11/08/2010 02:25 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How I Gained Control Over My Food Addiction

You had me at "Parmigiano Reggiano."

Usually, when I heard those magic words, willpower went out the window and I would very casually just stop in my neighborhood grocery store and get myself a chunk. It didn't matter if I were on my way home from work, on my way to the gym or just because it was Tuesday. It was my drug of choice and I was its victim.

And on most of those occasions, I wasn't hungry. It was one of those trigger foods, that just said, "I've got you now. I know you want it. I'm here to comfort you." Of course, I could have controlled it if I wanted to. But then that would have meant taking charge and making a tough decision. It was just easier to buy a wedge, break off a few chunks and nibble away.

Let me stop you now if you think I'm going to regale you with my favorite Parmigano Reggiano recipes. I use the parm scenario as a metaphor for what was going on in my life and my life long struggle with my weight. While I would be a regular at the gym, except when I wasn't, and genuinely ate pretty healthy (no fried food, no pop, no stashes of chocolate in my desk), I gave myself plenty of allowances during meals. "Yes, I'll have more bread," I'd say. "That's a big bowl of linguine," I'd tell the lunch server. "OK, well, since it's already in the bowl, I'll take it. I'm sure I won't be able to finish it."

Food was my friend. Food was the barrier that kept me from putting myself out there in the dating scene. I didn't want to risk rejection. And parm was one of those things that just kept me there, as did plenty of bagels, and scones, and pasta and wine. I simply ate too much. That was then.

In September 2008, everything changed. I'd had enough. I made up my mind, again, that this was going to be it. I enlisted the help of a trainer at my gym, Eric, who had a program where he weighed and measured me every week, gave me daily workouts and made me write down everything I ate. During our first meeting, I stepped on the scale in his office, gasped at the number it read and realized that the jig was up. I sat there and cried for about five minutes. I didn't want sympathy and he didn't give me any. Instead, he said, "We're going to use this for motivation!"

And I did! All meals were balanced and measured. I was militant. I was my own drill sergeant. And you know what this meant: no more parm binges. In fact, I didn't touch it until I went home for Christmas. And I didn't even miss it. I followed Eric's workouts, we weighed in and trained on Saturdays and I was starting to discover a new world. The only tears shed in that office came with high-fives and yahoos! Even when the scale didn't move, the inches did.

I was at the gym five, sometimes six, days a week. I would walk on the treadmill up to the highest incline level, spend 30 minutes on the bike, increasing resistance every five minutes, go to rebounding classes, lift lots and lots of weights and do plenty of pushups.

By February, 2009, I was down 45 pounds and 20 inches, not to mention a few pants sizes. Now, at age 46, I'm an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and my goal is to make an impact on someone else's life just as Eric did on mine. I hope this blog is one way I can do that. You'll see that at any age, at any weight, at any stage of "I give up," it's possible! I was there! I love to eat! I still love to eat! I just don't do it in such large quantities anymore. Food is no longer my best friend. It doesn't control me. I am in control.

See, when you make up your mind to change your life and you start seeing results, nothing gets in your way, not even a company dinner with an open bar, three courses and dessert (and it was cheesecake). But I didn't do it alone. Eric was always there for motivation and I had a vast support system of friends and colleagues. Their cheerleading kept me going. And then you just hit the point of no return.

By May of 2009, for the first time in my life, I looked forward to swimsuit shopping. I know I'm not breaking any new ground here. Everyone knows that if you eat less and exercise more, you'll get results. Actually doing it is something else. It really is a change in the way you live your life. But that's a good thing! I realized soon enough that I didn't want to go back to that other way of living. You're different. Everything is new. All that was familiar has changed and it's frightening. Your face changes, you start to see toned arms and it's exhilarating and scary as hell at the same time. You just dig deep and deal and you don't reach for the parm! Success is intoxicating and you welcome other challenges. That becomes your new addiction.