Yes, totally overhauling your lifestyle in order to lose weight is a huge deal—but uh, what happens after you’ve lost weight?
For one, you’ve got to stick to those new healthy eating habits you’ve adopted to maintain that weight loss—and that can be even harder than losing weight in the first place.
These 10 women are sharing the healthy eating habits that helped them lose weight—and keep it off in the long run.
1. They try to eat the same (or similar) things every day.
“After having my son, I lost 52 pounds and have been able to maintain it using what I call the ‘1:1:1 formula,’ which refers to one protein, one fat, and one carb at every meal and snack.
“By doing this, I’ve found that I’ve naturally reduced caloric intake without feeling restricted. So for example, for breakfast, I choose oatmeal or fruit as a carb. On a salad, I go for avocado or nuts as a fat. The 1:1:1 formula has helped me learn how to eat the foods I love without giving up food groups, or counting points or calories.” —Rania Batayneh, 41, author of The One One One Diet
2. They always cook enough for leftovers.
“After graduating from high school, I gained about 15 to 20 pounds, the last 10 of which wouldn’t budge for about 10 years, until I made some simple lifestyle changes— [like] making enough for dinner one night to have lunch the next.
“Cooking enough food to have leftovers the next day helps me avoid eating out. I also have a couple fall-back options if there’s not enough food from the previous night: I either pack frozen veggies and beans (I’m vegan) with some sauce that I heat up at work, or I have elements of a meal at all times in my office that I can use if I didn’t have time to get it ready, such as pre-packaged instant rice, corn, and sweet peas.” —Nina Fuentes, 27
3. They only drink water (or other low-cal beverages).
“Three years ago, I finally took charge of my health and committed to successfully losing 70 pounds. To maintain this weight loss, I’ve committed to nixing what I consider ’empty calories,’ a.k.a., foods that don’t add any nutritional value, like cakes and sugary drinks.
“I very rarely drink items like soda, sugar-sweetened teas and vitamin drinks, and juice. I don’t find these items very filling, and so I stick to zero or almost zero-calorie beverages like water, green tea, and black coffee. I occasionally drink unsweetened almond milk and dairy milk, which contain more nutrients than sugar-sweetened beverages.” —Summer Yule, R.D., 39
4. They prepare their breakfast the night before.
“When I was working full-time while also studying part-time to get my graduate degree, I put on, and eventually lost, about 30 pounds. What’s helped me maintain is making sure to eat a healthy breakfast every weekday.
“I prepare it the night before so there is no excuse to leave for work without it. I find that if I skip breakfast, I end up buying snacks from the vending machine or higher-calorie foods from the cafeteria. I also always include protein, such as Greek yogurt, at breakfast, as I find this keeps me full for a longer period of time.” —Michelle Hyman, R.D.
5. They eat veggies with every meal—including breakfast.
“Since the beginning of this year, I have lost 30 pounds. My most successful habit has been eating green beans for breakfast. I joke about this with my friends and Instagram followers, but really, incorporating more vegetables into my diet has made a big difference. I buy the huge bags of frozen veggies—green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.—and pack them in little containers to take to work.” —Ruth Harper-Rhode, 30
6. They don’t mind being picky at restaurants.
“Over the past six years, I have lost about 50 to 60 pounds, going from 227 to about 165 pounds—and a big change in my diet has been the way I dine out at restaurants.
“Now, when eating out, I tend to ask for dressings and sauces on the side, and if veggies are sautéed, I ask for steamed. I eat half of the portion if it’s too much and take the rest home. I will ask for fruit or veggies instead of fries, unless I really want the fries that day. If I really want a few bites of something, I’ll have it to avoid feeling too restricted.” —Rachel Kasab, 28
7. They follow their own set of rules for dieting.
“After being diagnosed with hypertension and cardiomyopathy in my thirties, I committed myself to getting healthy, losing about 30 pounds in one year. I’ve successfully maintained my weight loss living by the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the time, I’ll eat healthy, and the other 20 percent I’ll indulge if I want to.
“I knew if I cut out indulgences completely, I’d not only be unhappy, but I’d eventually binge anyway. The best reality for me was to allow some meals where the focus was less on calories and carbs.” —Heather Petri, 45
8. They don’t completely nix restaurants.
“At one point in my life, I ate at restaurants or fast food places for each of my three meals a day. Once I realized I couldn’t keep up with my 3-year-old daughter, I committed to getting healthy.
“In the last three years, I have lost a total of 75 pounds. Having a detailed meal plan and eating at home keeps me on track. I definitely can’t just wake up and find something to eat. So now, I don’t wait until 7 p.m. and ask myself where I want to go out to eat, and now I only eat out once a week.” —Shelley Whistler, 34
9. They eat more than three meals a day.
“A few years ago, I had to have hip surgery, which forced me to take a break from my running and exercise routine. I ultimately gained about 30 pounds and also fell into the bad habit of eating tons of candy, which was the hardest habit to break when I started eating healthier.
“What helped me take control and adopt healthier eating habits was enlisting the help of a nutritionist who allowed me to occasionally have things I enjoyed, such as Diet Coke. I also now eat more than I used to—at least six times a day. The key is that I now include three to four healthy snacks, as well as more fruits and vegetables.” —Desiree McConnell, 44.
10. They don’t believe in cheat days.
“After I lost 70 pounds and committed to a healthy lifestyle, I started realizing how damaging the idea of ‘cheat days’ can be.
“I don’t have ‘cheat days’ anymore because I consider all days, including vacations and holidays, to be a continuous part of my healthy lifestyle. My emotional health and happiness is at least as important as my physical health, so I try to make sure I balance both.” —Summer Yule, R.D. 39