We’ve all resolved to drop a few pounds at some point. But for these people, who were obese or severely overweight, losing weight was a matter of life and death. Here’s their must-read advice for successful weight loss.
By Lindsay Tigar
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Eat like a cavemanCourtesy Kyle Kranz
Kyle Kranz is a 29-year-old former athlete who lost 85 pounds after gaining weight steadily after suffering a bad injury because of a car accident in middle school. “I was unable to play football and soccer like I previously had,” he says. Then a friend of his, who was starting to focus on his health a bit more, invited Kranz to join him during his freshmen year of high school. While in high school, he credits his weight loss to 75 percent dietary changes and 25 percent working out, which for him, consisted of mostly lifting weights, since the accident didn’t allow him to run. But the greatest difference for Kranz came from curbing what he puts in his mouth every single day. “You lose weight quickly when your diet changes from fast food, soda, and chips to meat and vegetables. I was the high schooler eating pre-portioned and pre-prepared—thanks for the help, Mom!—chicken breast and veggies for lunch. I also found out I actually enjoyed lifting weights, and put together a fairly respectable home gym in a spare bedroom,” he says. Though he eventually recovered and was able to become an endurance athlete, doing everything from swimming to cycling to running, Kranz maintains a caveman-like attitude toward nutrition. “My favorite health advice is something I read from Michael Pollan, when he said, ‘Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ Eating real food and not processed junk was the biggest game changer for me,” he says. (Follow these 40 fast, easy tips to lose weight.)
Be curious when it comes to working out
Courtesy Michael Tamez
It was a life-changing car accident when he was 20 years old that pushed now 36-year-old Michael Tamez to focus on his health. Having always struggled with weight management, it wasn’t until he realized how fragile his existence truly is that Tamez dedicated the next 15 years to being fit, happy, and healthy. Because of his severe sleep apnea, Tamez would fall asleep throughout the day at any given time. “One time I actually dozed off while driving on the highway and smashed into the car in front of me. Although nobody was severely injured, this shook me up pretty good,” he says. The timing of the accident—December, 2001—prompted Michael to make a New Year’s Resolution: He wanted to start working out and actually stick with it for a whole month. After those 30 days passed though, he hadn’t shed much weight, and he wasn’t really inspired by the exercise. That’s when his dad bought him a pair of boxing gloves, and he fell in love with the jab, cross, hook, uppercut three-minute rounds that helped him shed pounds quickly. Then when it warmed up outside, he started riding his bicycle, going for walks and hikes, and cleaning up his diet. His latest discovery? That he loves water sports. He and his wife moved to Florida and go kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, swimming, and bodyboarding. In addition to keeping the weight off, he’s also been able to stop the sleep apnea and bring his blood pressure back down to normal. “I was ecstatic that I cured myself with exercise and food,” he says. That’s why Tamez’s best tip is to do some soul-searching around why you want to lose the weight and find exercises that really inspire you to stay active. These days, Tamez, who shed 105 pounds, has had added yoga and meditation to balance his mind, too.
Transform your body image
Courtesy Scott Schmaren
For now 54-year-old Scott Schmaren, battling his weight was a lifelong fight that led him down a very dark road. “I had lost and gained 100s of pounds, and I always failed. One time, I had just gained back the 165 pounds that I lost, and I gave up on the will to live,” he shares. He attempted suicide by attempting to overdose on painkillers, but miraculously woke up with a renewed spirit. “I woke up the next day with the sun shining through my window and experienced a profound sense of peace, and in that moment I accepted responsibility for my life and I set out on a quest to learn how my mind worked because it was always self-sabotaging my weight loss.” Though he did transform his diet and exercise consistently, he credits keeping 185 pounds off for good to completely changing how he imagined himself in the mirror. “All my life I was obese and the image I had of myself in my mind was being fat, so anytime I lost weight, I felt like I was going against how I really saw myself and rationalized that being overweight was normal,” he shares. “When I finally changed that image of myself in my subconscious mind through hypnosis my life began to change: I created an image of myself that I had a strong, healthy, lean attractive body weighing 175 pounds or less, and that is where I am at today.” (Discover weight-loss secrets from around the world.)
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Take it slowCourtesy Jenn Espinosa-Goswami
After her grandmother’s death, Jenn Espinosa-Goswami realized the gravity of taking care of herself and presenting a healthy image to future generations. Her grandma was always an active, healthy woman, while she herself was 100 pounds overweight at the age of 20. But instead of jumping on the diet-of-the-moment, she gave herself a break and took it slow. She began by getting rid of unhealthy, on-the-go foods, cooking more meals at home, and drinking only water and milk. She started an exercise routine, doing cardio and lifting weights. “Because I took a slow and steady process of losing weight, I didn’t have to work hard to keep it off. In fact, I had my two daughters after I lost the 100 pounds, and the baby weight came off within the year of each of their births,” she shares. “I just kept doing what I had learned in that first year of weight loss.”
