Weighing in

My secret goal has been hanging in the back of my closet — and I did it. After six months on my weight-loss plan, I’m wearing my favorite size-10 polka-dot dress again. Woo hoo! POLKA DOTS. Not something I’ve been wearing all that much for the past few years. But, here I am, 15.8 pounds thinner than I was when I started. And it feels good.

I’m definitely no “skinny Minnie” in this photo, but I just had to share my polka-dot victory! When you’re a busy mom, getting into super-skinny jeans isn’t always a realistic goal. Just getting to a healthy weight and feeling more energetic feels pretty darned good. I’ll take it.

When I started this plan, my size-12 clothes were feeling pretty snug. But, now my size-10 pants are a bit in need of a belt — so color me happy. Here are the things I have found to be most helpful in my quest for a thinner, healthier body:

• I didn’t drink my calories. I had a glass of wine now and then, but I gave up margaritas for six months, and I plan to save them for special occasions in the future — so I don’t start packing on fruity-cocktail poundage. I drank mostly water with my meals, in addition to skim milk or low-fat soy milk for breakfast. I gave up the high-calorie orange juice and grape juice that I used to drink almost daily. When I wanted fruit, I ate whole fruit for fewer calories and a lot more fiber.

• I hit the road — walking the dog, walking with friends, walking to the mailbox down the street — I tried to hoof it whenever I could. I even got busy on our long-neglected treadmill, watching “American Idol” while I walked to the beat (had to get my Crystal Bowersox fix). And I got creative and added a special desk to my treadmill so that I could work on my laptop while walking. No, I couldn’t exactly power walk while doing e-mail. But, slow and steady wins the race, and I got to where I could easily spend an hour on Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, etc. while walking at a steady 1.5 mph. Beats sitting on my behind in front of a desk!

• Working out — and sharing tips — with friends. Every woman needs a walking buddy like my friend, Ellen. When we start hoofing it, the time speeds by. It doesn’t even feel like work, because we’re having such a good time chatting. We also call each other to share diet suggestions and talk about our progress. Whether you tackle weight loss as part of a group or with the support of one special friend, I highly recommend the buddy approach.

• For the past six months, the book “Small Changes, Big Results” has been my companion. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Registered Dietitian Ellie Krieger has offered such encouragement and so many practical suggestions. She makes you feel as if you have your very own food guru by your side, encouraging you and sharing great tips.

Some final advice from Krieger: It’s important to find the right amount of structure; to find a balance between indulging and keeping track. It’s helpful to look at this time not as the end of something but as a time to decide how to hold onto this new way of eating and working out.

Yep, I’ll slip up from time to time, Krieger admits. We’re all human. I’ll just plan to get back on track. It’s important to anticipate the challenges I’ll be facing in the next six months or so, she says. Whether it’s a summer vacation, back-to-school time or the holidays that are a particular challenge, “it’s important to have a ‘Plan B,’” she says. “Stuff happens. You want to make the best of the situation.”

On summer vacation, for example, “Have that pina colada, but enjoy hiking, going for long walks and experiencing where you are,” she says. On one family vacation, for example, she indulged in a pina colada — and even an order of French fries. But she also enjoyed lots of fresh seafood and took classes at a local yoga studio. “It’s all about balance,” she says.

So here’s my final weight-loss log:

Weigh-in number one: 147.0 (my starting weight)

Weigh-in number two: 144.6 (lost 2.4 pounds total)

Weigh-in number three: 139.0 (lost 8 pounds total)

Weigh-in number four: 135.6 (lost 11.4 pounds total)

Weigh-in number five: 134.4 (lost 12.6 pounds total)

Weigh-in number six: 131.2 (lost 15.8 pounds!)

Yep, it’s the end. And the beginning, as I keep swigging the water, making healthier food choices and keeping my girlfriends close by for support (and entertainment!) as we all pull on our walking shoes (or e-mail each other from our treadmills) and head down the road together. Why not grab your friends and join us?

Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist specializing in family health issues. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Woman’s Day and many other publications. Visit her parenting blog, Parent Talk Today, at www.ParentTalkToday.com.