No, this isn't another post about weight loss with vague tips you've heard a thousand times. In fact, Women's Health spent over a decade asking women like you how they actually lost the weight; their answers are simple, but they obviously lead to results!
Here, they reveal the top strategies for success—scale-tested by women and backed by science.
1. Ditch your trigger foods
Bags of chips. Tubs of pretzels. Extra Halloween candy. Get rid of anything that's a weak spot, especially any foods you've binged on in the past. "If you know you'll break into the leftover birthday cake at midnight, toss it immediately," says accountant Brandy Thele, who lost 130 pounds after she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Instead, swap "forbidden" foods for healthier replacements. Rather than swearing off dessert entirely, for instance, indulge in fresh fruit after meals. And if your partner or kids balk at your chucking the ice cream, hide it behind the frozen edamame so you don't glimpse it every time you open the freezer.
2. Clean up your kitchen
Studies suggest that simply being in a messy space contributes to overeating. Be particularly aware of what's in plain view: Research at Cornell University shows that people who displayed junk food on the counter (e.g., in a glass cookie jar) weighed an average of 20 pounds more than people who put food away immediately.
3. Make yourself accountable
Keep a food diary and include everything (yes, that bite of your toddler's mac and cheese counts) so you can see where the calories come from. Research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that food diaries can double a dieter's weight loss. Day-care manager DJ Gray wrote down what she ate and tracked her calories with the SparkPeople app on her way to losing 115 pounds.
4. Gather fans
Social media can be a powerful motivator to stick with your plan and make progress; Christina Donatella, now a personal trainer, set up a Facebook page about her diet and exercise regimen and dropped 180 pounds.
5. Rethink portions
So many dieters underestimate how much they're eating. Tools and gadgets can help: Teacher Jen Punda downloaded the MyFitnessPal app to help her gauge serving sizes and shed 91 lbs; stay-at-home mom Krystal Sanders bought a portion-control plate, which taught her to eyeball healthy servings of protein, veggies, and starches.
6. Eat three squares
Grazing is good for cows; it may not be for people. Despite the barrage of advice about eating five or six times throughout the day instead of three larger meals, research shows this strategy doesn't always work for weight loss. Noshing often can make it way too easy to overeat and keeps you focused on food all day long (when all you want to do is stop thinking about it).
7. Don't skip breakfast
While the scientific verdict is still mixed on whether eating a morning meal aids weight loss, our panel of experts was of one mind about it: Almost all of them started the day with healthy options like cottage cheese and berries, or Greek yogurt with granola. Eating soon after waking jump-starts your metabolism and also helps you avoid the 11 a.m. munchies that make a muffin or doughnut so tempting.
8. Get cooking
Research shows that people who prepare most of their own meals consume fewer calories, carbs, sugar, and fat than those who cook rarely. If you insist you're too swamped, try this trick from paralegal Jessie Foss, who lost 100 pounds: On Sunday, whip up a big batch of something healthy, like soup from a slow cooker, and eat it throughout the week.
9. Add fiber—and fat
Fiber expands in your stomach and also takes time to digest, both of which help keep you feeling full for longer. Good sources include whole grains, veggies, and whole fruit (not juiced). Healthy fats like olive and nut oils—in moderation—improve flavor, give you energy, and help your body use certain nutrients. Alexandra Shipper added healthy fats, such as avocado, to protein sources like eggs and fish on her way to dropping 55 pounds.
For more weight loss tips you need in your life, head to the original story on Women's Health!