Get serious for your future family's sake
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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Set an example for your kids
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
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Pick a goal that resonates
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.