By Gary Suwannarat as told to Diana Vilibert
September 28, 2010

Last April, I decided it was time for a lifestyle reset. Maintaining my weight seemed nearly impossible, and slowly but surely, my go-to clothes all seemed to have elastic waistbands and lots of stretch.

After an emergency appendectomy, however, I knew something needed to happen. I've always been active, but my workout routine was unstructured-I walked 20 to 45 minutes a day and did some weight training here and there as an afterthought. And it had been decades since I counted calories.

I needed a systematic plan that would set me on course for the next 30 years-losing weight, maintaining strength and improving flexibility, while eating healthy food that doesn't taste like cardboard.

I'd never considered an online training program, but I decided to try it out-I used SHAPE's Virtual Trainer-and input my measurements. The results revealed that I wasn't an hourglass, an apple, or a pear-I was a tree trunk! I had a long way to go. It's been two months, and I've been sticking to it. Along the way, I've discovered some major benefits of an online program-beyond losing inches and pounds. Here are the top three things that made it easy for me to stay on track:

1. Online Training Benefit #1: Tracking calories is simple online…and no math!

I knew that consistently tracking my food and workouts would help me figure out what changes I needed to make, so I started signing in to the Virtual Trainer every day to input how many calories I consumed and burned. Simply typing in my information was so much easier than carrying around a food journal all day. Plus, it did all the math for me!

2. Online Training Benefit #2: It's easy to adjust for setbacks

Two weeks into the program, I pushed myself too hard and end up at an orthopedist for knee pain. Then just when I thought it was getting better, I tripped over my laptop plug and end up with leg spasms-and in physical therapy. I couldn't exercise for two weeks, but instead of throwing in the towel, I logged in and simply adjusted my daily calorie needs accordingly, so it was easy to figure out a diet based on my lowered activity level.

3. Online Training Benefit #3: There's a built-in support group

As I've worked to overcome my knee problems, my online circle of friends has been very supportive and helpful. Shape's Virtual Trainer has a "virtual" community were we can talk to and support each other. I'm 62, and while I initially thought I was too old for the online fitness world, I realized that age didn't matter in the virtual community.

It's been eight weeks since I signed up for Virtual Trainer, and I've already lost five pounds and two inches off my waist. I can zip up skirts and pants I haven't worn in years! I love the compliments I get from my family, and I even inspired my husband to get healthier and drop weight.

But above all, the program has helped me take the necessary steps to re-set my diet and exercise routines so I'll stay fit and healthy for the next 30 years-and that's been the biggest reward!