The “Aha” Moment Behind 9 Weight-Loss Success Stories

Life-changing revelations can come when you least expect it. Check out these unexpected weight-loss lessons from women who have been battling their weight for decades.

Get serious for your future family's sake

The-Aha-Moment-Behind-9-Successful-Weight-Loss-StoriesCourtesy Lindsay Shenk
When my husband and I had difficulty starting a family after trying for five years, I decided to see a fertility specialist. I was well over 400 pounds at that time and he told me there was nothing he could do for me until I lost weight.

My aha moment: After hearing the doctor's news, I received an unexpected pregnancy announcement from a family member. That announcement broke me, but I also credit it with finally giving me the kick in the butt I needed. It made me realize if I ever wanted a family that I needed to do something a little more drastic. I've been overweight my whole life, and I'd tried every diet from Weight Watchers to South Beach. I decided to get a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, and it has completely changed my life. Since January 2016, I have lost 220 pounds. A few years back, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome which makes losing weight very difficult. At the time, I had considered weight-loss surgery, but I was worried people would judge me. It wasn't until I wanted to start a family and couldn't do so without intervention that I really got serious. Losing weight isn't just about eating right or exercising. It's about finding a balance between the two, and setting attainable goals. Start with small goals and celebrate your progress along the way. For me, accountability is key, I use social media to keep myself accountable for what I'm eating, ensuring I'm exercising and doing weekly weigh-ins. My husband and I are still hoping to conceive! —Lindsay Hackman Shenk, 34, PA, human services program specialist

Curious how your health impacts your fertility? Here are 16 factors that could be harmful.

You can always lose again

The-Aha-Moment-Behind-9-Successful-Weight-Loss-StoriesCourtesy Meredith Pileggi
When I was younger, I longed to be skinny. I've weighed as much as almost 200 pounds, and I've been all the way down 120 pounds—two entirely different looks on my 5'5" frame. My most drastic period of weight loss was my senior year of college when I was twenty-two. I spent all my free time at the gym running, lifting, you name it. When I saw the number on the scale start to fall, I got overzealous and cut back on food, sometimes eating less than 1,000 calories a day. This was terrible for my body, but everyone just continued to tell me how great I looked, and that reinforcement made it really difficult to stop.

My aha moment: When I met my husband, I snapped back to reality. I found someone who loved me for who I was. I no longer felt I needed to prove anything to anyone regarding what I looked like, so I started eating and before I knew it, I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize myself. At 185 pounds, I decided to get my eating habits under control for good. After getting serious about my weight, I found out that I have Hashimoto's disease, a form of hypothyroidism, which makes it difficult to lose weight. After getting my hormonal imbalance under control, my weight was easier to manage. Some days I drink wine and eat pizza, and some days I have salad and water. Chasing my three-year-old daughter and caring for my four-month-old son is really all the cardio I have time for. As a mom with two children, I no longer care about being thin as much as I value being healthy. It took me thirty years to realize that weight gain isn't a life sentence. When it comes to weight management, you never run out of opportunities to try again. —Meredith Pileggi, 30, PA, mother and teacher

Learn how to set a healthy daily calorie limit.

Make your health a priority

The-Aha-Moment-Behind-9-Successful-Weight-Loss-StoriesCourtesy The Naked Goals Coach
I first joined a diet club at the age of 17, and I have been on dozens of diets since then. I had some success, but always ended up putting the weight back on. My biggest weight loss has been over the last 18 months—I've dropped 70 pounds. I'm confident that this time the weight is gone for good. Previously I never had the chance to dig deep into how I perceive myself and examine my behaviors around food. Becoming a weight loss coach has helped me to understand my mindset when it comes to food. When I regained weight in the past, I wasn't prioritizing my own needs and well-being—all my energies were going into my children and everything else in my life. I didn't make the time to plan meals, shop for them, and eat properly.

