For most people, diet is a four-letter word that makes you feel like dropping an F-bomb… as in FRUSTRATED. That's because most diets don't feel like they're designed for real people. They can be restrictive, overwhelming and ultimately too hard to follow. But it doesn't have to be that way. John Berardi, PhD, is the co-founder of Precision Nutrition, the world's largest private nutrition coaching company (and probably the largest body-transformation project in the world, too). In the last 12 years, his team has helped more than 45,000 men and women lose more than 450,000 pounds of body fat -- and that's not counting the clients of personal trainers who've gotten certified with the Precision Nutrition coaching method. That's why he's compiled these 15 tips from people who have succeeded losing weight. Use their strategies to help your weight-loss process and get the body you want. The end result? You'll feel like screaming a different F-word: FINALLY!
1. Have Your Reason
"Keep your goal in mind. Don't lose sight of it," Melissa says. You need a specific motivation, whether it's getting fit enough to play sports with your kids or looking great on your wedding day. That last one is what helped Melissa lose 55 pounds. "The whole time, I had this image of myself on my wedding day in my head," she says. "Walking tall, feeling amazing -- feeling statuesque instead of soft around the edges." As your journey progresses, you'll probably find that your focus on outward changes eventually turns into inner transformations, as well. "I feel like I'm making better decisions, like I have enough energy to conquer the world."
2. Pay Attention to Your Environment
Recognizing how your surroundings might have caused unhealthy habits to develop -- like Sarah's years of work in fast food restaurants -- can help you discover why you are the way you are and start zeroing in on the power of how to change it. Creating an environment that makes eating well easy means you have to think about it less, and that's a good thing when it comes to real, lasting lifestyle changes. Sign up for a CSA box so there's produce you have to get through each week, find meal prep methods that work for you (like in Precision Nutrition's infographic below) and keep junk food out of the house.
3. Find Accountability
"The truth is, I probably knew three quarters of Precision Nutrition Coaching's dietary recommendations before I started," says Peter, who dropped 33 pounds with Precision Nutrition. "But the secret to losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is consistency," he says. Get someone to breathe down your neck, and you'll make healthy choices your habit. Find a coach to help you stay accountable and go from knowing to doing by taking it one little baby step at a time. Follow-through is much more likely when you're realistic about what you're capable of.
4. Take It One Step at a Time
"I was sick of making decisions. I needed to stop thinking," says Toni, who experienced a common stressor of dieters. One of the frustrations of making a healthier change is trying to take on too many things at once. Those changes are overwhelming to the point of creating guilt and self-blame. Toni's solution: Find a simple program that was easier to follow. Precision Nutrition's Lean Eating plan offered her a step-by-step process where she focused only on one goal at a time. Once she succeeded, she moved on to the next step. It was a philosophy she used to drop 46 pounds and pick up a $10,000 prize. Use the same mantra, and you'll make the journey a smoother ride.
5. Slow Down and Savor Your Food
Despite what many people think, the gym is not the cure-all for fat loss. The solution starts with your fork. That's what Alvar found out during his transformation: He'd never learned how to eat. That might sound crazy, but there are techniques that make a big difference, like what to eat and what foods to combine. The easiest place to start? Chew more and eat more slowly. It's one of the main lessons of Lean Eating, and research has found that slower eating can save you hundreds of calories per day. It might not seem like much, but it adds up quickly. And for Alvar, that tip -- and several others -- resulted in 27 pounds lost.
Related: This Is Your Year to Eat Slowly
6. Patience, Positivity and Persistence
When you lose 117 pounds, people are guaranteed to ask for your secret. Meegan's tip wasn't directly related to food or exercise, but rather, a change in outlook that revolved around the three Ps: Patience, Positivity and Persistence. Her key to success was realizing no one's body is predetermined to look a certain way. "Most of my life I thought about fitness and sports as things I wasn't good at. For a very long time I avoided them at all costs," she says. Allowing yourself to envision yourself as someone else, and then accepting that you just have to make some changes to become that person is a motivating process that will guide you to what you want.
7. Compete With Yourself
If you have a hard time staying motivated, follow Brian's road to success. "I created competition wherever I went," he says. "I'd go into the gym and see a guy busting his ass, and he'd automatically become the guy I had to out-work." Brian did the same when ordering meals, making sure he was the guy ordering the healthiest meal at the table. The point wasn't really to be better than other people, but to make the process of changing habits into a game that was fun, challenging and motivating. Brian's approach helped him drop 32 pounds and add more muscle than ever before -- all at age 42.
