10 Women Share the Most Important Factor That Helped Them Lose Weight
The stress of starting college, perpetual late nights and heavy drinking caused Alyssa Greene to develop an unhealthy relationship with her body. Though she exercised, she didn't pay much attention to her diet and her overall health until she realized a change had to be made. Over the next 2.5 years, she self-educated about nutrition and learned what and how much to eat to get the results she wanted. Today, Greene has lost 25 pounds and relies on self-discipline as her key motivator. "I do what I want for me, no one else," she says. "For people who have a hard time making a lifestyle change because of family or friends or a significant other, it really boils down to discipline. How bad do you really want to make a lifestyle change?" (Related: How to Tell if You're Emotional Eating)
After having her third child, fitness blogger Maggie Fierro began to feel disconnected from her body. "I was 4 months postpartum and completely frightened to actually look at myself in the mirror," she says. So, she decided to start Kayla Itsines BBG (Bikini Body Guide) program to help kick-start her weight-loss journey. The convenience of being able to work out at home, combined with following a regimented diet, helped Fierro figure out a lifestyle change that worked for her—and she couldn't have done it without the BBG community. "The community made all the difference when I was starting my journey...[it's] been an incredible source of inspiration and support," she says. "You can't always rely on motivation. You need to develop discipline and commitment for the moments when you don't feel like it."
At her highest, fitness blogger Irvy weighed 310 pounds. After yo-yoing with her weight for years, she finally decided to make a change once and for all in 2015. That said, it took a while for her to figure out that to make a long-lasting lifestyle change, the desire had to come from within. "You have to be self-motivated; you need to do it for your own reasons and strictly for yourself," she says. Now, she goes to the gym six times a week and meal plans, which has helped her lose 132 pounds.
Now a certified personal trainer, Cookie Miller spent years struggling with her weight. At 230 pounds, she got diagnosed with Acanthosis Nigricans—a skin condition that causes dark, velvety patches to appear in the armpits, groin, and neck of people who are overweight. At that point, she realized her health had to become a priority. Over the course of the next 18 months, Miller lost 100 pounds by following a regimented diet and exercise plan. What helped her stay accountable was the progress photos that she shared with her Instagram followers. "I posted my first before-and-after picture on Instagram at the one year mark of my fitness journey," she says. "There was no going back after that picture and it has helped hold me accountable ever since."
Being a mother comes with a plethora of responsibilities. And Erica Lugo knew something had to change when she couldn't uphold them because of her weight. She could no longer play with her son, because at 322 pounds, she simply didn't have the energy. That's when she decided to lose weight by sticking to a simple plan. She signed up for a Planet Fitness membership and focused on reducing her calorie intake and increasing her activity level. When she began to see results, she realized that her greatest motivator was herself. "The hardest workout you'll ever do is in your head. Not with a trainer or fitness guru," she wrote on Instagram. "It'll be with yourself. It'll be that moment your head and heart say give up and that passion and want inside of you fights back." (Related: 6 Women Share How They Juggle Motherhood and Their Workout Habits)
In just a year, Lugo had lost 122 pounds, but it took her another two years to reach her 150-pound weight-loss goal. Now, Lugo is helping people kickstart their own fitness journeys—following the same back-to-basics approach she used—as a trainer on The Biggest Loser. "Today, working out and eating healthy isn't about how awesome I look," she told SHAPE. "It's about inspiring people to realize that neither illness nor your weight define you and that you're so much stronger than you think."
Alice Fields spent years focusing on cardio, thinking it would help her lose weight. She also maintained a strict diet, but still wasn't seeing the results she wanted. It wasn't until she switched to powerlifting and started consuming a more wholesome diet that she began losing weight and reaching her goals. "I started noticing changes with my body within about a month," she told PEOPLE. "Not only had my strength increased dramatically, but my whole body composition changed." She realized that it wasn't the numbers on the scale, but how she felt that truly mattered. "I definitely thought doing only weights would just make me heavier," she says, "but I quickly realized, the more muscle I had, the faster my body burned fat. Not just that, but having more muscle gives you that 'toned look' a lot of women want." (Related: Why Does My Workout Cause Weight Gain?)
At age 25, Kassidy Riekens weighed 260 pounds and started to struggle with her self-confidence. While she was determined to take back control of her life, she knew she had to fix her bad habits first. "I quit making excuses," she told PEOPLE. "I started researching, meal prepping, and working out. I started drinking a gallon of water a day, and prepping chicken, rice, and veggies every Sunday." For workouts, she did cardio three to five times and week and it helped to have support from her friends and family. With time, she's learned to do things in moderation and found creative ways to stay on the right path. She also took progress pictures. "I don't think people realize how important it is to take pictures of yourself while you're literally transforming your body," she says. "In doing this I came to the realization that it was the 'old' me motivating the 'new' me."
After suffering from a herniated disk in her lower back, Misty Mitchell's life fell apart. She lost her job and home and coped by drinking a lot of alcohol. It wasn't until Mitchell stepped on the scale that she realized how much her health was suffering. "On February 19, 2015, I stepped on the scale and weighed almost 300 pounds, was most likely an alcoholic, and I smoked," she says on her website. "I didn't like where my life was going and I was sick of being unhappy so I decided to change everything." Overnight, she quit drinking and traded in junk food for fish and veggies. In just over a year she lost 137 pounds and now weighs a healthy 159 pounds. Documenting her weight-loss on Instagram was her biggest motivator and encouraged her to continue on her journey.
Jennifer Ginley's weight caused her to lose her self-confidence to the point that she asked her boyfriend to postpone proposing. It wasn't until she saw a picture of herself from a vacation that she realized it was in her hands to finally make a change. So, she immediately joined Slimming World, U.K.'s version of Weight Watchers and embarked on her weight-loss journey. With support from her family and friends and her workout community, Ginley was able to lose 135 pounds in just a year. To those who struggle to stay motivated, Ginley says: "Take is one day at a time and remember willpower is a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets."
Rebecca Grafton Bardwell
After being overweight her whole life, Rebecca Grafton Bardwell decided to make a change once and for all. But as we know, that isn't always as easy as it seems. Over the course of two years, Grafton Bardwell learned how to portion her diet and exercise at a gym without caring what others thought of her. Today, she's lost 100 pounds and is healthier and happier than ever. "At the end of the day, weight loss is very basic," she told Cosmopolitan. "There's no secret formula and no hidden pill that'll make you skinny. If you eat right and exercise, you'll lose weight. It may not happen as fast as you'd like, but if you stick to a healthy living plan long enough, you'll see results." Preach.