My weight gain started after I left home to attend a yearlong nanny-training course. When I began the term, I weighed 150 pounds, which was healthy for my body type. My friends and I spent our spare time eating and drinking. By the time I finished the course, I had gained 40 pounds. I wore baggy jeans and tops, so it was easy to convince myself that I wasn't as big as I really was.

After I started working as a nanny for two young boys, I picked up the habit of eating the food they left on their plates. After feeding the kids, I ate my own meal - usually an overflowing plate of food. Again, the pounds came on, and I ignored them instead of taking control. Around this time,

I met my future husband, who was athletic and enjoyed mountain biking and running. Many of our dates were outdoor activities, and soon I started running and biking on my own. When we married a year later, I was 15 pounds lighter, but I was still not at the weight I wanted to be because I was snacking too much.

After the wedding, I quit my nanny job, which helped me cut down on mindless eating. My husband and I adopted a puppy, and since he needed to be exercised at least twice a day, I started running with him in addition to biking. I lost another 10 pounds and started feeling better about my body.

When I became pregnant with my first child a year later, I joined a gym to keep my weight under control and build stamina for my labor. I worked out three to four times a week, attending aerobics classes and lifting weights. I gained 40 pounds, giving birth to a healthy baby boy.

Being a stay-at-home mom gave me plenty of opportunities to work out; when my son napped, I hopped on the stationary bike and exercised. Other times, I'd take him to the gym with me and he'd stay in the children's room while I did a step-aerobics class, ran or weight trained. Although I watched my diet and ate healthfully, I never deprived myself of any foods. I threw away my son's leftovers or saved them for his next meal instead of cleaning his plate for him. I reached my goal weight of 145 two years later.

When I became pregnant with my second son, again, I exercised throughout my pregnancy. I returned to my pre-pregnancy weight in less than a year thanks to the healthful habits that had become a part of my life. Being fit and healthy is the best gift I can give my family. When I exercise regularly, I feel happier and have endless energy.