A Jackpot within Reach

I tried and tried. Oh, did I try!

I bought nothing but light mayonnaise, skim cottage cheese, low-fat this, reduced-calorie that. I stocked my car with 100-calorie snack packs to ward off post-work hunger. I switched to healthier, whole-wheat pasta and bread. I bought diet books and tried to follow my magazines' eating plans. I even joined a gym!

It didn't matter. My weight, which had been inching upwards all through college, shot up dramatically. I gained more than 20 pounds in less than two years!

My lack of success fueled my stress levels, already high from simultaneously working and studying full time. Disappointed, I often gave up attempts to "diet" when I didn't see significant results, and then I drowned my sorrows in tortilla chips. Plus, I had poor sleeping habits, leading to a serious energy deficit at the end of each day. I coped with that by getting takeout and bingeing on energizing snacks.

Hey, what else could I do with the life I was given, right?

I figured it was impossible for me to lose weight and keep it off. I figured, dejectedly, that it was simply my destiny to be an overweight person. I worried about the deadly cardiac problems that might strike me, but I figured I was powerless to prevent them, the way things were going. I wondered if I might even face diabetes someday like millions of other Americans. Unsurprisingly, I also fretted over the way I bulged out of almost all of my clothes. Even with a crash diet, I barely squeezed into my own wedding dress.

After the honeymoon, I decided I needed to find out what was holding me back when so many others seemed capable of success. I researched healthy-eating and weight-loss strategies on the Internet. I brainstormed ways to incorporate more low-cal veggies into my diet. I purchased software that would give me nutritional information for nearly food imaginable and would track both my weight and calorie intake.

At the same time, I was facing a budget crunch. We were spending the year in Europe on a research grant, so we were faced with getting paid in the tumbling American dollar while having to buy food at European prices. I discovered the joys of meal planning, and I realized this strategizing could help my health goals as well as my pocketbook. Armed with information and newly acquired skills, I felt ready to make the permanent lifestyle change that leads to weight-loss success.

And it did.

I won't claim to have lost massive amounts of weight. Life certainly gets in the way sometimes: Vacationing in Munich led to meal after heavy meal of meat and potatoes, and it seems that nutritional labeling is optional for Eastern European processed foods. But even when you don't know what you're eating and you can't find (or even identify) whole-wheat bread at the grocery store, you can still lose weight and still stay on a healthy track. I may not have lost 50 pounds, but I have managed to undo the damage of the two years prior to my wedding. That feels good.

Pennies & Pounds will lead you through the journey I took from clueless to clued-in. You think you don't have time for your health? Consider the content here as your shortcut the strategies it took me months to research. Pennies & Pounds will share the information and ideas that convinced me that being overweight or obese is no one's destiny.

So I say to you: Don't buy into the idea that you're stuck with the size and the health stats you sport and that there's nothing you can do about it. Too much weight is a serious health problem that is possible -- and worth it -- to solve.

It's not as hard as you think. For one thing, you probably are doing some things right already, just like I was. Pat yourself on the back and keep it up! Pennies & Pounds will discuss these healthy habits and introduce you to others that will contribute to your success. Many are inspired by my research, but others stem from what I've learned through the mistakes I've made along the way.

We're talking habits here, though -- keep in mind that healthy habits are just that. They aren't magic tricks that will allow you to wake up a week from now 10 pounds lighter. Realistic expectations will keep you on track and keep you away from the disappointment that's the only result when you listen to supernatural-sounding advice. The site will also post reviews of books and other products that claim to help for people trying to get healthy. We'll separate the solid choices from those that offer a magical, change-free faux solution.

If you're at all like I was, then your problems are coming from not realizing how you are sabotaging your healthy efforts and thus holding yourself back from the health and size results you want.

For example: Consider Triscuits. I have always loved those woven-wheat crackers. Crunchy, salty, yum! And hey, they're made with whole grain! Sounds like a great healthy snack, right? Maybe -- if you're willing to eat only one serving. Of seven crackers. Seven! That means each cracker has about 20 calories. That's twice as many per piece as potato chips. Eat 10 crackers as a snack? There's 200 calories down the drain. Sit in front of the TV with the box? Probably a good deal more than 200 calories.

Pennies & Pounds will teach you about strategies such as keeping a food diary and planning meals that will help you find and nail your diet's problem areas.

There is hope for achieving a healthy lifestyle. Not only do you have the benefit of your own smarts applied correctly, but research into healthy eating happens all the time. The site will track and provide links to articles elsewhere that inform and inspire.

Losing weight and regaining your health is a long process, but it is possible, practical, and utterly doable. If I can do it, and millions of other can do it, then you, too, can learn to make a permanent lifestyle change that will make you feel better with each passing day, not worse. Don't lose hope, and don't give up! Pennies & Pounds is here to help.

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