Today my husband gave me the gift, as a Mother’s Day present, of shopping for my new body: it’s been almost a year (in two weeks) since I changed my lifestyle. Last year at this time I went to the mall to buy new jeans because I had just jumped to a size 12 and was continuing to climb. Today at the same store, I bought sizes 0 and 2. Counting calories every day and exercise makes a difference. I started at 162.5 pounds on a 5 foot 3 inch body. Today after my run I weighed in at 118.9. (Yes, I plan to stop…I have been experimenting with maintenance calories and have been bouncing around 120 for the past week and a half).

I actually cried tears of joy and relief in the dressing room because it finally hit me that I have set my burden all the way down. Changing my lifestyle, mourning the loss of  food-centric hobbies that were once my comfort and partly my identity, and recalculating my mindset has not been easy, but even I was not fully aware of how much work this has represented—until this afternoon, when it hit me right in the gut. For so many years among my first thoughts waking up were how bothered I felt in my own skin and guilt that I was not in control of my health.

Today I feel all the way free from my own oppression. Nothing tastes as good as this freedom feels. People used to say that, and I never quite believed them. After all, I thought, what could be better than the French sauces and yeasty honey and mascarpone buns that I loved to make? What could feel better than baking with my kiddos? What could be a better expression of love than several thousands of calories spread out on a table for family and friends? But today I believe them. Food is a transient experience—it is in the mouth, and then gone, and possibly doing good or harm to our bodies, depending; taste buds can be reprogrammed; we can take pleasure in giving our bodies nutritious fuel and sparing fuel. The art of eating 1200 calories or so a day is in itself an aesthetic experience.

Yes, part of my journey has been about vanity, but moreso this has represented gaining control over my life, my health, my sense of self. I will take a final accounting of the process when I hit my first year anniversary of my quest for freedom (June 1st). But for now I feel: free. If I can do it, then anyone can. I remember being at this spot last year and feeling absolutely overwhelmed. I decided to trust in the math of it, in the process of exercise, and in myself. Counting calories without excuse and exercising daily truly works. It’s so simple and so hard all at the same time.

Today I celebrate my freedom but am also humbled by it. I know how many years I was tormented by having no sense of power over my weight. Freedom, finally.