The Secret to Losing (Woah!) 175 Pounds

If you want to know the key to weight loss that lasts, ask a woman who's dropped 25, 50, or 100-plus pounds--and kept it off. The no-b.s. secrets these ladies reveal to their besties can help get your transformation going. By Christine Richmond, REDBOOK.

The toughest part is getting to the starting line
"I tell friends, don't worry about making a perfect start, just start somewhere. In my case, I spent four months calling the local gym to inquire about a membership before I finally walked through the door. Every week the manager would phone me to say he hadn't seen me and try to get me to come in. When I finally did, he recognized my voice, gave me a big hug, and said, 'It's time, isn't it?' I've weighed more than 300 pounds at three different times in my life. It got very depressing, and I stopped caring. But after my third child was born, I couldn't carry her up the stairs without getting short of breath, and I was having irregular heart rhythms. I knew if I kept going that way, I wouldn't see my kids grow up. I started by simply walking. At first I couldn't make it 500 feet without feeling exhausted, but every day I took one more step. Then I would jog a couple feet, feel like I was going to die, stop, and do it again. Eventually, I started working with a personal trainer--and little by little, I worked up to running a 10K. And I kept going! When I ran the Chicago marathon for the first time, my sister called me every mile to cheer me on. When I was struggling, she asked me, 'Do you want to be fat for the rest of your life?' I said no, and she said, 'Then meet me at the finish line!' That's how I keep my momentum. I tell myself, You got to the starting line; that was the hardest part." -Kimee Armour, 43, Auburn, IL; lost 175 pounds and has kept it off for seven years

Related: 21 Ways to Burn Fat Faster

Don't pretend you're not watching your diet--tell your friends!
"I tell my pals, don't fall into the 'people-pleasing eating trap.' It's hard to turn down a cocktail when I'm entertaining for work, or to pass on cake at a party. Know this: It's worth it. I was out getting drinks with a friend recently, and I didn't want the night to end but I was stressed about having another round. So I told her I was on Weight Watchers, and she said, 'Oh, me too!' We both relaxed and ordered diet sodas instead of high-cal cocktails. Another friend who I've clued in about my weight-loss goals now happily splits meals with me when we go to restaurants. I also try to suggest outings where eating or drinking aren't the main activity-like a trip to the beach instead of brunch. No one is going to take care of you but you. It's crucial to advocate for yourself." -Brianne Halverson, 34, Savannah, GA; lost 20 pounds and has kept it off for more than a year

You need to eat to lose weight
"Whenever a friend is trying to slim down, the first thing I ask her is if she's eating enough. For me, it wasn't until I started having three meals a day plus healthy snacks that the weight finally came off. I used to try to starve myself to be thin. I was always looking for the next diet fad. The moment I decided to do something different was on my 39th birthday. I bent down to put on my shoes and felt my fat rolls over my jeans, and knew I didn't want to turn 40 feeling so miserable and helpless. I started working with a registered dietitian, Manuel Villacorta, who created the 'Eating Free' weight-loss plan. I told him all the crazy rules I had about food: no bread, no bananas, no food after 7 p.m. I confessed to 'saving up calories' by eating nothing but a granola bar for breakfast and a salad for lunch, and then gorging on ice cream sandwiches for dinner. Manuel taught me about the importance of not skipping meals, and how to get the right balance of protein and healthy fat. Sugar is my weakness, and if I don't plan out what I'm going to eat, I'll revert to eating crap--or not eating at all. So every Sunday I map out my week's meals, and I make a big bag of crudités to snack on when hunger strikes. I don't feel deprived, and I was able to go from a size 12 to a size 4." -Stephanie Pritchett, 45, Hartford, CT; lost 25 pounds and has kept it off for six years

Hardships can crush you or motivate you
"In 2006, I lost my husband, Colby, a month before our 10-year anniversary. He was coming home from work on his motorcycle, and a deer ran out in front of him and he crashed. It completely devastated me. Telling my three kids was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I was already carrying extra weight from my pregnancies and years of unhealthy eating, and then I gained another 20 pounds. In 2010, I had a health scare: A lump in my leg needed to be biopsied. It wasn't cancer, but it was a wake-up call: I wanted to be healthy, for both myself and my kids. That's when I walked into my first Zumba class. I hid in the back in case I needed to escape, but when it was over, I had all this energy. I felt so joyous, like I'd just gone to a big party. Each time I returned, I got a little closer to the front. After class, we'd all hang out in the parking lot, talking away. I changed my eating, too-and the weight started coming off. Now I'm teaching my own Zumba classes. I feel so much better, and I can outrun my kids! For me, exercise classes have been the best form of group therapy--I'm around happy, supportive people, and we're moving and having fun." -Marcie Sailor, 36, Albert Lea, MN; lost 112 pounds and has kept it off for a year

