Leilah Reese works out in an attempt to lose 32 pounds before her 32nd birthday. (Rustin Moore/Shoot4.me)

Most would be disappointed, feel like a failure, maybe ready to jump off of the tallest building, but not I. I know exactly where I fell short and where I did my best. I’ve definitely been more mindful of my eating habits, but the gym hasn’t been a place I’ve frequented for several weeks. Instead I’ve been getting the fitness aspect in through modern dance, ballet and belly dance classes. Though strenuous, they aren’t necessarily the high-impact cardio I needed to burn the fat. I will say that I definitely feel stronger and can probably out-shimmy all of you — unless you’re professional belly dancers, of course.

Sometimes it’s hard not to notice any changes in yourself unless they are absolutely drastic. My belly dance buddy Whitney swears up and down that she has watched me shrink just a teeny tiny bit. I’m not convinced, but she does see me in next to nothing once a week, so she might be right. I’ve noticed that a certain area has seemed to increase. Perchance that is all due to fat transferring to that particular region instead of completely disappearing?

Excuses: I got ’em; but I’m trying not to use them as a crutch for why I didn’t lose the 32 pounds as planned. In the past I’ve used drastic, possibly unhealthy methods to shed the extra baggage. Diet pills, fasting, three-day diets, severely cutting my caloric intake, Weight Watchers, you name it. Some of these, such as the pills and daily caloric decrease, worked wonders.Unfortunately, as mentioned in the past, they last only about as long as your commitment to basically not eating. I didn’t want to put my body into that kind of shock this time around or risk gaining what I lost plus a few extra pounds, which is inevitable when you go to such lengths to look good in a little black dress.

With next Tuesday being my deadline, and my birthday, I’ll attempt to do one final push so I’m not a complete letdown to those following along. I will NOT do anything crazy, like sign up for quick liposuction surgery or try to survive off celery and water alone. I WILL focus more on cardio and eating completely clean. The goal is to drop at most five pounds, but I won’t beat myself up if I don’t. This journey to a healthier lifestyle is far from over.

P.S. Because next week is a holiday, there will not be a post. Come back on Jan. 2 (if the world doesn’t end) for a complete wrap-up and to see if I managed to meet this last push goal.

Leilah Reese is a news aide at The Washington Post. For more updates on her fitness goals, follow her on Twitter and check here each Tuesday for a new blog post.

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