. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24580555
×