Tips That Helped This Unlikely Runner Lose 160 Pounds

Twelve years ago, Jennifer Hittle felt “sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, and miserable,” she told Runner’s World.

At more than 300 pounds, Hittle knew she had to make a change.

Here’s what she did to shed more than half her bodyweight – and fulfill her lifelong dream of running the Boston Marathon:

Start Small and Build to Better Things

When Jennifer started running, she says it was more like “walk/running” around her neighborhood.

For new runners, especially runners working toward weight loss, it’s important to start slow to avoid injury and overwhelm – just like Jennifer.

“Start slow until working out becomes a habit. Otherwise, you’ll burn out,” cautions Laura Tedesco at Women’s Health.

If you’re in this journey for the long haul, gradually increase the intensity of your workout over time. Pretty soon you’ll be tearing it up!

Action step: Research workout plans that offer ways to scale up or down in terms of intensity. Your workout should get more challenging each week – adding mileage or reps in the weight room. This will be especially true if you’re training for a race.

Buddy Up

“A huge part of my running life is my running buddies,” Hittle remarked in her Runner’s World interview.

Exercising with a pal is a great strategy for staying motivated and on track. What’s more, it works, says psychologist Thomas Plante.

“If you know a friend is waiting for you at the gym or won’t pound the pavement without you, it’s tough to bail,” Plante told Fitness.

Another bonus? The competition will make you want to step up your game.

Action step: Partner up for your favorite yoga or kickboxing class, or join a running group like the November Project to meet like-minded peeps.

Set a Goal

Jennifer had long wanted to run the Boston Marathon – even when she was overweight. Last year, she finally did it.

And you better believe that she had plenty of intermediary goals along the way to help her keep her eyes on the prize.

By setting and tracking progress toward your goal, suggests Tina Haupert at Health, you’ll keep your spirits up and keep working.

“I tracked my progress by writing down each half-pound lost, which broke down my goal into smaller ones,” explains Haupert.

“I saw little victories right off the bat. These successes built momentum, so my excitement and confidence kept me motivated toward my overall goal.”

Action step: Familiarize yourself with SMART goal-setting methods. Then find a system for tracking your progress, whether that’s a diet and exercise journal or a weight loss program with tracking software.

Break Up with Fast Food – For Good

The biggest change in Hittle’s day-to-day life took place in the kitchen.

“I broke up with fast food, Ben and Jerry’s, and soda,” Hittle told Runner’s World. “The healthier I ate, the more I wanted healthful choices.”

If diet is already a struggle, making healthy choices can seem like an overwhelming and impossible obstacle.

“Start by getting rid of just one to two unhealthy items at first – eliminating these foods for several weeks,” suggests Kari Hartel at FitDay. “Reassess your dietary habits every couple of weeks and see what new, small changes you can make.”

Forming new habits might be hard, but it’s oh-so-worth-it.

Action step: Be adventurous! Try a new vegetable, or experiment with a new grain. By choosing foods that are fresh and in season, you’ll always have a bounty of rotating healthy foods to pick from.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Some of the biggest health and fitness battles we face are psychological. That’s why Hittle keeps a vision board in her kitchen cupboard.

“There will be times when the going gets tough and you will need to remember why you want it,” she told Runner’s World.

By putting systems of support in place – like a vision board or group text – you’re more likely to succeed, explained Angie Deeth, a Weight Watchers leader.

“My support system helps me by reminding me how far I’ve come,” Deeth told the Weight Watchers website.

It’s not about focusing on making mistakes, but moving past them and remembering how much you’ve accomplished already,” she added.

Action steps: Need some accountability for your weekly workouts? Ask your friends and family to check in, or text you encouragement.

Have a sweet tooth? Refuse to keep your favorite junk in the house – but remember to indulge once in awhile, too.

Suffering from a crisis of confidence? Seek out stories of weight loss heroes like yourself for inspiration and motivation.

Stories like Jennifer Hittle’s incredible transformation can help inspire you to stay the course as you work toward achieving your own health and fitness goals.

What are you waiting for? Let’s do this!