I’ve battled obesity for most of my life. It’s in the genes, I guess. And the puffy Cheetos. And the spicy Thai curries.

When I was in my mid-20s, I lost 30 pounds. I looked great but I didn’t feel great. The secret to my weight-loss success? To eat only one meal a day and fill in the rest of the hours I was awake with cigarettes and Diet Coke. It worked. I was thin. But I also began to resemble three of Snow White’s least desirable dwarves: Dizzy, Smoky, and Sickly. Those guys are killjoys.

The rest of my 20s saw me gain that 30 pounds back and more. So, at the tail end of my 20s, I tried hypnosis and nutrition classes. That worked too and I dropped 30 pounds again. But I put it all back on when I fell in love.

I was skinny-ish. He adored me. And, together, we adored food. We eventually married, he loved me for who I was, and I stopped worrying about my weight. I didn’t care when I gained more.

But now, due to a number of factors, the least of which is that I’m in my (early–ahem!) 40s and I’m not getting any younger, something really important FINALLY clicked.

My life is a happy one. But recent personal and emotional challenges led me to re-evaluate just about everything in my life. My realization is that I’ve gotten lazy over the years. I’ve become completely complacent. I’ve let things go: my health, my weight, my ability to learn new things and take pleasure in sharing those things with others. I wasn’t living my happy life to the fullest.

So I started making little changes. Four weeks ago I decided I would go to the gym at least 3-5 times per week.

The week after that I started using a free app called Lose It to track my exercise and food.

Last week I actually cooked. Wait. I’ll let that sink in. I COOKED. And the process, while still stressful, was (sort of) enjoyable (The food? Very enjoyable.). And, I bought a fashion magazine. Maybe one day I’ll wear cute clothes and develop a sense of what looks good on my body.

This weekend when I got on the scale I saw that I’d lost seven pounds. In less than a month! I’ve slowly worked my way up to doing an hour on the elliptical at the gym. It was just like I’d always heard: eat less, move more. It actually works. So simple, yet it took me 41 years to believe it and see it in action.

I don’t have lofty goals of becoming a size 6. I’m a big girl with hearty Irish bones and I’m not built to be petite. But I would like to lose a healthy amount of weight and keep it off. I’d like to feel good about the way I look. I’d like to enjoy the clothes I wear. I’d like not to feel like I’m 90 years old when I get out of bed each day. I’d like to climb the stairs in my house without getting out of breath. And, especially, I’d like to stay active to enjoy walking, biking, and playing with my kids to teach them what a healthy, active life looks like.

After nearly a month of changing my habits, those reasonable goals are in sight. I feel better than I have in years. And I’m excited about the quality of my years to come.