One afternoon I walked by a full-length mirror and was astonished by my reflection: I was overweight and out of shape. When I weighed myself, I saw I was at more than 160 pounds, a 30-pound weight gain in a four-year period. How did this happen to me? I had been thin all my life. I realized that after I got married, I had settled into a comfortable life that included unhealthful food and no exercise.

I wanted to take control of my weight problem before it got worse. My first reaction was to do whatever it took to get the weight off quickly. I tried weight-loss shakes, diet pills and other fad diets; I'd lose 3 or 4 pounds, only to gain them back when I returned to my normal eating habits.

After six months of yo-yo dieting, I wondered, "Why can't I just eat what I want, but less of it?" It made perfect sense. I learned to say no to seconds at dinner and cut down on portion sizes. I also started eating breakfast, something I had never done before.

After a month, I added exercise to my routine. Since there wasn't a gym nearby, I invested in aerobics videos. At first, I was so out of shape that the videos left me exhausted, but I continued exercising. After a few weeks, I mastered them and added new videos to my collection. Soon exercise became a part of my life. It took less than an hour to do, but it gave me so much.

A year into my new lifestyle, I saw an old friend whom I hadn't seen in years. She hardly recognized me and she complimented me on my weight loss. Her comments made me realize how far I had come. I could climb the stairs without huffing and puffing and run to my car without wheezing. I could push back my plate half-eaten and not feel guilty. I decided to be brave and weigh myself for the first time in more than a year. I stepped on the scale and saw it read 145. I had lost 20 pounds. My success motivated me to continue eating healthfully and exercise. I had come so far, I wasn't about to quit now.

Over the next six months, my clothes became baggier on me and I had to buy new ones. My goal was to fit into size 10 jeans. When I put them on, I didn't have to lie on the bed to get the zipper up. They fit! I had reached 130 pounds through dedication and willpower. Losing weight and keeping it off is hard, but worth it. My body isn't perfect, but I feel 100 percent better than I did when I was overweight.