We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us the very first steps they took in their effort to lose weight, and how those steps turned into a major lifestyle transformation. Here are some of the best tips from 10 people who made lifestyle changes that resulted in a 50-pound (or greater) weight loss.
1. Hide your scale and full-length mirror.
“I hid my scale and my full-body mirror for the first month, a trick I picked up from Henry Rollins’ essay “The Iron and the Soul.” …This helped me to focus more on what my body is telling me and how it feels and less on a number or how I looked. I am also impatient, [and] part of the reason my weight yo-yoed so much [in the past] was because I wasn’t seeing results fast enough, so I would give up. This helped me to stick with my game plan because I couldn’t see what was physically happening to my body.”
—Penny N., 31 (lost 80 pounds over four years)
2. Just get through one workout — even if it’s your millionth time trying to take up exercise.
“I was bored … so I threw on some old running shoes and decided to go for a run. It was 90+ degrees outside, the sun was blazing, and I struggled to run for 15 seconds at a time. As painful as it was, it felt invigorating, so I decided to start on the Couch-to-5K program. This was my third attempt at starting this program, but every other time before I came up with excuses as to why I couldn’t finish it: too much work, too hot outside, back pain. I honestly didn’t have any goals in mind other than to complete the C25K program I had not completed twice before.
So, honestly, my mindset that very day was kind of like Forrest Gump — I just felt like running. So I ran. Nothing magical. I just wanted to finish something I had started. I completed the program in nine weeks and ran my first 5K on Sept. 1, 2014.”
—Jason Nelson, 42 (lost 74 pounds in about a year)
3. Or set a super-doable goal — like working out for 20 minutes twice a week.
“On the first day of my lifestyle change (I don’t like to call it a diet, because it is really a lifestyle change for me), I signed up for the gym. It was pretty intimidating at first; I felt like everyone was staring at me. However, I saw that everyone was there for a purpose, so after the first week of exercising I began to feel more comfortable and motivated to continue. At the beginning of my journey, I started small: I walked on the treadmill for 20 minutes and slowly started increasing the time. After four months, I used other machines like the elliptical and the Stairmaster.”
—Asha Hussein, 30 (lost 70 pounds in about 14 months)
4. Learn how many calories are actually in the foods you’re eating.
“I decided to take control by, first of all, logging all the calories I was putting in my body (food, drinks, and the handful or more of chips and candy I’d take from our snack cupboard at home). It quickly made me realize how much I was eating.
I also became really interested in seeing how many calories there are in different food items because I honestly had no idea what to look for when eating (calories, fat, fiber, protein, etc.). It really helped to understand what foods I was putting into my body and WHY things are so good for me.”
—Jazmine Fedora, 25 (lost 50 pounds over four years)
5. Take a break from processed carbs and white sugar.
“I cut out all processed carbs and sugar. That first week was brutal. I had headaches, I was lethargic, I was a grumpy mess. I would say that I was definitely addicted to sugar, and I went through a very rough initial withdrawal period.
I made it through, and as the weeks went on, it got easier. I stopped eating junk and began every day with two eggs for protein. I ate salads for lunch and only meat and vegetables for dinner. I’d let myself have dark chocolate chips on occasion, but that’s it. Every week, I’d let myself have one ‘cheat’ meal, usually on the weekend. Then I’d be back to my normal routine.”
—Kelly Crosby, 33 (lost 58 pounds over eight months and ran her first marathon in April 2014)
6. Write a letter to yourself about why you want to lose weight.
“I wrote my future self a letter in case I ever needed motivation. I was as honest as I could ever be, and the letter was heartbreaking. However, it was real, and I needed it many times. I typed this original letter out in a blog post about a year later, along with a reply.”
—Sarie Bronish, 25 (lost 95 pounds in 18 months)
7. Challenge yourself to give up dessert for a period of time.
“I never thought that I would be able to say this, but I went one whole year without dessert. I began by changing my daily routine. For instance, instead of making daily pilgrimages over to the gas station across from my dorm to get ice cream, I completely stopped going there for a few months. Next, I changed who I spent most of my time around … In those first few months, when the temptation to give up was the strongest, I made an effort to be around people who were supportive of my goal.
Lastly, I found things that I could replace dessert with. It was not easy at first to switch from ice cream to eating low-fat yogurt and fruit, but after a month without dessert, I found that I started to crave the taste of these healthier food options.”
—Dan Case Jr., 21 (lost 60 pounds over a year)
8. Walk everywhere.
“The very, very first thing I did was just start walking everywhere. I had to start small. I could barely go up a flight of stairs or even walk a block without getting breathless, but I knew it had to be done. I stopped taking the bus, I stopped driving, I stopped taking cabs. I walked. I was 400 pounds and could barely do that without getting sore feet, or tired, or out of breath, but eventually it helped me build up to more.
I started adding in more exercise. I would go to Aquafit classes and Zumba classes and became a little less self-conscious and joined a gym. I started doing more classes at the gym and cardio, and I lost 100 pounds in just over a year.”
—Michelle M., 30 (lost 200 pounds in about two years)
9. Work out with a Wii.
“I was too embarrassed to go to my gym and take a class, and I heard about really good results from Zumba, so I bought the game [for my Wii]. I played at home, working out five to six days a week.
I’ve always been a big gamer, so getting the Zumba game and playing it didn’t make it seem like it was exercise. To me, it was just another game to play — and I guess that’s what motivated me to ‘play the game’ more. Then when I actually saw results from it, that became the motivator. Dancing with the Zumba was really fun, especially when it was a song that I knew or liked. The game made it seem more like you were trying to beat a level as opposed to exercising.”
—Nadia G., 27 (lost 150 pounds over three years)
10. Curb your fast-food habit and learn to cook.
“I stopped eating pizza and fast food every week and started cooking for myself. I had been eating fast food three to four times a week, and pizza about two to three times a week. It was so easily available and cheap. I was lazy and didn’t really know how to cook. I thought food that was cooked at home was most likely going to taste awful.
It was super empowering to know that I created a dish. I started to play around with plating and discovering how creative I could be. Not only that, but that I wasn’t a shabby cook! At least, my wife says I’m not.”
—Rogelio Orozco, 26 (lost 60 pounds in a year)
Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
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