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Nov 1, 2014

15 Former Couch Potatoes Share Their Best Tips For Getting In Shape

So you want to eat healthier and get in shape? That’s great! Learn from some people who’ve definitely been there.

Chris Ritter / BuzzFeed

Getting into shape and living a healthier lifestyle can be seriously daunting.

That's why BuzzFeed Life reached out to people who've been there to ask them to share their advice. For one guy, that meant learning a way to trick himself into using the spin bike more often. For another woman, that meant transforming her eating and fitness habits, losing over 150 pounds, and getting her diabetes and blood pressure under control.

Whether you're looking to make a big change in your life or a few small ones, you can probably use some of the tips these former couch potatoes shared. And if you've made a healthy living change in your own life, share it with everyone in the comments!

1. Make it easy for yourself to work out in the mornings.

slimblisstea.tumblr.com / Via pinterest.com

"I never exercised. Very rarely. I knew I needed to because I needed the outlet for stress, and I wasn’t sleeping well. But I also didn’t want to exercise after work, because I’d always want to go out with friends, or come home and relax and just watch TV. So I knew I needed to try morning exercises if I was going to fit it into my day.

Here’s how I do it: When I get home from work I lay out my exercise clothes. I fill a bottle of water and put it in the fridge. I pack the outfit I’m going to wear to work the next day. I pack everything — makeup, shoes, outfit — have it all ready to go, and then set my alarm for the next morning. I do everything I need to do before I start to unwind. This forces me to just get up and do it, and not have to take the time to find everything or make excuses for why I can’t.”

—Cat Fuentes, 28

2. Master the art of portion control.

Emily Abbate is an editor at Fitbie, where she writes about health and fitness. She's also been actively training for the 2014 New York City Marathon, and has been documenting her progress in a video series on Fitbie.

3. Get enough sleep.

4. Don’t aim for perfection.

Laura Prescott
Laura Prescott

"In 2007 I lost about 80 pounds, and then in 2012 gained most of it back. I wanted to get back in shape, so I decided to try running every day. And I was maybe running half a mile, maybe a mile at the most — I wasn't good at it. I gave up about three times, saying, "It's not working out, I'm not good at it," and just went back to doing nothing.

I had a friend who lost 100 pounds running. And she helped to hold me accountable. She would send me texts and Facebook messages saying, "You don't have to be good at it, you just have to do it." That became my motto. Every time I didn't want to get up: "You don't have to be good at it, you just have to do it." So I started running every day.

I run probably three times a week now, I go to a simulated surfboard class three to four times a week, and I swim three to four times a week. And I'm so happy I do — I feel great."

—Laura Prescott, 30

5. Find a workout you love — that way it doesn’t feel like a chore, and it’s something you’re excited to do.

Ben Ronne

"I was never active... at all. I had years of failed attempts at fitness that mostly included running on the treadmill and failing at the gym. After a doctor ordered me to quit drinking, I needed an outlet to keep me sober. I looked into hip-hop dancing but felt out of place and hated it.

I used to pass a Krav Maga school every day on the way to work. One day, I stopped in for a trial class and signed up for membership that day. Feeling empowered and excited, I went four times a week. I was hooked. Not long after I started, they invited me to join the instructor program. After weeks of grueling training, I completed it — an accomplishment my 220 pounds, 20-year-old self would never have imagined."

—Ben Ronne, 34

6. Try to do some form of exercise for 30 minutes (or three miles) every day.

Kit Rich, an NASM certified personal trainer, is a Los Angeles-based celebrity pilates trainer. She's been featured in Vogue, SHAPE, SELF, Women's Health, Real Simple, US Weekly, and Pilates Style. She's also made appearances on Access Hollywood, Access Hollywood LIVE!, E! News, E!Online, EXTRA, and The Today Show. She blogs regularly for Beautylish.com.

7. Focus on creating a sustainable healthy lifestyle, not temporarily following a fad diet.

Delores Curtis / Via Facebook: getlostwithdee

"At my heaviest, I was over 350 pounds. I reached a tipping point when I realized that my weight had stopped me from living. I used to be this vibrant, sexy woman, but I didn't want to go anywhere, I didn't want to do anything. And I was on two types of blood pressure medicine, two types of diabetes medicine, acid reflux medicine, and water pills. Only you know when enough is enough. And I had enough.

In the past, I had tried all the diets — Weight Watchers, Atkins, counting carbs, fasts, things like that. I would get on these diets and lose a few pounds and then go back to eating the same way again. When I decided I needed to make a lasting change for good, I looked at every diet I'd ever been on and tried to figure out: What had I learned from these diets? And how could I eat in a way that actually worked with my lifestyle, so I would stick with it?

The turning point was learning how to make the food work for me. I read the labels on everything to be a lot more careful about knowing what I'm eating. I also still eat some of the things I love, like bacon, but just limit it. Once you start giving up everything it's a done deal. Because you're going to sit back and you're going to be mad because you can't have this or eat that. It's all about moderation.

Once I lost 20 pounds, I started going to the gym every day. And I've gone from the treadmill at the slowest pace to lifting weights and going on the elliptical for 45 minutes at a time. I've lost over 150 pounds since I started, and I'm not on any of those medications anymore. "

Delores Curtis, 59

You can follow Delores Curtis' progress and cheer her on by following her on Facebook and Twitter.

8. Make working out a social activity.

9. Distract yourself, if you need to.

The WB / Via youtube.com

"I never went to the gym at all until my friend Ricky turned me on to something he called the 24 Exercise Plan. You need an iPad, Season 1 of 24, and the discipline to only watch 24 while you're on a bike at the gym. The idea is that 24 is so compelling, you'll keep biking just to see how Jack Bauer gets himself out of this one. The best part about the 24 Exercise Plan is you don't have to pick 24, this works with any compelling TV show (I actually gave up on 24 after Season 3, or approximately 52 hours at the gym).

