We went to the real weight loss experts -- folks who've
been there, done that -- to get their tips for taking
it off and keeping it off. We wanted to know what
really worked for folks who'd not only lost big kgs
(more than 12), but who'd kept it off for more than
surprisingly, they changed their eating habits and
increased their activity levels. But haven't we all
tried that? Why did it work for them and not others?
What follows are their inspirational, sensible, tough
-- yet doable -- tips. We suggest printing out each
page and hanging them on your fridge, desk or other
prominent place. next Get moving
tough part with exercise, of course, is getting out
there and doing it. Here's how the successful get
beds might not get made, but Reema, 36, still makes
time for exercise. That's how she's kept off more
than 32 kgs for 13 years. "I have to schedule it in
and let go of other things -- like a perfectly clean
house," she says.
Find a passion. "I have a dance background
and when I found Aerobics, I said, 'Thank God.' If
somebody told me I had to go out and run five days
a week, I'd still weigh 74 kgs," says Madhu, 41, who
lost 22 kgs and has kept it off for 13 years.
Keep an exercise log.
It makes you more accountable.Tina from Delhi,
who hangs hers on the refrigerator, checks off six
workouts a week dutifully. "If I miss one day, I make
that my day off for the week."
Set a goal. "Try
to improve your times.Earlier when i started, i used
to be exhausted in 5 minutes doing Aerobics. But gradually,
i could do 20 minutes and was getting fitter and losing
more weight" says Neeta 34, who lost 22 kgs and now
easily does a 45 minutes hectic Aerobics non-stop."
Get pumped. "It wasn't until I put on more
muscle through resistance training that I was able
to keep the weight off -- almost effortlessly," says
Madhumati, 37, who went from a size 18 to an 8. The
reason? Muscle burns more calories around the clock.
Make changes for the long haul. "I learned
how to eat and live with it for the rest of my life,"
says Tina, 42, who lost more than 16 kgs and hasn't
seen any come back in three years.
Stop dieting. "The best thing I did was
quit dieting," says Ritu. On average, weight loss
winners eat five times a day.
Follow the 90% to 10% rule. "If you watch
what you eat 90% of the time, the other 10% is not
a problem," says Meeta who learned this tip from a
Dine at the dinner table only. If you eat
in front of the TV, then every time you nestle in
with the remote control, it's a cue to eat. Instead,
designate an eating spot for all meals and snacks.
"Even when I want potato chips, I set the table just
like I was going to sit down for a full course meal,"
says Keerthi, 47, who took off more than 40 kgs. "It
also stopped what I thought were hunger headaches,
which were probably due to dehydration. "
Do it for yourself.
"My doctor told me for years that I had to take the
weight off. But you've got to want it yourself," says
Jaya. "As long as somebody else is pushing you, no
matter what you do or what you try, it'll never work,"
adds Shaila, 39, who shed 24 kgs and has kept them
off for five years.
Take it slow. We all want to lose it yesterday,
but slow is the way to go if you don't want to see
those Kgs again. "It took me a year to lose 20 kgs
this time," says Sheela, who's kept it off for eight
years. "I had lost 20 kgs twice before, in less than
six months each time, but I didn't maintain it."
Customize your approach. What
worked for your best friend may not work for you.
And what works for you today may not work six months
from now. You need to decide what you need. Sheela
joined a structured program for accountability. "I
needed to know that I was going to get weighed each
week," she says. But for others that's exactly what
they don't need.
Learn from the past. Everyone we talked
to had tried to lose weight before. Part of their
success this time was that they learned from past
failures. "Before, the more I focused on weighing,
measuring, and preparing food, the more I ate," says
Meeta, who finally succeeded with a program that offered
Set small goals. "My first goal was to
lose only 4 kgs," says Rita. "I had very high blood
pressure, and my doctor said if I would just lose
4 kgs, he believed that I could get off the pills.
Every other doctor before said I had to lose 40 kgs,
and I thought 'I can't do that.' But 4 kgs, I thought
'maybe I can do that.' Doing it one bite at a time
made it more achievable for me."
Make changes you can live with. "Before
I'd go to bed I'd ask myself, 'Is what I did today
something I could do for the rest of my life?' If
I felt deprived, I'd do it differently tomorrow. If
I thought, 'Yeah, I could do this tomorrow,' then
I was on the right track," says Ritu.
16. Go back to school.
Joining a weight loss class or working with a dietitian
can help you learn proper portions, even without weighing
and measuring. "If you get a half cup of cottage cheese,
it should look like a tennis ball, a quarter cup should
look like a Ping-Pong ball," says Meeta. "Now, I know
what appropriate portions look like."
Don't toss those measuring cups, though.
"I usually misjudge portions of salad dressing, and
ice cream," says Sheela. "They're really high in fat
and calories and cause the most damage if overdone.
So I still measure them."
Cook for your family, not an army.
