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emily flake The Globe and Mail

I had been here before. That nagging reality was doing just that - nagging.

I felt unwell. When I looked in the mirror I hated what looked back. And a loop of my own voice kept repeating itself in my head: "How did I get here again?" The cherry on top - those horrendous Facebook pictures from Christmas that said it all. I was fat - again.

My battle with my weight was an old and annoying nemesis. I had taken off 60 pounds through speed walking and weight training back when my daughter was about 4. I managed to keep that weight off for two years or so.

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Here I was 14 years later and those 60 pounds plus who knows how many more had once again taken up residence, especially around my derrière. I started telling myself last year that it was time to "do" something, but fear and insecurity clawed at me.

I remember being a young girl watching my mom. She was everything to me. I hung on every word she said, and her opinions were my opinions. I never thought of her as big, nor did that ugly "F" word ever enter my thoughts when I looked at her. In retrospect she certainly was heavy, but all I remember was that she was beautiful, smart and well put together. I still think that and bless her, she's now 82.

I wondered how my own daughter saw me. She doesn't remember all my work back when she was 4. Now, she was 18 and I really wanted her to be proud of me and the way I looked. I didn't want to be a source of embarrassment.

How effective could I be trying to ensure that she had a positive body image while it was painfully obvious I was neglecting my own? I wondered if she thought of me the same way I had thought of my mother. Did she even care?

It's hard losing weight, especially the getting started part. Am I going to be able to do this? Do I have the strength? That saying about the journey starting with a single step - well that first step scared me. Could I stay away from my soothing late-night snacking? Could I control my portions? Would I get any support from my husband or would I just see that look on his face that said, "Oh, here we go again."

But I knew it wasn't about him or his skepticism. I knew in my gut that health issues were going to raise their collective ugly heads if I didn't do something. After all, as my family was quick to remind me, my 50th birthday was lurking.

I had spoken to my doctor about it some time ago and had asked her if there was something that could "get me started." Who was I kidding? She and I both knew that I was just asking for that mythical magic pill. Anyone who has ever struggled with his or her weight can tell you that.

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The sad part is that while there are pills out there, they're anything but magic. I went back to the doctor and she gave me a prescription. I got it filled then read the fine print. Apparently if I ate a single piece of pizza, I'd get sick - cramping, vomiting, diarrhea. The pills went in the drawer along with my hopes of a quick fix.

The first time I went speed walking this time around, there was no route, pedometer or special clothes - I just went. I didn't have extra money for a gym or a trainer, so having a little comfort in knowing that it had worked before, I decided to try it again.

It was February and cold out but I didn't care. I looked ridiculous I was so bundled up. Correct fitness walking (as some call it) has a definitive form and excess clothing hampers this, but it felt so good just to know that however small the step was, I was doing something again. The proverbial "one day at a time" loomed in my head. My optimism soared.

Weeks went by and I had to look for and start a new job after being let go. Summer holidays came and went and still, I managed to be faithful to the pavement on a regular basis. The route became progressively longer, the clothing more functional. The eating-properly mantra was also working - mostly.

I worked hard and sweated a lot. My daughter looks at me with embarrassment as I swing my arms like any good fitness walker. My husband looks at me and shakes his head and smiles. It's satisfying to hear him tell me that he's proud of me. I think my daughter is proud of me too.

It's now been 17 months and my walks have progressed from 20 minutes to as long as an hour and a half. There have been missteps and roadblocks, more than one pizza binge, even triumph over one big nasty dog that tried to bite me on one of my walks.

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I'm still at it. I've received a lot of feedback and praise from family and friends and while it's great to get compliments, it's really about who I see looking back at me in the mirror now. She's smaller, healthier and, best of all, happier.

Laurie Curley lives in Pickering, Ont.

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