When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off most of us need all the help we can get. So we took a look at the latest research on what works, and borrowed tips from our 5 Diet Challenge success stories. Here’s what you need to know to be successful on your own weight-loss journey.
Use a free app like Lose?It! or MyFitnessPal. They can make tracking easier (and more fun) and help you set—and stick to—a daily calorie budget. You can log everything you eat and your daily activities. They also chart your progress over time. (Both also have free websites you can use instead.)
Step on the scale once a week and jot the number down on a calendar posted on your fridge—extra motivation to not open the door and absentmindedly eat. Pick a weigh-in day in the middle of the week. It’s easy to go a little off the rails on the weekend, so Monday’s weight may be a tick higher than it really is.
Take before, during and after photos. It’s a visual way to track your progress that was a huge source of inspiration for people who joined the EatingWell Diet Challenge. Because, often, losing weight is like watching your kids grow—you don’t notice changes day-to-day, but when you see a picture from six months ago, it’s like, wow!
Tell your friends and family. Sharing your goal with people who will cheer you on is incredibly motivating and makes you accountable. Set a reasonable, concrete deadline—and share it with everyone—so you can’t procrastinate.
Get a weight-loss pal. A Brown University study found that dieters who linked up with a companion (who also lost weight) lost twice as much as those who went it alone. Can’t find a pal? Sites like weightlossbuddy.com will pair you with one.
Bet on it. Wagering on your weight-loss success through a website like DietBet.com may seem like a kooky concept, but a recent study found that people who did lost 5 percent of their body weight and won around $60 in four weeks.
Think small. Break down your big goals into stepping-stone-sized ones. It makes them more tangible—plus, you can check off little successes along the way. Rather than, say, pledging to exercise more, sign up for a cycling club or a 6-week bootcamp.
Plan out your meals and snacks for the week on Sunday. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail—and that’s when the Kung Pao and pizza appear on your table. If that feels daunting, we can help with this 7-day meal plan.
Measure everything you eat for a few days to learn what 3 ounces of chicken looks like or 1/2 cup of rice. Two worthy investments: Portion Master Skinny Plate, which dishes out the right serving sizes ($16, amazon.com) and a kitchen scale, like Salter’s Book Shelf Scale ($50, Williams-Sonoma.com). Recheck yourself occasionally to make sure your eyeballed portions haven’t crept up.
Cook just what you’ll eat. This was key for one of the weight-loss challenge participants, Megan Blake: "Then I didn’t have any tempting leftovers to dive into." It’s also OK to leave the table a little hungry. Otherwise, you risk walking away stuffed.
Slip in a mini workout before work. Walk to the train stop or bike to the office, instead of driving. Or get into work early and use that extra time to hoof it around outside.
Be active on the weekend. You’ve likely got more time on those two days—capitalize on it! Go dancing for a few hours on Saturday night, take a hike or dust off your skis and head to the mountain on Sunday.
Track your steps. Download a pedometer app, like Pacer, or splurge on a Fitbit Flex wristband ($100, fitbit.com). Our Challengers loved their activity monitors! They’re powerful move-more motivators.