The trick is picking the right show. Not all great shows make great gym shows. For instance, I found Friday Night Lights a bit too sad to bike to. You also want something where you can let your attention wander for a few seconds and not get lost, so I wouldn't recommend The Wire. I found the most success with anything [Joss] Whedon — I watched all 12 seasons of Buffy + Angel on an exercise bike at the gym."

—Jeff Rubin, 32

10. Learn to lift weights.

Milkos / Getty Images

"I found myself gaining a lot of weight for no clear reason recently. After a lot of testing I received a tentative diagnosis for PCOS, a hormonal condition that can cause inexplicable weight gain. I wanted to get my weight under control and see if there was anything I could do to get more control over my health, so I started seeing a nutritionist and a personal trainer, and that's where everything changed.

My personal trainer is pretty much the greatest thing that ever happened to me. He got me to start lifting. It's completely changed my love of exercise. It's changed my level of confidence. Now I don't see exercise as a way to lose weight primarily; it's more a way to gain — strength and confidence and power. When I can lift my weights, I'm like, This is totally worth it."

—Mackenzie Kruvant, 24

11. Use social media to find cheerleaders and to hold yourself accountable.

Jamie Goodwin started the Facebook page Wheelin' Weightloss two years ago. Today it has over 5,000 followers. You can follow Jamie's story by liking her Wheelin' Weightloss page, and following her on Instagram.

12. Build a solid foundation of good habits first, and then add to it slowly.

Via Twitter: @YumYucky

"I have four children, and I started my weight loss journey after the third child. I got pregnant again and had to start all over. The second time around I learned a lot more. The first time I tried to lose weight, I thought the best way to do it was go for a walk, count your calories, and eat whatever you want as long as you stay in your calorie range. But I was burning myself out, eating food that wasn't good for me and wasn't helping me. I successfully lost weight, but I wasn't feeling good. After I had my fourth child, I decided to learn about clean eating. As I did that, I felt so much better. It was like night and day. The energy! I was able to train more efficiently, focusing on protein and healthy carbs, things of that nature.

What helped for me to make that change... I always talk about building a foundation. I didn't just start eating completely clean overnight like flipping a light switch. For me, I cut out soda and I cut out fast food. Do one or two things that you can be successful at over a week or a couple of weeks. And once you get a groove going, then add another thing. Then add another thing. And finally you're going to see that you're doing more healthy things than unhealthy things, and you're feeling great and you just want to keep building on that."

—Josie Maurer, 41

Josie Maurer blogs about healthy living at YumYucky.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and subscribe to her YouTube channel.

13. Eat more fiber and lean protein.

Arjun Chandrasekaran

"I wanted to join Officer Candidate School in the Marine Corps after I graduated from college, and I knew that I was going to have to get in much better shape. To join OCS you have to meet certain physical requirements — you have to do a three-mile run in under 24 minutes, you have to do at least 10 pull-ups in a row, and you have to do at least 80 crunches in two minutes. [Editor's note: There's more to it than this, but you get the idea.] I quickly realized that strength training wasn't going to be enough — I needed to slim down so I could be faster with the run.

I started actively trying to eat more fiber. I'd have oatmeal for breakfast and salad for lunch or dinner. I told myself that I could eat whatever I wanted to, but I had to eat a big salad first. And the crazy thing was that I wasn't hungry after. I'd eat the salad first and then my appetite would go down. I also made sure to eat good sources of protein, focusing on foods with high a protein-to-calories ratio, like tuna or turkey.

I ended up losing about 20 to 30 pounds, and then getting into OCS, basically in the best shape of my life."

—Arjun Chandrasekaran, 29

14. Keep a food diary, if it helps you.

Lauran Yapalater / BuzzFeed

"I was in a car accident my senior year of high school. I had a number of injuries, but the biggest one was a stage three concussion, which gave me vertigo and recurring headaches for months. I was bedridden and ended up gaining about 45 pounds. When I finally fully recovered about seven months later, I wanted to get back in shape.

One of the biggest things for me was focusing on my diet. I eliminated soda completely. I replaced all sugary drinks with water, and drank more water throughout the day. I also started writing down everything I was eating during the week. You don't realize sometimes how much you actually eat. Small things can feel like nothing at the time, but they all add up. When you write everything down, you might realize you do eat more than three or even four meals a day. Writing down what I was eating helped me stay honest with myself, and helped me check with myself if I was eating because I was hungry, or just because the food was there in front of me."

—Javier Moreno

15. Celebrate how exercise makes your body feel — and do things that make you feel sexy!

Theresa Stevens / shakeyourbootydance.com
Theresa Stevens / shakeyourbootydance.com

"I had gained a lot of weight in my first job out of college as a high school teacher, and I tried to go to the gym but I was just so exhausted I couldn't ever motivate myself to go. Then one day I joined my boyfriend at a dance class — we were both musicians, and I was there to drum for the class. I was so intrigued by the women in the class… they were super sexy and had gorgeous bodies! I decided I wanted to try actually dancing. The music was sensual and it was a playful dance style. I was hooked. I started going to dance classes multiple times a week, and that inspired me to start eating better.

The things that helped me: Not only did I find a physical activity that I loved doing, but I also felt so sexy and beautiful while doing it. And there was a great community that I belonged to that held me accountable to keep showing up. I've been Samba dancing now for 14 years and loving it."

—Theresa Stevens, 41

Theresa Stevens is now the owner and founder of ShakeYourBootyDance.com, where she offers dance classes, lessons on strength-training, and nutrition tips for people who want to get in shape, just like she did.


Note: All quotes in this story have been edited for space.

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