By Shaun Chavis
My favorite part of my job is working on our "I Did It" weight loss success stories. I get to talk with so many amazing people who have truly changed their lives. Medical professionals say they think it's an unusual achievement for someone to lose 10% of his or her body weight and keep it off, but every month we get emails from people who've topped that. Here are three things the successful dieters have in common:
They eat breakfast. Just about every single person who has sent me a success story kicked off her new eating habits with a healthy breakfast each morning. It boosts metabolism and keeps you from a mid-morning doughnut break. (Check out this research about breakfast and weight lossâ€”trust me, you won't want to skip your Wheaties.)
They compete. Many successful losers become regular marathon runners or triathletes. Unlike a simple gym session, the competition really keeps them motivated. Rachael Heitman, 31, our October 2007 success story, used to weigh 238 pounds. Inspired by watching an Ironman competition, she got herself a copy of Slow, Fat Triathlete and started cycling, jogging, and swimming. She felt nervous going to her first competitionâ€”but when she looked around, she saw people of every shape and age warming up. Rachael realized that you don't have to look like you belong on the cover of Runner's World to race. She lost 73 pounds and turned into an avid triathlete.
Jennifer Dearing, who lost 166 pounds, started with a 5K and has her sights set on doing an triathlon, too. Thirty-year-old Taysha Urquhart of Los Angeles lost 78 pounds and keeps it off by running marathons for charity; she started with the National AIDS Marathon Training Program.Â Friends and diet buddies Amanda Bard and Amber DeBeer Larson lost 200 pounds between them. They stay slimâ€”and stay in touchâ€”by running half-marathons together.
They launch new careers. Many big losers also go into fitness or diet-related workâ€”sometimes working second jobsâ€”to help themselves stay fit. A number of women who've shared their stories with us go on to become trainers or registered dietitians, or they start organizations and online communities to help others lose. It makes good sense: The hardest part about the weight loss journey is maintenance, and it's the part of weight loss with the least support. You have to work harderâ€”research shows women who've been overweight need to do more exercise to keep weight off than someone who's never carried extra pounds.
You also have to master motivation. It's inspiring when you can see the numbers change on the scale and people around you are complimenting your new bod. But once the flattery goes away and you don't see your body changing, it helps to have strong tools in place to keep yourself on track every day. Mary Garrett, 37, our May 2007 success story, lost 90 pounds and increased her bone density after getting a diagnosis of osteopenia. Mary became a certified YMCA personal trainer and helps women who have weight to lose. She's now working on a degree in health promotion. Twenty-nine-year-old Megan Marquis-Conner of Maine used to weigh 250 pounds. She started taking cardio-kickboxing classes and lost 104 pounds. Now she teaches cardio-kickboxing, and she's about to be certified as a Zumba instructor. And check out our March 2009 issue (it should be on the stands in a few weeks) for the story of a Houston woman who lost 40 pounds and started a women's-only boot camp. She says she's found her calling by helping other women lose weight and feel good about themselves.
How do you keep weight off? Leave a comment and share your secrets. And if you've got a weight loss story to share, please email me.