5 Women Share the One Thing That Helped Them Keep the Weight Off for Good

Losing weight is really freaking hard. But you know what's equally tough? Keeping it off forever.

That's especially the case if you're on a totally unsustainable diet, says Kimberly Gomer, R.D., director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami. While most women who crash diet will lose weight at first, when they get too hungry or stressed to maintain those strict eating habits, the pounds come back quickly, says Gomer.

So what sort of lifestyle changes do you need to make? Here, five women share the one thing that helped them get in shape and stay that way.

"I Don't Follow a Meal Plan."

"I began my weight-loss journey after having a complete meltdown over a photo I took with my boyfriend. By looking at the photo, it was obvious I had lost control of my eating habits. At the time, I weighed 212 pounds. After losing the weight, I’ve been able to stay within a few pounds of 150. Oddly, I think not having a set meal plan has helped me tremendously. For me, a meal plan sounds like a diet and turns into obsessing over food. I’ve done enough of that in my lifetime. So I don’t prep my meals or start each day knowing what I’m going to eat. Instead, I listen to my body and act accordingly. When I’m thirsty, I grab a bottle of water. When I want a snack, I grab almonds or an apple." —Farah James, 29, lost 61 pounds 

"I lift weights."

"I have lost 180 pounds and have kept it off for four years now by strength training. Building muscle has made keeping the weight off so much easier because the more muscle I have, the more calories I burn every day. I currently exercise four to six days a week, focusing on heavy resistance training. Monday through Friday, I focus on my legs, upper body, and core. Some of my favorite strengtheners include burpees, squats, and kickboxing-style circuits. I honestly love anything that works out my legs and glutes. I’m not a huge fan of cardio, so when I do it, I like to add some resistance by cranking up the incline on the treadmill or elliptical. I rest on the weekends by doing yoga or stretching." Jasmine Jacobs, 25, lost 180 pounds


"I document my progress online."

Lobke Meulemeester

"I've lost 75 pounds and kept it off for over a year now. I would have never been able to do it without the accountability I have from friends I exercise with and people who follow me on social media. One bonus of documenting my progress online is that I'm constantly taking progress photos. That helps me stay accountable and keep tabs on any changes in my body." —Lobke Meulemeester, 35, lost 75 pounds (Start sweating toward your goals with Women's Health's Look Better naked DVD.)

"I eat five or six meals a day."

"I lost a total of 50 pounds and have kept it off for a little over a year now. One big contributor to my success has been eating every three hours. That works out to about five to six meals per day. Eating so often controls my blood sugar levels and keeps me from going crazy on binges. If I don’t eat all day, I always crave a big burger because my body wants carbs, sodium, and fat.

"Most of my meals contain lean protein, like ground turkey and chicken, whole carbs, veggies, and a healthy fat. My last meal is usually a snack—maybe some almonds with an apple or some butter-free popcorn. I never feel deprived by approaching my food this way." Briana Kathleen Shaffer, 22, lost 50 pounds


"I set reasonably attainable goals for myself."

"I started out at 198 pounds, and I now fluctuate between 170 and 173 pounds. I think the biggest factor that has helped me keep the weight off is allowing myself some wiggle room. I used to have this idea that you had to eat strictly clean to see any progress. But that's not true! Balance is seriously so crucial!

"I keep my nutrition balanced by setting reasonably attainable goals for myself. I don't say ‘I'm not going to eat any junk ever and work out every single day.’ That never worked for me. Right now, my goal is to eat completely healthy at least five days a week. Sometimes, I'll eat healthy for a whole week or even longer. Sometimes, it's less. Normally though, I eat healthy five to six days a week, and on one day out of the week, usually Sundays, I will have one ‘cheat’ meal or enjoy a treat like a piece of cake." —Deanna Sipes, 21, lost 25 pounds


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