My aha moment: I realized my true goal was to stay in my children's lives for as long as possible—and that the key to putting my children first was to prioritize eating healthy and losing weight to be the mom I wanted to be. Keeping a journal has helped a lot, as has my research into different types of motivation. I also learned to avoid the phrase "falling off the wagon." We're human and we all go wrong sometimes, but the "wagon" metaphor is an excuse to let one mistake turn into a week of overeating. The truth is that there is no wagon. There's just a series of choices we make every day. —Lizi Jackson-Barrett, 40, weight loss coach

Here are the six simple eating habits of people who live to 100.

Cook for yourself

The-Aha-Moment-Behind-9-Successful-Weight-Loss-StoriesCourtesy Ivana Moffatt
I've always had a negative relationship with weight. I was a size 11 in the sixth grade. My friends growing up were really skinny. We ate the same things, but I was the biggest one. In college, I didn't cook for myself and landed at my highest weight of 215 pounds.

My aha moment: When I graduated in 2009, I started cooking for myself and the pounds started to fall off. I moved from Boston to New York in 2011, and I began making salads for myself and exercising a lot. I worked for the New York City health department and was surrounded by health-conscious people. Between working out, cooking for myself and not going to too many happy hours, I got down to 156 pounds; unfortunately, most of the weight has crept back. I don't know exactly how this happened since I'm conscious of what I eat but I've learned to practice self-care and give myself love. In the past few weeks, I've been running three miles every day. I also bought a health book and am hoping to learn more about nutrition. —Ivana Moffitt, 30, NJ, finance professional.

Take a page from Ivana's book and get cooking with these 10 cooking tips from a celebrity chef.

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Stay focused and allow room to make mistakes

The-Aha-Moment-Behind-9-Successful-Weight-Loss-StoriesCourtesy Mindy Green Owner Makeup Artist MG Beauty
I have been on some kind of diet my whole adult life. In my junior year of high school, I was 170 pounds. Through diet and exercise, I got down to my ideal weight—between 140 pounds and 150 pounds, but by the time I turned 35, my weight had risen to 185 pounds. Two years after moving to Houston, my weight had climbed to 250. I got my weight back down to 220, but then I hit a plateau; when I moved home to Maryland, the number on the scale hit 240. Despite my weight struggles, my body image stayed positive; I know I have stretch marks and cellulite, but I still feel good about myself.

My aha moment: I noticed my blood pressure was rising. While I didn't have health issues, I was worried I could be at risk for heart disease. What's helped me lose weight is My Net Diary—a calorie-counting app—and exercising three days a week, usually by walking two to three miles. I have to stay focused and allow myself room to make mistakes. What I plan to do this time is work with a doctor certified in weight loss and seek out a nutritionist. Hopefully this time I can reach my goal of getting under 200 and staying there. —Mindy Green, 42, Maryland, makeup artist

Check out these eight reasons you've hit a workout plateau and how to get past it.

Pay attention to your feelings

The-Aha-Moment-Behind-9-Successful-Weight-Loss-StoriesCourtesy Cristin McGrath
My weight has been a constant battle. I started my first diet when I was 10, after a kid called me a bulldozer at recess. My biggest drop in weight happened in 2013, when I first moved to New York City after college. I was using Isagenix (a shake diet) and exercising regularly at the neighborhood YMCA. I was the happiest I'd ever been, had an amazing job, and felt like I had a real purpose. You may think that once you hit your goal, you'll be happy but unfortunately, that may not be the case. You may hit your goal and still feel unsatisfied. I never gained the total pounds back, I'm consistently up and down 20 pounds. My weight fluctuates incessantly and is impacted by stress and depression.

My aha moment: I take the biggest steps toward weight loss when I come out of a depressive cycle, an awareness I've found helpful. For instance, I've recently gotten over a down period and went grocery shopping for all healthy ingredients, threw away all unhealthy foods and meal prepped for the full week of work. —Cristin McGrath, 28, New York, social engagement strategist

Make sure you can recognize the signs of an eating disorder.

