Now that we are in the middle of winter with the cold and snow and long dark nights I think it is a good time to start working on that bathing suit body for summer. And what a perfect time it is too, with such a great assortment of low fat foods and body slimming devices available.

It has been many, many years since I have had the urge to humiliate myself by wearing a bathing suit. I have always felt that some things, like the number of dimples in my thighs, are better to remain a mystery. Now, I’m starting to realize that I’m missing out on a lot of summer fun by sitting on a beach towel in my sweat pants and turtleneck.

I know I will never become a physical fitness nut, but I have made a positive decision to get in shape. I don’t ever expect to be one of the California hard body beauty types, but that’s OK. At my age just controlling some of the sag would be fine. I don’t want to be in a geriatric beauty contest, I just want to be able to put on a bathing suit and stroll along the beach without the whale watch boats coming by.

In an effort to reach this goal, I recently purchased one of those platform step-up exercise programs. This device is nothing more than a solid plastic step that adjusts from a 3-inch level to an 8-inch level and comes with a workout video that instructs you in the fine art of “stepping up.”

When I first saw this in one of the stores, I thought to myself, “Wow, I can do that, anyone can step up and down; it’s so simple.” Simple in theory – yes, simple in practice – no way! Nowhere in the video or the instructions does it tell you that this program requires the same amount of stamina that it takes to run the Boston Marathon. I should have been tipped off by the fact that no one in the video has a single ounce of body fat. In fact, I don’t even know anyone who looks like these people.

A great deal of determination and a strong desire to fit into summer clothes has forced me to keep at it in spite of the passing out. I am proud to say that I can now get through the entire beginners program on the 3-inch level without the oxygen mask.

Once I reached a point without having to call 911, I decided it was time to graduate to the 8-inch level. Let me tell you, 5 inches is all the difference in the world; it might as well be 5 feet. Not only do I pant and wheeze and my legs feel like lead weights with each step, I keep falling off the gosh darn thing. I intend to keep at it on this level in spite of the pain, one step at a time. I am convinced that by mid-summer I will be able to make it all the way through the warm-up.

As well as the exercise thing, I plan to work on the diet thing, too. (I know you’ve all heard that before). I’m going to eat nothing but reduced calorie, reduced fat meals that now flood the frozen food cases at the supermarkets. I’ve eaten some of these frozen dinners before and some of them are pretty darn good. So good in fact, that four or five of them would make a nice meal. Some, on the other hand, are so bad that one meal is more than anyone can eat. There are soups that taste like cardboard, breakfast drinks that taste like chalk and some meals that don’t taste like anything at all.

There are even snack foods for the weight-conscious. I think what makes these OK is not that they are so different from other snack foods, but because they are pre-measured with only five pieces of whatever. For me, having premeasured portions is good because I can’t be trusted with giant economy size packages of anything. I can eat just a little of something like potato chips, and then put them away. But then, just when I think I have control, the package starts calling out to me, “Sharon, I’m here in the cupboard waiting for you, come and get me, I taste sooooo good.” What can I do, the only way to shut it up is to eat it.

I’ve gone through all of this before and I have the exercise equipment to prove it. My exercycle is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I have a shortage of closet space and the handlebars are just right for hanging shirts and blouses. I have a state-of-the-art rowing machine that amuses my grandsons for hours.

Yes, I have been through all of this before, but this time it’s different. I have resolve, I have commitment, I have determination and I have will power.

So, the way I see it, you can just look for me at the beach this summer. I won’t be hard to find; I’ll be the one sitting on a step-up platform wearing the sweat pants and turtleneck drinking a low-fat milkshake.

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