I’ll begin this column off with a confession: I love, love, love cupcakes.

I see my local cupcake dealer for a fix once a week. I usually buy two – usually a coconut one and a birthday cake one. I eat half of one at night – well, OK sometimes a whole one – after a day of writing and graduate classes at the University of Florida, and after at least 30 to 40 minutes on the stair treadmill at the YMCA.

And I still wear a size six. Depending on the designer and the cut, I can even wear some size fours.

I bring up the cupcake addiction because one truth that I’ve realized, as a middle-aged woman who, like most middle-aged women, is faced with new challenges in maintaining my weight and health, is that moderation and patience, versus deprivation and impatience, is the key to losing weight and, more importantly, keeping it off.

But as a middle-aged black woman who happens to live in an inner-city neighborhood in Jacksonville, I also realize that part of my being able to stay in shape is also because I have the access and privilege to be able to do so.

I can get in my car and drive to supermarkets that are miles away. I can afford to buy fresh fruits and veggies once I’m there. I can afford a YMCA membership – which allows me to exercise at night or in the rain or on freezing or sweltering days. Too many times, that issue gets lost in all the talk and in all the articles about staying in shape.

But first, back to how I got back into a size 6.

In early 2010, I weighed 162 pounds. At only 5’4, that meant I was overweight. Sure, no one would point at me and call me fat – mostly because of how I’m proportioned – but my sluggishness and the fact that my jean size ballooned to 12 meant that I was only a couple of sizes away from buying pants with rubber in the waist.

That would not do. Not at all.

So one of the first things I did was join Weight Watchers. Meetings were being offered at my job, and when I joined, I began to lose weight right away.

I didn’t lose 15 pounds in a month. In a good week, a week in which I skipped the cupcakes and did everything right, I lost two pounds.

But that is the beauty of Weight Watchers. It is designed to be realistic; designed to accommodate people when they go to their child’s birthday party, when they have to cook for Christmas and Thanksgiving, or when they have a week when they can’t shake off their craving for a Five Guys cheeseburger.

Or, like me, for a cupcake.

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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