Related: 8 Habits of Highly Fit People
8. Find Your Rhythm
The hardest part of any fitness plan is getting started. So before you start, plot out your ideal day -- and then add in the healthy aspects. You can't control weight loss, but you can control the process. Incorporate your healthy new habits in a way that works. For Katey, the rhythm was simple: Get up, make a healthy breakfast, then hit the gym. Come home and fix breakfast for the family. Shower, drive the kids to school, come home and cook chicken or lean beef. Eat vegetables. Drink water. It became her schedule and one that she was able to follow easily. If you can make your plan part of your day, you can -- and will -- succeed.
9. Recover From Setbacks
Part of losing weight depends on understanding that falling off the wagon is usually part of the process. "I was always on target until that one bad thing happened, and it completely derailed me," says Patricia, who lost an amazing 25-percent body fat at 55 years old. After every mistake, instead of spiraling out of control, start fresh. If you focus on habits -- and not on perfection -- eventually those habits will become part of your lifestyle and will be easier to follow consistently.
10. Establish “No Excuses” Time
We all know the most common complaint about why it's so hard to get in shape: There's never enough time. So rather than find time, you have to make time for your health. Kia created a "no excuses" time at 5 am so she could squeeze in a morning workout. "I want to spend time with my family," she says, "and I can't do that in the afternoon or evening if I'm working out. Besides, it's something for me. I have so many roles as a wife and mother that I need that time." Whether it's time to make food, exercise or be with other supportive people, create a window where you have the time you need to succeed.
11. Chart Your Grocery Path
Losing 100 pounds is a huge accomplishment. So big, in fact, that you might think it was a very complicated process. For John, his weight loss became much simpler once he learned how to shop. His advice: Stick to the perimeter of your grocery store. All of the processed foods -- like chips and cookies -- are typically in the interior aisles, while the good stuff like vegetables, meats and fruits are on the outside. It's a simple tip, but one that makes it easier to avoid temptation and slip into old habits.
12. Accept Bad Gym Days
Here's an important fat-loss fact that you need to know: More exercise doesn't necessarily mean more results. Furthermore, it's completely normal if you don't feel like working out all the time. "I learned that sometimes you have to drag your ass to the gym, even if you don't feel like going," Kim says, "and while the workout may be slow moving and uninspired at first, once you're there, it's super easy to finish." As you go through the motions, go in with an open mind knowing there will be good days and bad days. Your job is to approach both the same way and make the best of the situation.
13. Prepare for Chaos
If losing weight were easy, no one would struggle with the process. But oftentimes it's not the diet or exercise that causes the issues -- it's life. "It's amazing what happened when I started becoming aware of my lifestyle," says Steve. The biggest issue for most people is usually eating habits. You don't have to go to the extent of pre-planning your meals (although that helps), but it's important to pre-plan what's available. If you mindlessly eat what's around, you're bound to fail. Instead, clean out your pantry and only give yourself healthy options to prepare. It makes your job easier and will speed up how quickly you see results.
14. Use Doubts to Set Goals
Losing weight is similar to becoming a new person, but that doesn't mean your evolution eliminates your past. And that can be a good thing. "Sometimes I'd get that voice that says, 'This is not who I am. I don't belong in a gym. I can't do this,'" Carey says. When that happens, write down the goals of who you want to be. This attitude reminder can help you push you toward becoming a better you, while still accepting and understanding your doubts. Simple affirmations such as, "I'm the type of person that eats healthy foods," can be all the support you need to stay on track.
Related: 11 Words to Stop Saying Right Now
15. Involve Your Friends and Family
Research shows that willpower and motivation usually isn't the cause of failed fitness plans -- it's a poor support system. While your friends and family don't have to follow your plan, they should be aware of what you're doing. During David's weight loss, he tried so hard to be perfect that he drove his wife crazy. Once she understood that his changes were not supposed to harm their relationship, she became more supportive, and the pounds stared melting off. Not only that, but soon after, she joined his effort and lost 40 pounds of her own.
What Do YOU Think?
Are you trying to lose weight? Which of these tips is your favorite? Is there one you hadn't heard before? Any important tips we missed? Leave a comment below and let us know!