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What’s also realistic about Weight Watchers is that it encourages patience. That’s important, because in learning how to lose weight and maintain that loss, doing it slow gives you a chance to see what your food weaknesses are and help you find the best way to manage them.

That’s why I don’t believe in things like shakes as meal substitutes. They make you feel deprived – and make you dream about all the fattening food you plan to eat once you’ve lost pounds that will be coming back soon.

But if Weight Watchers is not for you, here are a few tips that help keep me slim in spite of my cupcake jones.

I’m too busy for sit-down breakfasts, but I never skip breakfast. I boil myself two eggs and eat an apple on the way to school. They are dense, low-calorie foods that fill me up until lunchtime, at which time I eat more dense, low-calorie foods: Tuna salad with low-fat mayo or turkey on a sandwich thin and a handful of potato chips.

And another apple.

By dinnertime, I eat something grilled or slow-cooked. My two best friends in making healthy meals ahead of time, or quickly, are a slow cooker and a George Foreman grill. I also eat a big salad.

Later on, I’m ready for my cupcake and an episode of Investigation Discovery.

As I mentioned earlier, many of us have challenges in losing weight and staying in shape because of issues of access and affordability. There are, however, ways to overcome that.

Many YMCAs offer discounts and other opportunities for people of limited means to join. Farmers markets are springing up everywhere, and the fruits and veggies there are way cheaper than the store produce. You can push for lighted tracks at the local high school, or form walking groups for exercise and safety.

Now I’m not a nutritionist, nor am I anyone’s fitness guru. What I am is a 54-year-old woman who went from weighing 162 pounds in 2010 to 132 pounds now through moderation, exercise and by being realistic. I like the way I look, but more importantly, I love the way I feel.

And I love the idea that what I’m doing may help me stay healthy enough to keep enjoying my life – and my cupcakes.

Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her @tonyaajw. Or like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonyaajweathersbee.

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