This year, set your weight-loss goal, and meet it, once and for all. Here are 5 inspiring real-world success stories.

This year, set your weight-loss goal, and meet it, once and for all. Here are 5 inspiring real-world success stories. Watch: Get Motivated to Lose Weight!

Are you looking to lose a few pounds, renew your healthy-eating efforts and gain thousands of personal cheerleaders along the way?

That's what EatingWell food editor Jim Romanoff did a few months ago when he took his weight-loss goal public on Facebook. Here's how it all started: Romanoff was intent on dropping weight. (You can imagine the occupational hazard of having great things to eat at your fingertips all day).

So he set a very reasonable deadline of 12 pounds in 12 weeks, pledged to weigh in every Wednesday and share the results-good, bad or just plain embarrassing-and then invited anyone interested in this newly minted EatingWell Slim-Down Challenge to join him.

The response was astounding: more than 5,000 people signed on in only a few days to cook, sweat, inspire, commiserate and sing each other's praises (lots of exclamation points and love on that page!).

Did Romanoff reach his goal? Yes, we're happy to say he did. But he and the others also learned so much more along the way-about the real secrets to losing weight, and about themselves-than they ever imagined.

We'll let them explain. We hope their success inspires you to make some for-the-better changes-and start this year healthier than you left the last one.

"Track Yourself"

Miko Radcliffe

Miko Radcliffe, 45

San Diego, CA

Pounds Lost: 16

Miko Radcliffe's resolve to slim down started with a picture: "I came across a photograph of myself and was completely shocked by what I saw. I knew I needed to lose weight, but looking at that photo transformed the image I had in my own head from being ‘cute pudgy' to ‘flat out fat.'"

Radcliffe set her goal and printed out her tracking sheet-which EatingWell designed for the Slim-Down Challenge group-logging her weight, calories, exercise and how she felt each day. She tacked it right above her computer screen, within easy eyeshot all day-and that's what kept her going.

"Having those numbers in front of me really helped because I could see an entire month at a time and look at how my weight was dropping overall-even if that week it hadn't," she says. "It was also empowering to see all the exercise I'd been getting, and helped me right any mistakes. If I saw that I was 300 calories over my 1,500-calorie limit, I'd take the dogs for a 5-mile walk instead of 2."

Her success has literally been contagious. After seeing Radcliffe's body changing, her 19-year-old son followed her lead and dropped 35 pounds from his 300-pound frame. "He's been biking in the morning and asking me what to eat," she says. "I couldn't be more proud."

"Go Public With Your Goals"

Jim Romanoff

Jim Romanoff, 52

South Burlington, VT

Pounds Lost: 12

Romanoff created our Facebook group hoping to inspire others-and show them by example that you can lose weight without eating diet food. "But the support I got back amazed me," he says.

"People cheered me on every Weigh-in Wednesday, which was so motivating. It gave me a real sense of accountability. Even when I'd post about something frustrating-like when I went to a BBQ and had to limit myself to 2 ribs, when I'd usually eat half a rack-immediately 50 people commented, thanking me for my honesty or posting motivational quotes. It was so inspiring to have that kinship."

It even helped him bust through a serious plateau. "The last 6 pounds seemed impossible to lose, and I felt like I was doing all the right things: counting calories (something my job has made me very good at) and doing cardio every day," says Romanoff.

"I complained about it to some co-workers and they said, ‘You need to strength train to add muscle, which will up the number of calories you burn each day.'"

So he added push-ups, lunges, squats and core exercises like planks to his workouts (obligingly, though begrudgingly).

It worked. "I'm such a believer that making lifestyle changes like this works so much better when you involve other people. A little bit of it is telling on yourself. A little is being buoyed by other people."

"Make A Plan"

Emily Bielinski

Emily Bielinski, 27

Watertown, WI

Pounds Lost: 8

In 2012, Bielinski's mother had emergency heart surgery when her doctor discovered that one of her arteries was 90 percent blocked. The next year, her uncle passed away from heart problems at 49. "It really opened my eyes to making sure I took care of myself-and begin making better choices," she says.

"I was eating out every night and had gotten into an exercise slump." Bielinski started cooking healthy meals at home and, by the time she came to the Challenge, she had already dropped 40 pounds.

"But I was gaining some of the weight back. I joined to keep myself accountable," she says. She also knew she needed to lock herself into a regular fitness routine, so she hired a trainer, who encouraged her to sign up for a 5K race.

"I teach Kindergarten, so I am good with structured programs. I made a plan to run 2 to 3 days a week outside and my trainer helped me build endurance by strength and cross training."

The scale needle began dropping again. She also set other goals for herself. To get more veggies in her diet, for example, she literally taped a line across half her plate and filled it with salad or Brussels sprouts.

"The pounds fell off," she says. "I couldn't believe it when I weighed in that final time. I feel so great and energized right now, and I just finished my second half marathon!"

"Portion It Out"

Megan Blake

Megan Blake, 35

Buffalo, NY

Pounds Lost: 10

After having two kids, now 3 and 1, Blake found herself up 30 pounds from her pre-pregnancy weight-and sliding into some not-so-healthy habits.

"More often than not, I found myself going through the drive-thru. Even when I did make healthy meals at home, my portions were always out of control. I felt like if I didn't load up, I'd be hungry later," she says. "And I didn't exercise much because every time I'd go jogging my joints would hurt and everything would feel like it was jiggling."

What helped Blake stick with her weight-loss plan? Her son and daughter.

"My mom struggled with weight my entire life and I didn't want my kids to see that. I knew I needed to be a good role model and impart healthy eating habits," she says. For starters, she ditched the drive-thru, swapping her usual morning bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich or giant muffin for peanut butter and banana on toast at home.

Blake also cut out processed foods and prepped portion-controlled meals and snacks to bring to work-rather than eating lunch out.

"And I made myself a deal that if I genuinely felt hungry after a meal, I could have some fruit or veggies. It kept me from overstuffing myself and also helped me realize that I usually don't want more-even with the smaller portions."

Blake also started walking, until she felt comfortable enough to run again. "I decided: No more excuses. I stopped listening to the ‘I can't' inside my head, and I'm amazed at how strong my body is now."

"Squeeze in Exercise"

Kathy Spicer

Kathy Spicer, 50

North Canton, OH

Pounds Lost: 13

Sometimes, life just happens. And last spring, it happened to Spicer. "I was working on this huge project at work and pulling long hours at my desk in a very high-pressure situation-which led to a perfect storm of unhealthy stress eating and no opportunity to exercise," she says.

Spicer put on 14 pounds over the course of those three months. But the Challenge got her back on track. "Seeing how motivated other people were-especially with their exercise-really inspired me, because that's my weak point," says Spicer. "People would post things like, ‘Let's exercise! What are you going to do today?' It was like a call to action for me."

She found little windows in her day when she could get moving-during her lunch break and right after work-and recommitted to walking every day. "Whenever I felt my motivation flagging, I'd remind myself how much I enjoy getting out and walking and how good it feels-regardless of the weight-loss part of it," says Spicer. "It's so important for my peace of mind and stress relief."

And she and her sister (who also slimmed down over the course of the Challenge) made a pact: "If either one of us gains 5 pounds, we have to get right back on it before it snowballs and becomes 10 or 15, like it did with me. And we check in with each other regularly, because I am not going to let that happen again."

January/February 2015