How long have you been dieting? 
That depends on when you start counting. I've probably been dieting, off and on, since I was maybe 16 years old. I lost "big" weight for the first time when I was about 24, feeling down and totally sedentary. Something "clicked" and I started making slow changes. I didn't follow any plan but I spent a year losing about 70 pounds. I kept it off for a year or so and then, over the next several years I slowly put that weight back on and eventually weighed even more than when I started. In 2007 my current story began…

What led you to join Weight Watchers?
It was a series of events that began when I got pregnant, freaked out, and got into therapy.  I ended up having a miscarriage but stayed in therapy. In short, therapy led to a desire to start living again, rather than merely existing. I was so desperate for change that I went to my doctor hoping she'd recommend gastric bypass surgery. Instead, she recommended Weight Watchers. Thank goodness for that. I joined Weight Watchers in 2007 at 233.8 pounds.

What advice do you have for someone just getting started?

1.  Never give up.  2.  Follow your motivation.  3.  Tread water when you need to. 

1.  On never giving up…Commitment is primary. You have to draw a line in the sand, stand up, tell yourself that you don't know what the future holds but from here on out things will be different. Not perfect, but different. Making a commitment to not give up, under any circumstances, is key. This journey is about maintaining weight loss, not losing weight. If you lose weight and regain it, you've won the battle but lost the war. Write down your goals.  

2.  On following your motivation… Ask yourself what you are motivated to do and do that. When I started WW in 2007 the only thing I was motivated to do was go to meetings. So that's all I committed to. No exercise, no plan following, just go to the meetings. Soon the motivation to do more arrived and I started following the plan. Still no exercise. Eventually that motivation came too. Motivation is like riding your bike down a hill, everything is easier when you're motivated. Ride that whenever you can. But motivation comes and goes so….

3.  On treading water when you need to…There will be times when you're not into it, when you don't care, when chocolate and the couch feel like more of a priority than anything else in your life. It's ok. Ride those times out. Remind yourself that your drive will come back. During these periods the key is to maintain your progress, to not go backwards. View weight maintenance as a success. When your fire comes back, and it will, you want to be ready to pounce. Recognizing "down" periods (what I call a slump) in your journey and hanging on for dear life to the progress you've made so far – well, that goes back to #1 – NEVER GIVE UP!   

There's so much more I could say – stop judging yourself (and others), make reasonable goals, ask yourself what you *really* want, write down your goals, your reasons for wanting to change, surround yourself with motivation (subscribe to fitness mags, read motivational books, invest in the clothes/gear for exercise), focus on establishing new habits instead of weight loss, eventually find exercise you love (walking, swimming, zumba – keep looking until you find it), take one step at a time, change your behaviors, change your thoughts and your weight will change. 

What is your goal weight?
Right now it's 145, at 145 I'm a size 4/6. I sometimes fantasize about 135 but in the back of my head I suspect that's not a reasonable weight for me to maintain. Though I'm wondering who lives in the back of my head and what she knows anyway. In any case, I want to maintain 145 for a while before I consider a change in my goal weight. 

Update: By the time I got to 145 I'd learned that you don't choose your goal weight, it chooses you. The deal is simple, you eat a reasonable diet, one that is healthy, balanced, and is livable, you exercise a reasonable amount, and the weight your body settles at when you're doing that...that's your goal weight. If you have a desire to lose more weight, and can cut more food, or exercise more, and know you'll be happy and can sustain doing that, then do it. If not, you've arrived.

How long did it take for you lose x amount of weight?
It takes as long as it takes. If you are asking this question you need to examine why you are making a change in your life and how you plan to accomplish your goals. It's not about time. It's about lifelong changes. If it takes 1, 2, 3+ years it doesn't matter. IT DOESN'T MATTER. The point is to change, not to lose weight. As I said, focus on thought/behavior changes and let the weight come off as a result.
What was your highest/lowest weight?
My highest weight ever was 233.8 in February 2007. With the help of Weight Watchers and exercise, I got down to 158.8 in July 2008. I had to stop weighing in and "dieting" because I was pregnant. Long story short I got back up to 199 after having two babies in as many years and falling mostly off the wagon for a few years. My lowest weight was around 134.8. I hit that in my first year of maintenance when my body was still adjusting.

How do you stay motivated?
First thing – motivation comes and goes. I am not motivated all the time. Riding out those times of low or no motivation is key to this journey. The main thing that motivates me is remembering that I am on this journey, making these changes, living this new life because I want to. I think we fall into this trap of viewing diet/exercise as a "should". It's as if we start believing some outside force is making us diet, is depriving us of that brownie, or we're being forced to go for a run. I remind myself that it's all coming from inside of me. I want to change, I want a different life, I want to be an active mom, I want to feel good when I get dressed in the morning. Me, me, me and nothing else. I even use this reminder when I'm on a run or out on the bike and the going gets tough. This is what I want, I am doing this for fun – those are the kinds of things I tell myself.

