A journey of a thousand miles ...

This photo was taken several months ago during my second or third lame attempt at getting back into shape A.B. (after baby). I e-mailed the photo to my friend, Laura Morgan of LoCo Boot Camp, with a single line, "I took my one hour today."

Laura and I came up with that marketing concept — "Did you get your one hour?" — when we were thinking of ways to inspire busy moms and dads whose days are filled with taking care of everyone else but themselves. The idea is that everyone should be able to find a single hour in the day for themselves.

Little did I know that question would haunt me for months to come. Every time I talked to Laura or e-mailed her, she would ask, "Did you get your one hour?" She would listen as I bemoaned the piles of work before me or the most recent illness I contracted or the baby teething. She would wait until I finished complaining and say, "You need your one hour."

Boy, was she right.

Since my last blog post, which I affectionately call the "fat" blog, I have been busy with work, baby, husband, pets and, best of all, myself! I have only missed a few days of going to the gym or working out at home. I have stuck to a portion-controlled, balanced diet. In short, I've been working hard at changing my life.

And I feel fantastic.

I have more energy than I have had in a long time. My clothes are starting to feel different. My face has thinned out. I'm in a better mood. But, most of all, I found myself again. Somewhere between a whirlwind of e-mail exchanges and a throng of dirty diapers, I forgot about me.

Have I reached my goal? No. In fact, I'm just getting started.

But here is what I've learned on my journey so far:

There is only one goal: Change your life

Losing weight, getting into shape and eating better is not about fitting into that slinky dress or your skinny jeans. It's a lifestyle change, and for it to work right, it will take time to see results.

This week, I met with Holly Mlodzinski, clinical nutritional manager at Hilton Head Hospital. She told me something very interesting. If you're trying to lose weight, you should lose 20 percent of the body weight you have accumulated in 6 months.

"Don't be discouraged," she said. "You will still be losing weight, but losing it steadily."

Own every pound

Throw out the scale. Right now. Get up from the computer and put it in on the highest shelf in your closet. Stick to a well-balanced diet and an exercise regimen for eight weeks before stepping on the scale. It will take about that long to notice significant changes in your weight. If you're adding resistance training to your cardio workouts, you're gaining muscle, which is heavier than fat.

Several years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight, around 60 pounds (which I just realized is about how much my dog weighs). I would workout for weeks and the scale would hover at the same three numbers. Then, one day, as I was getting ready for work, I put on a blouse, expecting it to uncomfortably hug my body as it always had. This time, it hung on me like a pup tent. I was so excited, I yelled for my roommate to see.

Do not get hung up by what a scale tells you. A number does not define you. The way you feel (your mood combined with your energy levels) and how your clothes fit are true testaments to your weight loss progress.

Own every pound. I put on the weight with every Quarterpounder with cheese meal from McDonald's I scarfed down and every hour I sat in front of the television. And I will own every pound I lose!

Arm yourself with knowledge

I did not know what and how to eat. I'm from a meat-and-potatoes, Midwestern town. When I lost weight years ago, I ate chicken, broccoli and frozen Lean Cuisine meals. Over the years, I have made some foodie friends, who taught me how to cook and introduced me to new foods, and I've come across some great cookbooks for healthy eating.

But last week, I sought out Holly Mlodzinski's expert advice on how to become a healthy pescetarian, someone who eats seafood but excludes other animals. I was interested to find out that a lot of Americans are misinformed that vegetarians lack protein. In fact, a handful of vegetables equals 2 grams of protein, an 8-ounce glass of milk is the same as 8 grams of protein and a half cup of pasta or one slice of bread amounts to 3 grams of protein. Holly told me to be more concerned about sources of iron, and because I still eat seafood, I'm good in that area!

In addition to what you're eating, it's important to watch how you eat. Holly said to lose weight, you should eat six small meals a day. This is a great way to fight cravings and maintain good energy.

"Never go four hours without eating a little something," she said.

I'm still struggling to do this. It's easy to get side-tracked when you're chasing a toddler and working at the same time. But since I've adopted this six small meals rule, I realized how terrible for your body it is to eat until stuffed and how beneficial it is to eat enough to keep you going.

Holly said if you're looking for dietary advice, make sure it comes from reputable resources, such as the American Dietetic Association. Here are some other resources to get your started:

Move

Look at every day with one goal: Thirty minutes of getting your fanny flappin'.

There isn't a quick and easy way to lose weight. It takes work. The Office of the Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Even on days you're feeling tired, do not succumb to the soft cushions of your couch. Hit the gym. Take a walk. Ride your bike. Play tag with your kids. Do a workout video. Just move.

Most personal trainers will tell you to find an accountability partner, a workout buddy or a hard-nosed friend. My friend Natalie, who lives in Columbia, and I call each other nearly every day. We tell each other how long we have worked out and what we've eaten that day. She is a source of encouragement that keeps me going when all I want to do is Facebook and watch "General Hospital." (Don't judge).

I highly recommend Laura's bootcamp classes. The groups of men and women who attend become a tight circle of friends, who are their own source of encouragement.

Nix the negativity

Flashback to last year. I'm trying to start a business in a down economy with a newborn in tow. I avoided mirrors and cameras at all cost. I hated my body. I remember thinking, "I am always going to be fat. There's nothing I can do about it. I just don't have the time."

Don't let negativity have a chance to creep in, because it has a way of taking over. Be realistic. Nothing is permanent. Not even the post-baby pudge hanging from your mid-section.

As you start to lose weight and get happy, the haters come out of the woodwork. They're jealous of what you have accomplished and, most of the time, they're not trying to discourage you as much as they're just tired of their own discouragement. Focus on yourself, because that's the whole point.

If you are significantly over weight, I can promise you four things if you workout and eat right:

  1. You will lose several pounds fast and then plateau;
  2. You will have more energy than you ever have;
  3. You will feel frustrated, even sad at times;
  4. You will have a sense of pride and accomplishment that no one can take away from you.