As I was growing up, food always had a stronger pull on me than anyone else in my family. For years, I had maintained a fairly “normal” weight range, but it was only through countless new diets inbetween periods of weight gains. I was your typical yo-yoer. The battle raged on for years until, by my 40th birthday, it was clear I was losing the war. I weighed 347 pounds.

I had all the wounds of one in a battle — bruises on the outside of my thighs from sitting in chairs with arms that were too small. Stretch marks across nearly every inch of my unexposed body. Flat feet. Not to mention a bruised heart and tired spirit. By 347 pounds, my morale was at an all-time low.

Nearly every day of my life has been spent in battle. If I wasn’t eating, I was thinking about what I was going to eat, purchase or prepare ... or I was thinking about how big I was getting, how few clothes fit me, or what I was going to try next to lose weight. It was a mental prison that consumed me. The chains had grown so large and tight that I nearly gave up, believing I would never overcome this bondage. The enemy seemed so strong. The battle seemed never ending.

But I didn’t surrender. Just at the time it seemed I would lose everything to food, I tried again. One more time. One more diet. I revamped my forces and gave it my all ... and won! As my tactics changed, so did my progress ... so did my morale. Here is an abbreviated list of the factors affecting military morale. They are so applicable to weight loss!

• Are you planning each day?

• Are you following a quality program?

• Are you part of a positive support group?

• Do you believe in yourself?

• Are you focusing on small steps forward each day?

Don’t believe for a minute that the best thing about my 212 pound weight loss was my smaller size or my more stylish clothes. It wasn’t having one size in my closet or being able to buckle up in a car or cross my legs or tuck my shirt into my jeans or wear over-the-counter jewelry without extenders. It wasn’t even all the health benefits (although that’s a close second).

For me the best part of the whole victory is the mental, emotional and spiritual freedom. I love not being controlled by food. It’s not the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. I no longer fantasize about it or calculate who’s going to get the largest piece of cake. Food is part of my life, but it is no longer my life.

All freedom comes at a price. But in most cases the victories that are gained far outweigh the sacrifices that are made. So it is with food.

If you struggle with weight, don’t surrender! No matter how much, no matter how long, the only way you’ll never lose weight is if you stop trying.

Kim Bensen, author of Finally Thin, was a lifetime yo-yo dieter who lost 200+ pounds and has kept it off for more than 10 years. She owns the Kim Bensen Weight Loss Center and just opened Kim’s Light Café and Smoothie Bar at 405 Bridgeport Ave., in Shelton. For more information, tips and recipes, go visit kimbensen.com.