Cravings — especially for sugar — prove to be the pitfall of many dieters. So it’s no surprise that successful dieters come up with a system to effectively combat cravings for sweets without feeling deprived. Sarah Knowles Lugger, who lost almost 150 pounds, designates sugary desserts as a once-a-month treat. The rest of the time, she turns to healthy, homemade substitutes. “When ice cream cravings hit, I create a substitute using bananas,” she says. “All it takes is frozen slices of banana, a bit of peanut butter (or any nut butter), and cocoa powder (to taste) thrown in a food processor and whipped until smooth.” And she never keeps unhealthy treats in the house to tempt her. “If I really need something sweet, I’ll have a friend bring me over one serving size so I won’t eat the entire bag,” she says.
The most effective diet plan is one based on nutritious, whole foods — something Cat Elliot, who successfully dropped 90 pounds, only to gain much of it back, knows all too well. “Eating real food is key,” Elliot says. “Skipping meals, excessive restrictions, and diet pills and products do not help. They wreak havoc on your body, mood, hormones, and metabolism.” It was only when she realized what her body needed — and vowed to ditch the diets and start eating real food — that she was able to shed the weight for good, ultimately dropping 113 pounds. “When I tuned in to what worked for my body and my gut and ate real, healthy food regularly, the weight began to budge, effortlessly and permanently.” she says.
3/7 Make Exercise Your Happy Hour
For many, exercise is a means to an end. But what people who have maintained a healthy weight come to learn is that enjoying exercise makes all the difference. “I used to hate exercise. I saw it as a form of punishment,” says Elliot. “But when I began to exercise as a way to simply nourish my body, improve it, and have fun, I started to enjoy it.” Another bonus to enjoying exercise? Elliot says she was then able to lose weight much faster. Erica Lugo, who lost a whopping 157 pounds, couldn’t agree more, attributing learning to enjoy exercise as one of the biggest factors in her weight-loss success. “Stop making losing weight and being healthy such a chore! Make this fun. It’s your time!” she says.
4/7 Ditch the Scale When You Need To
Weighing in once a week can be a helpful tool to gauge your progress, but stepping on the scale too frequently can drive you crazy. “Try not to focus on the number on the scale too much,” says Noelia Beatriz Trujillo, who lost 43 pounds. “If I’m getting stronger and lifting more weight and my clothes are fitting better, that number on the scale could even go up a little and it wouldn’t be a bad thing.” When Pamela Kimbro, who dropped 150 pounds, hit the inevitable plateaus that come with weight loss, she put the scale away: “I only weighed myself every two weeks so that I wouldn’t stress over minor fluctuations,” she says. “I focused more on how my clothes were fitting than the number on the scale.”
5/7 Focus on the Finish Line
Another thing successful dieters know: You need to learn how to deal with minor setbacks along the way. At the beginning of her weight-loss journey Hannah Preston, who lost 110 pounds, would let one bad week completely destroy her motivation. “It was all a mind game, and it took some getting used to,” she says. “I trained myself to not record every pound I lost or gained. It sounds counter-productive, but it was so important to look at the bigger picture. You don’t need to count every pound. Base your success on how you feel.” Your energy levels, an increase in time or distance when exercising, and how your clothes are fitting are all great indicators of the progress you're making.
6/7 Drink Water — Lots of It
Once a soda fiend, Lorann Brown (who successfully lost 91 pounds) went from drinking no water at all to drinking about 150 ounces — or about 18 cups — per day. “Now, you’ll hardly ever see me without my water bottle,” she says. And she’s not alone: Kimbro, also a former soda addict, completely replaced her daily 12-pack with water before she shed half her body weight. Guzzling more H2O is one of Preston’s number one tips for shedding pounds: "I swear by this," Preston says. "If you think you drank enough water today, drink one more glass!” Not only does water protect the brain, aid in digestion, and help the body eliminate waste, but people often mistake dehydration for hunger, which can lead to overeating.
7/7 Think Beyond the Gym
People who have shed pounds know that exercise isn’t reserved for only one time or location — it’s something that’s integrated into a daily routine. “When exercise becomes a part of your schedule, it makes it much more enjoyable and it’s easier to lose the weight,” says Nick Guile, who used games on Wii Fit and daily walks to lose 130 pounds. Lugger swapped sitting down for a full hour at lunch for 30- to 45-minute walks around the neighborhood, while Preston took long walks with friends, played Zumba games on her Wii, and tried new exercise videos on YouTube. “Believe it or not, I still don’t have a gym membership,” Preston says. “At the very least, I try and walk a minimum of three miles a day.”