Editor's note: Connie Sievers is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the "Sassy Six" on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 14.
(CNN) -- I am 52 years old.
I was not overweight for the first 32 years of my life. Then the emotional stress of losing my daughter to leukemia caused me to gain 70 pounds.
Over the last 20 years, I have attempted to lose that weight many times, always with the notion that this time I would be perfect. It was all or nothing. When I couldn't maintain perfection, I stopped trying. I felt bad about myself, which led to increased emotional eating and less exercise.
It was a vicious cycle.
This journey is different. I do not consider this an attempt to lose weight but rather to improve my health and become stronger.
This journey is about making lasting changes and understanding that I do not need to be perfect to make those changes. It's about learning to be nice to myself instead of feeling bad when I do not make the best choice.
In my earlier attempts, my only goal was to lose weight. I would start by doing hours and hours of cardio each week. I would follow the prescribed diet perfectly. I always had fantastic results in the first few weeks, but eventually, the weight loss would begin to slow.
I stopped exercising as often, and I started to eat foods not on the prescribed diet plan. This was referred to as "cheating," which only made me feel worse about myself. Being told that I was "cheating" was not helpful; it just reinforced that all or nothing mentality.
So I would eat tons of junk during the first few days of the week and then extremely limit my caloric intake in the days before a weigh-in. I wouldn't drink water on the day of weigh-in so the number on the scale would go down. If I knew I had gained weight that week, I would just skip the meeting.
This journey is different. To have lasting success I must focus on total health. My previous weight loss attempts were sprints. This is a marathon (well, really it's a triathlon!), making lasting changes over the rest of my life. Beating myself up over a bad choice does not need to happen, because making better choices most of the time is what matters.
Better nutritional choices are a part of my journey. I ran across a quote not long ago that said, "Every time we eat, we are either fighting disease or feeding it." As I choose what to eat, I try to reflect upon that quote.
I eat more vegetables, include protein at each meal, and have cut out some of the sugar and non-whole-grain carbs. All of my food choices are not perfect, and that is OK. It is not all or nothing!
Exercise, specifically training for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, is also a part of my journey. Now when I exercise, I am thinking about how I am increasing my athletic ability, endurance and strength. I am not thinking about how this exercise is helping me lose weight, or how many calories I am burning. My form or pace is not perfect, and that is OK.
Our assigned strength training is different than anything I have done before. Some exercises were almost impossible when I first started and remain challenging. I still do not do them with the perfect grace of people in the YouTube videos, and that is OK.
In fact, Coach April tells us that once a strength exercise becomes easy, it is time to add something new. That "new" may include doing it on top of a Bosu ball, doing it on one leg, getting lower, increasing reps, etc. There is always a next challenge.
My new energy, endurance, balance, strength and athletic ability will help me as I get older. My body aches are gone, and the motivation to keep moving comes from the knowledge that I can do so much more now than when I started a few months ago.
The crew at CNN Fit Nation constantly remind us to "keep moving forward." That's what I intend to do.