Even for low-fat foods like grilled chicken,Mala
stopped overfeeding her family of four. "I stopped
making six or seven roasted chicken pieces, thinking
that everybody had to have two or three," she says.
"Now I make just one for each person."
19. Plan ahead.
An empty fridge after a stressful day begs
for pizza. The now-slender crew doesn't leave meals
to chance. Many of them plan their menus a week or
more in advance.
A little dab will do it. If you just can't
pass on some high-fat favorites, stick to the most
flavorful ones. "A single slice of chicken meat is
enough to flavor eggs or a potato," says Hena, 61,
who lost about 21 kgs. Her husband's lost more than
Fake fry. Try"frying" with calorie-free
cooking sprays instead of oil. Spray sliced potatoes
and roast them in the oven for french fries that taste
fried without the fat, suggests Manu.
Stock frozen veggies. With meat or tomato
sauces, they are diet saviors. "I've been known to
eat a whole bag of vegetables -- and with only a quarter
cup of sauce, it's only about 3 grams of fat," says
Maithili. "It's saved my butt many times when I was
really hungry and had to eat now."
Flavor up. Rice, beans, and other cooked
grains are the staples of many successful dieters.
For variety, cook them in different liquids -- tomato
juice, apple juice, beef or chicken stock. "Rice done
in pineapple juice is especially good for rice puddings
and Chinese dishes," she says.
24. Find the right support
person. A nag won't do. Neither will a
partner in crime. Look for someone who can empathize
and support you in a positive way. When Ritu finally
succeeded in losing weight, her fiance was a big help.
"We didn't focus all our socializing around food.
We went Brisk Walking a lot and played table tennis
instead of going for Pav Bhaji."
Join a support group. "Hearing someone
say she lost 20 kgs would be real motivating," says
Rekha. "I'd think, She's just a normal person like
me. If she can lose 20 then I can do it too.'"
Create your own group. "I started my first
women's group when I first started exercising. It
was just a bunch of women that got together once a
week, and we would compare notes," says Depti, 44,
who's 54 kgs slimmer than she was 13 years ago.
27. Be picky.
"I'm not afraid to ask for dishes to be prepared differently,"
says Sheela. "My philosophy is that every restaurant
has a grill and an oven. They don't have to fry everything."
It's not the Last Supper.
This is not your last chance in life to have
a particular food. "Those french fries will be there
in a half hour if I really have to have them," says
Depti. Or they'll be there next week.
Don't wait to doggy bag. "As soon as the
maid puts the food down in front of me I cut the whole
portion in half, put it on my butter plate, and ask
her to wrap it," says Sheela. If you wait until the
end of your meal, oftentimes you pick at it until
the maid returns.
Tackle buffets. "I get only one tablespoon
of everything," says Ritu. "Usually I don't even fill
my plate, but I at least taste everything so I don't
Stay busy. Do something that's not conducive
to eating. The folks we talked to aren't sitting around
thinking of hot chocolate fudge. They're learning
BharatNatyam, taking classes, Briskwalking, leading
weight loss groups, and more.
Keep 'em out of sight.
Overwhelmingly, weight loss vets control foods
like chocolate, ice cream, and potato chips by not
having them around.
Moderation is key. But they're not depriving
themselves, either. "If I want a piece of cake, I'll
have one," says Meeta. "Then I just won't have another
one for a week or so. Knowing that I can eat something
and no one's going to say 'you can't' works for me."
Indulge and enjoy!
Go for the best brand of ice cream or the best
punjabi dish paneer kofta. "If I'm going to blow 500
or 600 calories, I want to make sure that I'm enjoying
it to the max," says Mamata. "Often desserts look
much better than they taste. If it tastes like cardboard,
forget it. It's not worth it."
Limit portions. "When I have to snack,I
put my hand in the bag or box and whatever I can grab,
that's what I eat -- only a handful," says Rashmi.
Buy individually packaged snacks. Cookies,
chips, even ice cream come in single serving sizes.
"If I want some cookies or chips, I grab one little
bag instead of a whole box," says Ritu.
37. Keep reminders around.
A note on the refrigerator reading "Stop" kept Ritu
from raiding it. Underneath she listed other things
to do, like "take a drink of water" and questions
such as"Are you really hungry?"
Chocolate is still a favorite even for successful
dieters. But they've found ways to enjoy it and still
keep their waistlines. Beena makes fat-free eggless
cake. For Sitara, who lost 16 kgs and has kept it
off for two years, a cup of sugar-free hot coffee
topped with a little fat-free whipped cream does the
Don't give in to peer pressure. If the
cookies, chips, or ice cream you buy for the rest
of the family is sabotaging your efforts, stop buying
it. "My daughters carried on for about a month, but
after that they got used to the change," says Beena.
40. Know your triggers.
You have to know which moods send you to the toffee
jar before you can do anything about it. Once you
know your triggers, have a list of alternate things
to do when the mood strikes. "When I get tired or
discouraged, I get an 'I don't care attitude,'" says
Reena. For those times, taking a walk or reading affirmations
Quiz yourself. Determine if you're really
hungry or eating for other reasons. "I'll ask myself
'Do you really want this, or is it something else,
like boredom or depression?' About 80% of the time
it's not hunger," says Girija.