Seek accountability

The-Aha-Moment-Behind-9-Successful-Weight-Loss-Storiescourtesy Amanda Surdel
I've always had problems with my weight. My family never did any type of physical activity, and we were always eating junk food. I never learned how to eat the right way.

My aha moment: I was about to turn 36, the age my mom was when she died of a heart attack. I knew I needed to do something about my weight. I wanted a plan that wasn't too restrictive because I don't do well with being told I can't do or have something. I joined Weight Watchers, and I had my most successful weight loss. Although I still have weeks in which I gain, I know that being accountable to the system is keeping me from putting back on all the weight. It works for me because it allows me to eat and drink what I want, but has taught me portion control. I have a binge-eating problem and realized that I have a bad relationship with food. When I get stressed out, I like to eat. I still struggle with this every day, but I have it more under control since joining Weight Watchers. Weight loss is a process, and it won't happen overnight. You didn't gain it overnight, it won't come off overnight. Just take it one day at a time. —Amanda Surdel, PA, 36, licensed aesthetician

Working on portion control? Here are nine genius tricks that help.

Set an example for your kids

The-Aha-Moment-Behind-9-Successful-Weight-Loss-Storiescourtesy Charlene Veasley
I had never really tried to lose weight as I honestly had no idea how. I was always bigger but felt I was just meant to be bigger. With each kid, I seemed to gain more weight and got more uncomfortable with how I looked. In 2012, I decided to lose weight. I had two children at the time and I was turning 30 years old: I wanted to start the decade off right. My oldest was three years old. She was starting to take notice of the foods I was eating. I wouldn't allow her to drink Pepsi or eat a bunch of chips, but she saw me doing these things. She started to ask me for soda.

My aha moment: I realized I wouldn't be a good example if I was eating or drinking the same junk I told her she couldn't have. I wanted my kids to grow up with a healthy diet. I didn't want them to ever struggle with their weight or a food addiction. I set my mind to lose the weight, and I found a calorie-counting app called MyFitnessPal. I wasn't interested in fad diets or eliminating foods because that didn't seem sustainable. But counting calories sounded like a viable option. I wound up losing 120 pounds in two years. I also learned that if you have a bad day, don't let it turn into a bad week—just start again. Be patient. As long as you're persistent it will happen. I had to change my mindset. —Charlene Veasley, 35, NY, stay-at-home mother of four

Learn the difference between overeating and food addiction.

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Pick a goal that resonates

The-Aha-Moment-Behind-9-Successful-Weight-Loss-StoriesCourtesy Courtney meyers courtesy Mike Briggs Photography
I remember being overweight my entire life. My cholesterol and blood pressure was horrible and I was on track to get type 2 diabetes. I was tired all the time. In 2014, I was at an anniversary party where someone was taking lots of photos. I hated the pictures of me, and I knew I needed a change.

My aha moment: I was sitting at Starbucks with my best friend and I told her, "I want to run the Disney Princess half-marathon next year." I loved running around the Disney parks when I was younger. The following week I signed up for a race and began training. It was a big challenge, but I felt if I didn't do something, especially at 278 pounds, that I'd end up dead. I started at a slow pace—22 minutes per mile—but over time, I got faster, and now I can run a mile in 15 minutes. From July 2014 to December 2015, I was lost 58 pounds. I used to hate my body. I never wore shorts or two-piece bathing suits. Since my journey started, my confidence has gone up; I wear a lot more tank tops and shorts. Since 2014, I've run in six half-marathons, multiple 10ks and 5ks, and I have attempted two full marathons. I've gained some of the weight back, but I'm not done. Even though the past year has been extremely difficult, I'm never giving up. Since getting to my lowest weight, I've changed schools where I teach twice, bought a house, and got married. You just need to be able to keep going. I'm never going to be a size 22/24 again. I vow to keep working on my health and fitness so that I can be here for my future." —Courtney Pimentel, 28, FL, teacher, Target cashier and Beachbody coach. You can follow Courtney's fitness journey on Instagram.

Ready to run after hearing Courtney's story? Here are nine things that happen to your body when you start running.

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