At the beginning of the 7-week (7YY) plan, Elizabeth, 42, vowed to ditch her “lazy food choices.” She hit the ground running by kicking her soda habit and eating breakfast every day — something she had never done before.
She attributes her continued success to planning ahead. She now spends Sunday afternoon prepping for the week by making granola bars and apple oat muffins that she saves for a snack or breakfast on-the-go.
Elizabeth is also hooked on hot yoga, which she discovered during the plan. “It doesn’t feel like exercise,” she says. “It’s meditative, too.” A class schedule hanging at her desk reminds her to make time for fitness. On top of that, she walks more, clocking three to five miles in a typical day.
Pounds lost: 25 (She lost 11 pounds in her first 7 weeks of the plan and then peeled off another 14 pounds in five months!)
Inches lost: 2.5
Favorite 7YY recipe: Turkey-feta burger
Motivator: This October, Elizabeth is planning a 12-day trip through Italy with a friend who has been battling cancer. “There will be a lot of walking and hiking, and I wanted to get healthy and be supportive for my friend.”
Winston’s friends used to tease him about his weight, but the 40-year-old shocked them with his impressive results. After the first few weeks on the plan, he noticed dramatic changes in his energy levels. “Running up the stairs to catch a train no longer resulted in my trying to catch my breath,” he says. “I felt less tired even though I was getting the same amount of sleep.”
Winston still follows the several days a week. The other nights of the week, when he cooks traditional Chinese dishes, he uses more vegetables and low-fat sauces, less sauce and salt, and olive oil instead of vegetable oil. He also relies on a pedometer to stay active, walking 10,000 steps a day, as recommended by the plan. If, come evening, he’s a few thousand short of his goal, he makes up for it before bedtime.
Pounds lost: 26 (He initially lost 24 pounds and then dropped another 2 pounds.)
Inches lost: 5.25
Proud moment: Winston bought a pair of jeans on sale in 2011 and when he got home, he realized he couldn’t squeeze into them. Three weeks into the 7YY plan, he was able to fit into the jeans, which became loose after week 6 — now he has to wear a belt!
Advice for dieters: “To stick with the [7YY] plan, you don’t necessarily have to change too much of your lifestyle.”
The 55-year-old kicked off the program by eliminating most added sugars and trading her drive-through biscuit for instant oatmeal. The plan’s 3-4-5 guideline (300 calories for breakfast, 400 calories for lunch, and 500 calories for dinner) made it especially easy for her to follow. “The 7 Years Younger program is such a realistic one,” she says. “It doesn’t require a lot of thought or extra props. The recipes use ingredients you already have.” She even recommended the plan to her mother and sister.
Nowadays, Leigh keeps a yoga mat and a resistance band at the office; when she doesn’t have time to hit the gym, she’ll do a 30-minute exercise video during lunch. She also likes to walk around town, usually 2 to 4 miles at a time. “If I gain a pound or two, I don’t beat myself up. I know it’ll come off next week when I go to the gym.”
Pounds lost: 12
Inches lost: 5
Lesson learned: Leigh loves to unwind with a glass of wine, and the plan taught her that she doesn’t have to become a teetoler. “You don’t have to give it up, you just have to compensate elsewhere. Sometimes, a wine spritzer works well and cuts the calories.”
Robert, 51, was skeptical about 7YY and thought it was another fad diet until he and his wife, Jennifer, 45, committed to the plan. Robert, in particular, never thought much about the food he put into his body or how frequently he ate. But now, they enjoy eating nutritious foods and sharing them with their two teenage sons. The couple makes salads and smoothies, and they’ve cut back on unhealthy carbs and fried foods. They grocery shop together and stock the house with fruit or nuts so that they don’t binge on junk food. They even managed to stick with their healthy habits on their summer vacation.
Halfway through the 7-week program, Jennifer noticed that her face looked less bloated, her skin felt softer, and her jeans were falling off! Robert’s clothes also fit looser, and he felt lighter. Losing weight recently motivated him to participate in a 200-mile bike ride through Vermont. “It was the best I felt in a long time.”