Call a friend. Talking about what's eating
you can keep you from eating. "I had to be willing
to call my support people at 9 o'clock on a Friday
night," says Beena, 46, who's kept off 19 kgs for
more than 15 years.
Stop worrying. Remind yourself that you
only have control over you -- not your spouse, boss,
parents, or friends. If you can't do anything about
it, just let it go, several people suggested.
Take an emotional inventory.
Ask yourself: "What do you feel guilty about?
resent? fear? regret? What are you angry about?" Then
deal with it, says Beena. Confront the person involved,
talk to others, or write a letter -- even if you don't
Get spiritual. If religion isn't for you,
try yoga, meditation, or relaxation exercises. These
are especially helpful if you tend to eat when you're
stressed, says Beena.
46. Challenge the power of
food. Ice cream is a poor companion if
you're lonely. "If I eat the whole bag of potato chips,
am I going to be any happier? Probably not," says
47. Look how far you've come.
"By keeping a graph of my weight, I could see that
the line would go up and down and up and down, but
overall it was going down, so there was no reason
to throw my progress away," says Ritu.
48. Don't give up. "There
are plenty of times when I've wanted to give up, but
I didn't," says Meeta. "I realized a long time ago
that entrepreneurs fall and rise up every time they
lose a venture, but they just keep getting up." The
same is true for weight loss.
"You can do it." Repeat this to yourself.
Many people post affirmations around their homes or
offices as constant reminders. One dieter even programmed
her computer screen to keep her on the right track.
Get inspired. "I read a lot about other
people who have come back from obstacles and really
made it," says Meeta. Their determination can make
you feel like you can succeed too.
Envision your svelte self. "If you can
actually visualize yourself as the person you want
to be, you'll become it," says Meeta. "When I felt
like I couldn't do this one more minute, I slipped
in a motivational tape. Step by step, it would walk
me through a visualization exercise so I could see
myself as I wanted to be."
Find new measures of success. When she
lost some weight, trying on her old, too-big clothes
further motivated Sheela. "I also bought myself a
size below what I was wearing," she says. "I'd see
if I could get the pants on, then if I could zip them,
and finally when I could wear them comfortably."
53. Learn to like your trouble spots.
Mala, who's lost about 30 kgs, dresses in a salwar
and, standing in front of a mirror, she points out
everything about herself that she doesn't like. Then
she counters that. For instance, "I hate my legs,
but they work," she says. "I can walk and dance. I
have no control over the way they look, so it's silly
to obsess over them. Don't dwell on it."
Take baths and get massages, facials, manicures,
and pedicures. "They make me look good and feel good,"
Stop negative talk.
"If you make positive speech a long-term goal and
stop using 'I was bad (or good) today,' you'll begin
to feel better about yourself," says Meeta.
Don't compare yourself to others. Instead,
think "I'm better or just as good as anyone else is.
Once you start thinking that about yourself, believe
me, you get real cocky," says Meeta.
Look in the mirror and say,
"I look good." You may not believe it now,
but you will. "When I first started this, I avoided
mirrors," says Beena. "I never wanted to go into a
dressing room, so I'd get various sizes, take them
home, and then try them on. If they didn't fit, then
I took them back. But now I'll look in every mirror."
flexible. Many people who have kept the
weight off never reached their initial goal weights.
Instead, they've gotten to a realistic weight that
they can maintain. "In 13 years, I've never gotten
down to my initial goal weight, but I'm very happy
and feel very good even though I didn't reach it,"
Quit the numbers game. Mala is 5' 5 1/2"
tall and weighs 68 kgs -- by society's standards she's
heavy. However, she can slip into a size 8 thanks
to the fact that most of her weight is muscle. "It
doesn't matter what the scale says, it matters how
I look," she says.
Reject others standards. "Thin is whatever
you think thin is. Next to Reena, I'm thin. Next to
Tina, I'm fat," says Meeta.
Stop being a perfectionist. "Look at it
like walking a tightrope," suggests Reena. "The goal
is not just to stay on without falling off. The goal
is to get to the other side, and if you know that
you can fall off as many times as you want as long
as you get back up again, you're gonna be successful."
Start fresh, ASAP. If you have a slip,
don't wait until Monday or even tomorrow to get back
in line. Reena uses water as a cleansing ritual to
end a binge. When she realizes what's happening, she
drinks a water to signal that the eating is over,
and she's back on track immediately. "It's made my
lapses shorter and shorter," she says.
Practice early detection. "I weigh myself
about once a month," says Rinki. "If I start inching
up, I increase my exercise a little bit."
Enlist professional help. Many of the people
we talked to used dietitians, personal trainers, and
even psychologists to help them deal with problems
that were hindering their efforts. If you feel like
you can't do it on your own, seek help.