It’s a familiar story: You pledge to honor a daily elliptical routine and count every last calorie. But soon, you’re eating cupcakes at the office and grabbing happy hour mojitos, thinking,Oops, diet over.
There is a better way: Swap the all-or-nothing approach for one or two healthy switch-ups in your daily routine. “Doing this can lead to more weight loss than you ever imagined,” says Marissa Lippert, RD, author of The Cheater’s Diet.
In fact, we talked to readers who knocked off 10, 25, even 60 pounds with some easy tweaks. Borrow their slim-down secrets to transform your body the real-world way.
1. Get fired up
“I loaded my iPod with jams that make me look forward to going to the gym. They energize me, allowing me to pick up speed on the elliptical—and because I want to hear my entire playlist, my workouts are longer now. Two months later, I’m down 13 pounds and have killer legs.” —Kara Marshall, York, ME
“By adding vegetables to the foods I love—like eating pizza topped with arugula and green peppers instead of pepperoni—I became so full so quickly that I no longer had room to eat things like chips or super-rich desserts. I said good-bye to four dress sizes!” —Janessa Mondestin, New York City, NY
“Yoga has become the best thing for my relationship with food and my body. From practicing it several times a week, I’m now more in touch with my hunger cues—so I eat intuitively and stop when I’m full. I’ve gone down a jeans size, and my cellulite has disappeared!”—Jessica Nicklos, Morgantown, WV
4. Healthy up your happy hour
“After work, my colleagues and I always grabbed dinner—and it was usually deep-fried. Then we changed things up. Instead of nights out, we started walking and running around a local track. A year later, I’m down 40 pounds.”—Ellen Setzer, Cleveland, OH
5. Run your butt off
“When I wanted to fit into my skinny jeans again, I started running 20 minutes a day during my lunch hour. In two months, I’ve lost 20 pounds, have tons of energy, and just finished my first 5K. Those jeans? They’re too big now!” —Lauren Castor, Anniston, AL
“When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I’ve shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I’m on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year.” —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
“I budget for the treats I love. By eating healthy snacks like carrots and hummus, I have calories to splurge on a piece of chocolate and glass of wine each night. And I’ve still managed to lose 20 pounds in three months.” —Elaine Higginbotham, Fort Worth, TX
“Two months ago, I started going to Zumba twice a week. The crazy dance routines really tone your muscles—especially legs and abs—and give you a heart-pounding cardio workout. Eleven pounds later, I’ve almost reached my goal weight.” —Morgan Howe, Rochester, NY
9. Nix nighttime eating
“Each time I needed to lose the baby weight, I stopped eating after 6:30 p.m. five nights a week. The other two evenings were reserved for nights out. Most of what I’d eat at night was junk food anyway, so it took only two months to get my pre-baby body back.” —Deborah Gilboa, Pittsburgh, PA
“My dog and I go for a walk every day, even if it’s for just 10 minutes around the block. When the weather is horrible, her enthusiasm gives me the incentive to get out when I wouldn’t dare lace up my sneakers otherwise. All the walking adds up: I’ve lost more than 50 pounds this past year.” —Jamie Altholz, Denver, CO