It’s Week Three of my Back to School diet and I just finished a bowl of shredded wheat for breakfast. How hungry am I right now? Pretty damn hungry. But I can look into my empty bowl and see that victory is coming.

This effort to lose weight is to get rid of 10 solid pounds that crept on me over the summer. Even though I’d been telling myself I was mostly eating vegetables, it turns out they were accompanied by a lot of meat and cheese and bread. For a while, I rode with it, enjoying myself so much. I ordered dessert at restaurants. I baked zucchini bread and spread the still-warm slices with butter. I ate pasta with fresh tomatoes and Parmesan. I made ribs and slathered them in sauce.

It was, I’ll admit, a very good time. But when my stepdaughter Gabrielle went back to school, I realized it was time to also get back to reality. For the first time in months, I stepped on the scale and realized, no, I hadn’t gotten away with my indulgence. And when I tried to put on a pair of jeans, they bluntly confirmed it.

So, for the past three weeks, it’s been cucumber slices and salt for my snack, a big biscuit of shredded wheat for breakfast and a sandwich (no mayo, lots of lettuce, a little meat) for lunch. At night, I let loose a little, but I don’t have seconds. And I don’t sneak chocolate chips for dessert either though I really, really want to.

At first, it was painful. I opened the fridge door and just stared at the extra-sharp cheddar we’ve got in the cheese drawer. How delicious would that taste melted over some Triscuits or in a grilled-cheese sandwich fried up in butter? For a while, even the buttermilk looked good to me and I imagine tilting up that bottle to my lips and taking a tangy swig. At every minute, my stomach grumbled unhappily at me, and all I could think about was what I wasn’t allowed to have anymore.

But then Week One passed with me 2 pounds lighter and I started having more energy. Luckily, one of my best girlfriends is on maternity leave and she is keen on getting the baby weight off in a hurry. So we’ve been walking and running together almost every morning and I imagine that even though my stomach isn’t happy with me, my muscles are.

I had a weak moment last Saturday when all of my in-laws were seated around having Dairy Queen burgers, fries and hot fudge sundaes, but I sucked on my cup of ice water and told myself that if you drink enough water, your stomach gets tricked into thinking it’s full. Of course, that didn’t happen, but I was at least able to avoid grabbing the burger out of my nephew’s hands and chomping down.

And now I’m into Week Three. It’s amazing that only 16 days have passed since this started because my outlook has changed dramatically. Now, I can blithely avoid the cheese drawer like it doesn’t exist. My husband asked me last night if I wanted seconds while he was going to get some more lamb curry and I was sincerely just not hungry anymore. My running has gotten smoother and faster and I’ve signed up for two half-marathons in November. And this morning, I listened to a segment on NPR about how tortellini is made and didn’t pass out.

In my columns, I always talk about the agony that comes with dieting, but I never talk about the second part — the sweet spot when you start to see results. Now, I am 5 pounds lighter and have 5 to go. It may all be in my head, but I feel like I can tell a difference. I don’t need to suck in my belly as much. When I get weak, I go into the closet rather than the kitchen and try on clothes that hadn’t been fitting right. And, most importantly, that guilty voice in my head, the one that pops up when I’m deeply dedicated to eating a pan of brownies, is gone. I don’t need to worry about my weight, because I’m in control of my appetite. It’s not in control of me.

My goal now is to get to my wedding weight and keep it there at least until Christmas. Will I keep it off forever? I love food way too much to deprive myself like that. But at least I know that if and when the pounds pile back on, I’ll have this document to remind myself that Week Three is always there waiting for me.

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