Pounds lost: 14.5 (9 pounds for Robert, 5.5 for Jennifer)
Inches lost: 4.5 (2 inches for Robert, 2.5 for Jennifer)
Why two is better than one: “It’s always easier to lose weight with someone,” says Robert. “Jen gets the credit for hoisting me back on the wagon when I stray.”
It’s hard to believe that the 61-year-old used to finish off her breakfast with two cookies. But she has completely overhauled her eating habits. Many of the 7YY recipes are still in her regular meal rotation. She’s aware now that snacks contain calories, too; when she’s hungry, she reaches for a small Laughing Cow cheese wedge, which she discovered on the plan. After dinner, she no longer pigs out on chips or ice cream in front of the TV and watches her portions throughout the day. “The program encourages mindful eating.”
Michele set out to look and feel great in time for her daughter’s wedding (held this past June). On the big day, she was happy with what she saw in the mirror. Her new lifestyle encouraged her to offer guests healthy options during cocktail hour. “I made sure we had fresh veggies, and not just cheese and crackers.”
Pounds lost: 13 (She lost 7.5 pounds in 7 weeks and then dropped another 5.5 pounds.)
Inches lost: 1.5
Favorite 7YY recipe: Ziti with peas, grape tomatoes, and ricotta
Go-to cooking tip: To lighten the load when making a pasta dish, swap half the noodles for vegetables and top with sauce.
Porscha, 34, used to have a giant sweet tooth before she was introduced to 7YY: A cheese Danish followed breakfast; after lunch came a fudge brownie; and dinner was polished off with an ice cream sundae. “I’ve learned that I don’t need those foods to satisfy me or enhance the meal I just had.”
To her surprise, the one thing that has impacted her most is keeping a food journal, which helps her be mindful of what she’s eating. “I love the emotional component and writing how I feel after I eat,” she says. “It’s a great resource that helps keep my appetite in check.”
Since the 7-week plan ended, Porscha has ramped up her fitness routine. She goes to the gym for 30 to 60 minutes about three times a week and attends weekly cardio dance class. Every day, she strives to walk 10,000 steps. Sometimes, she finds herself walking in circles just to hit the mark on her Fitbit.
Pounds lost: 7
Inches lost: 2
Favorite 7YY recipe: Garden turkey sandwich with lemon mayo
Motivators: She turns to prayer and keeps motivational affirmations handy. During the 7-week plan, select 7YY panelists kept in touch and encouraged one another through a private Facebook page. “It was wonderful to feel part of a group and know that there were others who were in this with me.”
Gean, 61, had tried losing weight before but always went at it alone. This time, she relied on the support of fellow 7YY dieters on social media — her first foray into Facebook. “I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, which was a great motivational tool.”
She picked up healthy eating habits, starting the day with a nutritious breakfast, the plan’s “easy oatmeal” or Greek yogurt and berries for instance. She also traded her white carbs for whole grains and watches her portions. With a new philosophy, she’s still able to enjoy dining out. She says “no, thank you” to the breadbasket and packs up half her steak to take home.
Pounds lost: 6.5
Inches lost: 6
Favorite 7YY recipe: Seared salmon with sweet potatoes
Advice to dieters: “Be mindful of what you’re eating — chew your food more, and eat slowly. And keep walking!”
From the get-go, Arlene, 38, completely switched over to whole grain pasta and decided to slow down, taking time to enjoy her food. As a mother of three young children, she needed meals that were quick and convenient. “The meal plan is easy to follow,” she says. She also started exercising at the gym a few times a week and burned calories with the occasional fitness DVD.
Pounds lost: 14
Inches lost: 1.75
Motivator: “My number one motivational tool is the scale. I love that it’s moving in the right direction.”
Advice for dieters: “Drink water when you think you are hungry. A lot of my hunger was in my head.”