Like most women, I always put my family's needs ahead of my own…and like most women, I truly don't mind doing so. But it wasn't until I noticed a few extra pounds creeping up on me that I realized I needed to make a change.

Looking back, I was a petite, active child who didn't worry about weight. In fact, weight was never an issue—even in my 20s and 30s. But after having my daughter, Jordyn, I couldn't lose those extra pounds caused by pregnancy.

In addition to Jordyn, who is a special-needs child, my family also consists of my husband, Don, and three stepchildren ranging in age from 14 to 19. I was busy with my family and career, and I wasn't focused on taking care of myself.

To top it off, Don is a great cook, and I hadn't watched my portion sizes for years. I'm 5'4" and weighed 185 pounds. I was getting frustrated buying clothes in sizes ranging from 14/16 to 18/20. In addition, I was being treated for high blood pressure. This made me worry about something happening to me. Who would be here for my family?

This all changed when I received the first edition of the Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook. That's when I realized I could make a few adjustments to my lifestyle and still easily care for my family.

I read the simple diet plan, followed the tips, started drinking more water and paid attention to portion sizes. Best of all, I began preparing family meals from the book. In fact, I started to plan meals more than ever before, making hearty entrees three to four times a week. I then packed up the leftovers for lunch at the office.

Since I don't eat lunch until 1 p.m. and don't get home until almost 7 at night, tasty yet effortless snacks became a lifesaver. Light string cheese, rice cakes and fruit got me through the day without being tempted by vending machines or overindulging in snacks shared by coworkers. In addition, I found that eating a healthy breakfast before leaving for work really helped curb cravings throughout the day…and the Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook has so many delicious breakfast options to choose from!

As I prepared items from the cookbook, I became much more careful about what I bought at the grocery store, too. I learned about cooking with healthy ingredients such as lean ground beef, whole grain pasta and brown rice. Being selective and checking nutrition labels makes grocery shopping take a little more time, but it's worth it.

Tracking how many calories I consumed each day really helped me stick to the Comfort Food Diet plan. Each day I wrote down the calories of everything I ate. Not only did this help me stay on track, but it was easier to resist a high-calorie treat because I didn't want to have to add that item to my daily journal.

I knew that to be successful, I needed to get moving, so I began walking 20 to 30 minutes at lunchtime every day. Once I got into a walking groove, I started to add other exercises to my routine at home twice a week. Taking the stairs at work as often as possible was also a calorie-burning boost. My office is on the third floor, so I had ample opportunities to skip the elevator and hit the stairs.

My biggest challenge was getting through holidays and attending gatherings without overeating. It was also hard to motivate myself in the winter to step outside for a walk. The trick was to not let a little setback get me down or make me fall back to my old ways.

To date I've lost 30 pounds, going from 185 pounds down to 155. I've even been able to reduce the amount of blood pressure medication I take. I have more energy and feel healthier. I buy tops and pants in size 10/12, and I love shopping for clothes now!

Sometimes it's still hard to keep the focus on me and the new healthy elements of my lifestyle, but I try to keep a positive attitude. That helps me stay on track. I'm going to continue to make healthy food choices, work in a little bit more exercise and keep preparing family meals from the Comfort Food Diet Cookbook.

With this book, there's no need to miss out on any of my family-favorite foods. I can still enjoy them while losing weight. It worked for me!