Also, surround yourself with motivating cues. Subscribe to fitness/health oriented magazines, "like" a bunch of fitness pages on Facebook (like mine!) so your feed is filled with motivating cues. Search out people and places that represent what you want. Try new things! Take a new class or try a new form of exercise. And never, ever, ever stay on a machine for 45 minutes. Ok, that last bit is my thing. I have learned boredom is not necessary, but I know some people find the monotony relaxing. Also, try new food. Been eating the same thing for breakfast for 6 months? Try a new recipe, get ideas from friends or make something from one of those fitness magazines. 

Finally, the internet is filled with forums for support. Getting support is important. Especially if you don't have it at home. Don't use the lack of support as an excuse, get it somewhere else. Join an online forum where people are doing what you want to do. Go to WW meetings, find some new, active friends. Wherever you have to go to get support, do it. And be open to it. Getting support is also acknowledging that others have something very important to offer you and that you are worthy of their time and energy.

What's your exercise routine like?
Right now I am exercising 5 days a week for about an hour. I do 25-30 minutes of cardio (bike or run), followed by strength training, core work and stretching. Don't neglect weight training. I like to say that cardio is an investment in your weight loss/maintenance for that moment and a few hours afterward, strength training is an investment in your weight loss/maintenance 24/7. For a detailed breakdown of my exercise routine click here.

Do I have to exercise?
No, you don't have to. But it's a lot of fun so why not?? Seriously – I didn't always feel this way. When I started exercising in November 2007 (9 months after I started WW) I couldn't walk briskly for 5 minutes. Yes, really. I started doing Couch to 5k and Week 1 starts with a brisk 5 minute warm-up walk. Couldn't do it. I had to build up to the warm-up. Start where you are. Do what you can. Find what you enjoy. And above all, work on those negative thoughts about exercise. Stop telling yourself you don't like it, stop *making* yourself go and start telling yourself you want it. Change your thoughts so you can change your attitude. If it's always a struggle you will give up because no one wants to struggle forever. All positive thoughts about exercise – seriously, it works. And remember, it will get easier and become more enjoyable as you get some of that weight off. It's hard as hell to walk/bike/move with extra weight on. Hang in there, it gets better!

How often do you weigh yourself?

The simple answer is, once a week. I believe the scale should be used in moderation. It's a dangerous tool, really. I blogged about the lies scales tell here. That said, I have been known to "cheat" and weigh myself mid-week as a means of "checking in" on my progress.  But please, please, if I tell you nothing else about the scale know this - it is NOT the only measure of progress. It is ONE small piece of information that MUST be taken in context.

Update: I've changed my position on this. I'm now a believer in daily or near-daily weighing. But only if you've broken the emotional hold the scale has on you. Ironically, I think daily weighing can help break that hold. It's a number, it's a piece of information, it's not a verdict or a sentence.

What gadgets do you use?
I love gadgets. I wear a heart rate monitor to the gym - a Polar f4 that records my heart rate, calories burned, etc. At the end of a workout it's fun to see how many calories I've burned and really fun to see my heart rate while I'm exercising. Sometimes I feel like I'm really pushing myself but my heart rate doesn't reflect it. Other times I feel like something is "easy" and my heart rate is high. It's mostly for fun though some people use their heart rate "zones" for training.

On the bike I use a Garmin Edge 305. I like to see how fast I'm going, my cadence, distance, etc.
On my run I use a Garmin Forerunner 210. Great for managing my pace and making sure I'm not going out too fast. Gadgets just make it all more fun for me and especially help for blogging about my success. 

Will you link to my blog?
As long as it's resonates with me, sure. Just send me the link.

How do you have time to exercise with two small kids, a full time job, household, husband, etc? 
Priorities. I will be the first to admit that it's hard. I have had internal struggles with walking out the door to the gym while my kids chase after me, tears, arms outstretched, saying "mommy don't goooooo!" That is not easy. But I do it. And 95% of the time it's without tearful dramatics. I remind myself why I'm doing this, and in part it is for them. I am a better mother, more fun, more energetic, less stressed, when I am fit. I know they don't get it yet but I know they benefit from it. So I prioritize. What's more important, staying home for bedtime with the kids or the gym? The gym. I have to put the gym up top. It's that old oxygen mask story. On a plane they say, "if traveling with small children put your oxygen mask on first, then theirs."  Goes against our instincts but the reality is, if I'm not well, nothing much else will work either. And most of the time I don't miss bedtime since I go to the gym right after work. It means the kids are in preschool for an extra hour at the end of the day. It also means mommy doesn't have to take Valium so I think it's worth it.

Work with your schedule and do what you can. Research shows that even a small amount of activity can lead to big health improvements. If you have less time, up the intensity. Don't get into rigid ideas (like I had a bad habit of doing) about what "counts" as exercise. Wear a heart rate monitor that tracks calories burned and you might be surprised. I do things like go to the gym after the kids go to bed or get up for a 5:30am boot camp so I'm done before they wake up. Find the desire and you will find the time. 

What kind of bikes do you have?
I have a Specialized Ruby Elite road bike and a Marin Hawk Hill mountain bike. These were pre-kids purchases, back when I had disposable income. I'm glad I invested in good equipment back then. And if you spend any time on a bike, get some padded cycling shorts. 

Have a question I didn't answer here?