They lost weight and you can, too

(CNN)Will 2015 be the year you finally take charge of your health? Last year, CNN profiled dozens of people who made dramatic changes to their lives and lost a significant amount of weight through healthy methods.

With the dawn of a new year, we asked them to share some advice for those just starting:
Don't make a resolution to lose weight.
"Set the right goals. A New Year's resolution should never to be 'I want to lose weight,'" said Rob Foster. Less than three years ago, Foster weighed 327 pounds and never ate a vegetable. He and his wife, Jess, had been obese for years. Following a tough conversation, the couple focused on getting healthy for their four daughters. They lost 280 pounds between them and now share what they've learned about fitness and nutrition on their blog, Happiness is a Long Run.
    Aiming to lose weight shouldn't be your goal, though.
    "The focus becomes the number and to achieve the number, most people resort to methods that are not sustainable long term," Foster said. "Make the goal to become a better, healthier, more informed you. Make small changes that you can implement for life and let the results take shape."
    There's nothing more precious than your own life.
    At 5 feet 6 inches, Jen Corn weighed more than 300 pounds. Her mother and aunt offered to pay for weight-loss surgery, but Corn was determined not to rely on anyone else. She joined Weight Watchers, and since 2011, she has lost more than 150 pounds and is signed up to walk her first half-marathon this year.
    The experience helped Corn realize what truly matters. "Many times, people often don't take into account that the most important thing in their possession is their own life," Corn said. She chronicles her weight-loss journey on her blog, Road Trip.
    Jen Corn is down to 157 pounds from a starting weight of 311 pounds.
    "People work hard for money, not realizing that without a healthy lifestyle, all the hard work and money may not be necessary. I realized that my life was in danger and there was only one person who could get me out of that danger zone -- me. No matter who I blamed for my situation and no matter how I tried to rationalize it, I got myself into that mess and I was the only one who could get me out."
    Be kind to yourself.
    Changing years of eating habits takes tremendous effort, says Cady Stanton, who has lost more than 100 pounds since 2005 by walking away from sugar and exercising regularly. Now, instead of eating ice cream to cope with her stress, she sets aside time to meditate. She hasn't only lost weight, but feels at peace with her body.
    "If you take eating away, what is going to fill that space? This is the time you need to sleep well, so spend time with loving people and don't be mean or harsh to yourself," she said. "Make everything else around you as kind, as gentle, as encouraging as possible."
    Start small.
    Brian Flemming was a morbidly obese alcoholic, weighing more than 600 pounds. He has lost nearly 400 pounds in the past two years by cutting alcohol, fast-food, sugar and red meat from his diet, and gradually exercising. He's now an avid runner and recently finished his first half-marathon.
    "For me, the biggest key to my success was starting off small (walking in place five minutes each morning) and gradually adding to that. Consistency was a huge part of it," Flemming said. He set up a website, Team 383, for people to share their own stories and struggles in a judgment-free environment.
    Never miss a Monday.
    When Sarah Evans started running, she couldn't run more than 30 seconds. Now she runs two or three 5Ks a week.
    You won't become a gym rat overnight, says Sarah Evans, who initially downloaded the "Couch to 5K" app and set two goals: To run a 5K without stopping and lose 30 to 40 pounds. She far exceeded them, falling in love with running and losing more than 100 pounds. Today, she lives by three rules: 1) Never miss a Monday. 2) Never go more than two days without working out. 3) The only bad workout is the one you didn't do.
    Starting your week off with a workout "helps guide you through the rest of the week," Evans said. Chances are, "if you go to the gym Monday, you go Tuesday and it increases the chances you are going to go Wednesday. And people who don't go Wednesday go Thursday. That's three days a week, which is awesome for anybody."
    Learn to cook and savor what you make.
    "When you cook, you know exactly what you're putting in your body and it's easier to avoid the things that are bad," said 5-foot-tall heavy metal singer Nina Osegueda, who weighed 180 pounds as a teenager. She was terribly hurt when her boyfriend suggested she lose weight, but went on to kick junk food and conquer her body-image demons.
    She started cooking. Her meals became about 75% vegetables and 25% protein.
    "Teaching myself to cook was the best thing that I ever did for myself, and my family. It's relaxing, it's healthy, and it can be really fun," she said. "Vegetables are easy to prepare, grocery stores everywhere even have frozen vegetables that can be steamed in your microwave. ... As for protein, it may seem daunting at first, but baking and seasoning a chicken breast or a fish fillet is easier and healthier than microwaving a pizza."
    You may hit plateaus.
    At some point, you will stop losing weight as quickly as you'd expect, says Yusuke Kirimoto, who lost 100 pounds between 2010 and 2014.
    Yusuke Kirimoto overcame his fear of swimming to complete his first triathlon.
    "These are the exact times when people may lose interest or give up on their weight loss journey. Stick to it, and I promise that you will start seeing results again," he said.
    Kirimoto said it helped him to have a cheat day to give himself something to look forward to as he battled his hunger demons. At first, he would wake up early on those days, just so he could eat potato chips or a piece of chocolate cake. But over time, he stopped craving fatty and sugary junk foods.
    Above all, he said, try to enjoy your weight loss and fitness journey.
    "Do not make exercise a chore that you loathe," he said. "Running outside is a treat for me. Being able to run in the beautiful Colorado trails was such an unbelievable gift."