Hold yourself accountable by writing it downCourtesy David Bennett
Though David Bennett has yo-yoed with his diet since high school, it wasn’t until he bought a pair of size 37 jeans that he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and knew something had to change—and fast. But to hold himself accountable and truly make a difference in breaking negative habits that kept him on a see-saw of weight gain and loss for decades, he decided to write everything down—and we mean everything: “I have recorded my food and exercise every day faithfully since November 2007. I focus on ‘calories in, calories out’ with a lower carb and high fiber emphasis,” he says. “Now I run nearly every day, lift regularly, and track my running on the Nike Run Club app. I also regularly run extreme races like the Tough Mudder to keep it fun. I do all of this with my twin brother who has also struggled with his weight.” Through the years, he’s managed to maintain a 55-pound weight loss.
Invest in a meal-delivery program
Courtesy Cindy Chambers
As many moms know, having a baby is one of the most exciting—and life-changing!—moments in your life, and for many dropping the baby weight is a tough task. “I couldn’t believe how easy it was to gain so much weight in a short amount of time, not to mention how difficult it was to lose the weight again,” shares Cindy Chambers who shed a total of 54 pounds. “I knew that to be a role model for my children, I needed to set a good example for healthy living—this inspired my weight loss journey.” But being a busy new mom meant that she didn’t have time to cook up nutritious meals on a daily basis, so she needed an alternative to make eating healthy a priority. By watching Dr. Phil one day when she was at home with her newborn, she found the weight loss meal delivery service, bistroMD. They provide meal plans and coaching, and will send pre-portioned meals that take the guesswork out of what to eat and what to skip. “By following a meal plan that’s designed by a doctor and registered dietitians, I was able to lose 55 pounds,” she says. Though Cindy doesn’t use bistroMD for every meal now, when she and her husband are in a bind, they’ll subscribe for a week or two, to lighten the load.
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Consider an extreme solutionCourtesy Joel Hector
Once he reached his heaviest weigh-in at 346 pounds, Joel Hector realized just how much the added weight was affecting everything in his life: from working out and catching a movie to traveling and more. His blood pressure was high, his knees ached, and he wasn’t sure what he could do to make a sustainable difference in his lifestyle. So he decided to do something pretty drastic—take some time off to go to Pritikin Health Resort, a diet and weight loss center in Miami, to truly go through a transformation. “Rather than wait for further health ailments to arrive, being proactive and doing something about it was my only decision. Taking six months out of my life to lose the weight and protect my health gave me back my life,” he says. What is the Pritikin diet? It focuses on smaller, smarter portions, and taking a holistic approach to medicine and health. “By the fourth week, I was amazed when I looked in the mirror at how my body was changing. My health markers were changing, too. Everything—my blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, resting heart rate—was falling into normal ranges. And my energy levels kept climbing,” he says. Though he does run and log miles on a stationary bike, it was taking that leap of faith that made the biggest difference. Today, he still pays close attention to everything he eats, keeping the principles he learned at Pritikin to make sure he’s consuming the right nutrition. The payoff is that he’s kept off 111 pounds!
Figure out your ‘why’
Courtesy Lindsay Tejada
It was a question from an unlikely source that snapped Lindsay Tejada into action mode to finally shed the weight. She was spending time with her 5-year-old niece who simply asked, “But, why are you so fat?” She didn’t want to be known as the “fat aunt,” so she looked for a way to shed pounds and stay motivated. What worked for her was a program called Take Shape For Life, which offers diet plans, health coaches, and connection to a community of other people who are also trying to lose weight. She lost more than 100 pounds and it was her niece’s face that kept her motivated. “My biggest health tip would be to determine your why,” she says. “When my niece said, ‘I can wrap my arms around you now!’ I knew it was all worth it.”
Have fun—and get creative!—with healthy foodsCourtesy Pam Horrocks
In 2014, Pam Horrocks went to an amusement park with her husband and son, and when it was her turn to get on a ride, it became apparent she couldn’t fit in the car. “I felt every single emotion one could imagine— embarrassment, sadness, regret, and even hate,” she says. That’s when she remembered the promise she made to her mom before she passed away from cancer: that she would get healthy and take care of herself. She used the Take Shape For Life program to figure out the best way to shape her eating habits and find exercise that works for her, but over time, she grew tired of the same-ole-same-ole foods. So to keep the weight off, she gets creative with healthy dishes. “You can enjoy healthy foods by experimenting with nontraditional ingredients to create your former fattening favorites. Try things like cauliflower pizza and experiment with a healthy vegetable like zucchini. I’ve gone so far as to transform my healthy triple berry smoothie into a bagel—I add egg whites to it and bake it, put it in the toaster and eat it like bread. It’s amazing,” she says. And guess what? She went back to that amusement park and successfully rode that ride, no problem at all, 121 pounds lighter.
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