Tapping into a creative passion can be an exhilarating back road to "I can." It was for Jill, who'd always fantasized quitting her day job to write novels. Never could this 49-year-old single accountant have imagined she would write her way to a healthy weight.

Jill had learned to keep her expectations low traveling the superhighway to thin, from Atkins to the Zone. The 275-pound veteran dieter excelled at losing weight; keeping it off was the problem.

After dropping 30 pounds the first 30 weeks of hypnotherapy, which included suggestions for eating more slowly with more enjoyment as well as images of her active ideal self at a comfortable weight, predictably Jill plateaued. She couldn't imagine exercising more or eating less; her regimen was tough enough already. She could imagine the alternate route I suggested: indulging her fantasy of writing by using her struggle with weight as something to write about. Turning her unwelcome dieting way station into a creative opportunity helped Jill get in touch with her real feelings and gave her a new confidence. Writing didn't replace exercising and dieting, but it allowed Jill to reach two elusive goals: to maintain significant weight loss (53 pounds for three years) and be published (at age 50).

"When I get rid of the self-pity and do the math," she wrote, "I'm left with the ineluctable truth that if I take in fewer calories than I burn, I will lose the weight."

Each of these women found a different route in getting to "I can". Asking for directions can help. But the surest way to get there from here is to consult the diet expert who knows you best: you.

Jean Fain is a hypnotherapist who specializes in eating issues. She practices in Concord, Massachusetts.

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