Related: How to FINALLY Conquer Emotional Eating

Keep your "before" photos
"When you're losing weight, your day-to-day progress can be slow, and it's easy to think nothing's happening. So I tell my friends, don't ditch the fat photos! When you look at a picture of your former self, it's a lot easier to see what transformation has taken place. On days when I feel like blowing off the gym, my 'before' pics remind me of how hard I've worked, and that I didn't get here by making excuses or giving in to temptation. That makes me stronger." -Antoinette Marrero, 33, Metuchen, NJ; lost 45 pounds and has kept it off for three years

Shedding pounds changes your relationships

"I warn friends that you might not recognize yourself when the weight starts to come off. As the pounds crept on, I had become reserved; I was afraid to speak my mind because I felt so insecure. In my marriage, I never used to say anything if something was bothering me. Now I do. It's been an adjustment for both of us, and bumpy at times, but we're discussing things I used to be too scared to bring up, like our sex life. And it's brought us a lot closer." -Brandi Laughlin, 29, Sachse, TX, who blogs at; lost 60 pounds and has kept it off for more than two years

Yes, yoga can help you slim down

"I always remind friends that no one can tell you what will or won't work for you. Three years ago, when I wanted to slim down, no one suggested that I do yoga for exercise. But that's what I did. In the past, I didn't listen to my body. I'd get on the treadmill even though I had back pain because I thought it was what I was 'supposed' to do to lose weight, and I ended up herniating two discs. I tried Chrissy Carter's Beginning Yoga DVD to help with my recovery, and right away I knew it was the kind of workout my body needed. It strengthened my body, and it helped me really get in touch with myself. As a result, I began to feed myself differently, measuring my food and eating more fruits and veggies. That one decision to try yoga kick-started everything, and the weight came off." -Tricia Ostermann, 35, Brooklyn, NY; lost 60 pounds and has kept it off for a year

Related: How to Burn 900 Calories in Just One Hour

Approach your body like you do your budget
"I'm a numbers person, so I looked at weight loss the same way I did managing my household finances. Calories in/calories out. I used MyFitnessPal, and for a year I tracked absolutely everything I ate and my daily exercise. It kept me accountable. Before, I used to heap food like spaghetti on my plate and go back for seconds, even thirds. And I ate desserts and sweets constantly, without placing any limits on myself. I learned that I didn't have to deprive myself--I love anything with chocolate--but if I have a brownie, I cut back somewhere else. The same way that if you splurge on a new TV, you might spend a little less on, say, clothing for a few months. You can treat yourself, just not at every meal. One hundred pounds later, I can say to friends: This balanced approach works just as well when it comes to your body." -Joy Drager, 33, Coatesville, PA; lost 109 pounds and has kept it off for a year

Start by forgiving yourself

"In November 2012, I hit 421 pounds, my heaviest weight ever. I've tried pretty much every fad diet out there: Atkins, the grapefruit diet, pills. But my journey to better health really began when I changed my inner monologue from one that was negative and critical and said You're not worthy to one that said, You can do this; you deserve to be healthy and happy and have love in your life. I've had to forgive myself and be kind to myself in order to move forward--after all, I can't change what happened yesterday, but I can change what happens today and tomorrow. I started by signing up for Weight Watchers and finding a pool I could use for exercise. Now the Upper Valley Aquatic Center is my second home. The water is so relaxing, like a cushion, and I can move without feeling hot or sweaty or straining my joints. I love it--it feels meditative. There's no way to shed the amount of pounds I have to lose and not be confused by the process at times. My weight has been such a part of my identity that losing it can feel overwhelming. Every day I have the opportunity to make choices about my health. Before, my eating and physical habits were thoughtless. Now, I pause and think before I decide to put something in my body or skip a workout. I still have a ways to go, but my goal isn't to be skinny; it's to feel better about myself, and I'm definitely on that path." -Elizabeth Agosto, 34, Hanover, NH; lost 78 pounds and has kept it off for a year

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