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1. Gradually rehab your eating habits.
Drastic changes are nearly impossible to maintain. A smarter approach? Add a new nutritious food to your diet each week. "Try a recipe that uses leafy vegetables like kale, or switch to filling, high-fiber grains like whole wheat pasta," suggests Harper. Cut out one unhealthy thing each week as well.
2. Steer clear of temptation.
"If you always pass your favorite fast-food restaurant on the way home from work, find an alternate route or pop some gum when you drive by," says Michaels. At the office, stash healthy snacks at your desk so you don't need to raid the vending machine. Harper recommends dry-roasted nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews.
3. Be realistic.
If it's been ages since you exercised, don't vow to jog three miles a day. Start small: Go for a walk three times a week. Tackling little goals will inspire you to take on larger ones.
4. Get fit with like-minded friends.
The contestants on The Biggest Loser bond because they share the same challenges and goals, says Harper. Join an exercise class with a friend or two so you can cheer each other on.
5. Shop for a week's worth of meals.
Create a healthy menu, then put the foods you'll need -- and only those foods -- on your shopping list. If you don't plan ahead, it's too easy to say, "Screw it, let's order pizza" at dinnertime.
6. Put exercise on your schedule.
Just as you plan out when you're going to see friends, write down the days on your calendar when you're going to exercise, says Michaels. Think of your workouts as mandatory me time -- a chance to clear your head and tune in to your own needs.
7. Revel in small successes.
One of Harper's favorite Losers is army veteran O'Neal Hampton from season nine. "He's a powerful man but he could barely walk up the stairs for his first weigh-in," Harper recalls. "After a while he was able to climb those stairs. It was a small moment but it was also huge. He had this look on his face that said, You cared about me and took the time to help."
8. Trick yourself into exercising.
Think you're too tired to work up a sweat? Tell yourself you'll exercise for just 15 minutes. It doesn't feel intimidating. Plus, once your blood starts flowing and the endorphins kick in, chances are you'll get more energy and want to go longer, says Michaels.
9. Get your family on board.
"You need a good support system when you're trying to make positive lifestyle changes," says Harper. "If everyone is eating burgers and fries while you're having fish and salad, it's easy to lose your willpower." Start incorporating healthier options into your family's meals, such as vegetables and meat-free dishes.
10. Think like a loser.
When The Biggest Loser contestants need to psych themselves up for their workouts, they repeat this mantra: "Believe in yourself. Trust the process. Change forever." See if these words give you a lift the next time you're low on motivation.
11. Spice up your workout.
Going for the same walk every day gets dull, so try something new once a month: Work in an occasional spin or yoga class or add some fitness DVDs to your Netflix queue.
12. Inspire yourself.
Don't post photos of the overweight you on your refrigerator. "Going negative sets a negative tone for everything you do," says Harper. Display a picture from a time when you looked great in a bathing suit to keep you motivated.
13. Don't obsess over the scale.
Instead, find an item in your closet that's too snug and use it to track your weight loss. "When you try on something that was once tight and discover it fits, that's more gratifying than any number," says Harper.
14. Remind yourself of this bottom line every day:
"Exercise is not about getting in a workout on a Wednesday," says Michaels. "It's about adding 20 years to your life."
15. Beware of mindless munching.
Have you hit a weight-loss plateau? Record your snacks and drinks for a week -- you may discover you're consuming more calories than you think, says Harper.
16. Keep your body guessing.
Your muscles adapt to a workout quickly, so it's important to change your routine regularly, says Harper. Try interval training: Once or twice a week during your daily 45-minute walk add 60-second speed bursts every three minutes or work in some hills.
17. Don't be self-conscious.
"I used to think everyone was looking at me when I went running, but nobody cared," says Michaels. "We all experience insecurity, but most people are thinking about their own bodies, not what you look like."
18. Repeat after Jillian:
"Skinny jeans aren't boring!" Remember those words the next time you're tempted to skip your Pilates class because you think it's a snore.
19. Fuel up your workouts.
"Never exercise on an empty stomach," says Harper. About 30 to 45 minutes before your sweat session, eat an energizing snack that contains carbs, protein, and healthy fats, like an apple with peanut butter or whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk.
20. Savor the self-esteem boost.
"At 13 I got my blue belt in Muay Thai by breaking two boards with my foot," says Michaels. "The next day at school, kids who had been taunting me stopped. I realized that when someone feels physically strong they feel strong in every aspect of their life."
21. Keep it simple.
You don't need fancy equipment to get in great shape. "I'm a big believer in strength moves that use your body weight for resistance, like push-ups, squats, and lunges," says Harper.
22. Let music move you.
Listening to up-tempo tunes while you sweat may help boost your endurance and make your workout seem easier. Michaels's faves: "D.O.A." (Jay-Z), "Won't Back Down" (Eminem), "Alejandro Remix" (Lady Gaga), and "Power" (Kanye West).
23. Eat every four hours.
If you wait any longer than that you're likely to become ravenous, which sets the stage for overeating.
24. Reward yourself the right way.
After making it to the gym three times in one week, treat yourself to a new lipstick or flowers. If you hit a larger goal (losing 5 pounds in a month or running a 5K) get a massage. "Learn how to nurture yourself with nonfood rewards," says Michaels.
25. Focus on the emotional and physical payoffs.
"There are days when my own motivation wanes and I just don't feel like working out," admits Harper. "But I always go back to exercise's biggest benefit of all: It makes me feel good."
The host of The Biggest Loser is also a mom of two, actress, and author (The Mommy Diet). So how does Sweeney eat right and find time for exercise? Read on.
I stopped looking for a quick fix. About 10 years ago I went from a size 12 to a size 4. I'd tried a million fad diets, but I realized making healthier choices was the best way to keep the weight off. There is no magic pill.
I set a specific goal. After I had my second child, Megan, in January 2008, I wanted to get back to my pre-pregnancy size in time for The Biggest Loser finale in May. I worked hard to achieve that goal -- eating well and taking spin classes. Now I'm the same weight I was before my pregnancy. It was tough losing my tummy but I did it.
I use slimming strategies I've learned on the job. Sometimes I turn my vacation into a mini Biggest Loser boot camp: I clean out my diet, cutting out alcohol, sweets, and other bad stuff. I go to the gym every day. Giving yourself one week to concentrate on your diet and fitness is a great way to jump-start your program.
I try to be a role model for my kids. I want to make sure my children [Sweeney also has a son, Ben, 5] learn healthy eating habits. I'm always horrified at the choices I see on kids' menus, like chicken nuggets and fries. Instead, I order a healthy meal off the regular menu and share it with them.
I always seek out new challenges. A friend is doing a race where you climb the stairs to the top of the Empire State Building in New York City. I'd love to do that.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, February 2011.