I’m tired of handing over money to companies like Spanx just so I don’t frighten small children and look somewhat presentable to the general public. I’m also tired of “Earl,” also known as my “jingling baby” (minus the baby) stomach, making it extremely difficult for me to be comfortable in my clothes. It’s too darn hot for layers of spandex! With record breaking heat here in D.C., something’s gotta give.

Can Leilah lose 32 pounds in four months? (bigstock)

My struggle with weight began in my mid-20s when I started working sedentary jobs. My meals consisted of what I could get out of vending machines and what I could pick up on the way home. Those habits helped birth Earl and were not very cost effective. Unfortunately, it took me some time to realize something needed to change.

Earl first received his walking papers in 2008. A small group of co-workers and I decided to get rid of our extra pounds, so we held a weight-loss challenge for three months. The winner would get a lump sum of money at the end of the challenge and, of course, the chance to flaunt his or her new body.

I hit the ground running. I got rid of “Earl,” and his back up dancers (as in extra jiggly bits) that decided to reside on various parts of my body by the end of the competition. Baby girl lost 30 pounds — yes, 30! — and took home the grand prize. However, the way I went about losing weight was far from healthy.

Monday through Friday, I drank a protein shake for breakfast, another for lunch, and had a Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice meal, no more than 500-600 calories, for dinner. As a treat I’d eat a small apple or pink grapefruit. Then, at the end of the day, which for me was midnight, I’d go down to the gym and do about an hour of cardio. On my days off from work, I would treat myself to two frozen dinners instead of one, and have one less shake.

I maintained that regimen for a while and even coughed up a few hundred dollars that could have gone to shoes for a personal trainer. After the competition, I became a raw foodist for a week but woke up one morning with a mean craving for something hot! It didn’t matter what it was, as long as it was cooked. That lasted all of three days. Next, I became a vegetarian but wanted some fried tilapia, so I became a pescatarian and maintained that lifestyle for a few months...until I wanted a steak.

I’ve had many juiced meals, done Nutri-System, fasted, joined Weight Watchers, prayed and even cleansed. Eventually I hit a wall, no longer saw results and slowly went back to old habits. After gaining the weight back, depression hit. This meant I had to go to Whole Foods or any other confections dealer and get a big slice of strawberry shortcake daily. Six months before turning 30, I decided to embark on yet another health and wellness challenge to lose Earl and his backup dancers, “30 before 30.” I fell short of shedding the full 30 by about 15 pounds, but was happy with the results nonetheless.

Which brings me to today. I’ve gained weight again (shakes fists to the heavens in anger, although I did it to myself), and I would like to lose 32 pounds before my 32nd birthday in December. Instead of denying and depriving, I hope to revamp my lifestyle completely by implementing exercise and cleaner eating (not dieting, because the word “DIE” is in diet, and I’m not killing myself to look good) to reach that goal. This journey will be broken down into monthly markers.

The first marker, which is quickly approaching, is to lose 5 pounds by Aug. 25. I’ll be performing in a dance recital and don’t want Earl to outshine me. The second marker will be the beginning of September when I go to St. Croix for a week. I’m going to have to figure out how to vacation on an island paradise without cozying up to the beach bar every day. The third marker will be Howard’s Homecoming at the end of October. Two of my best friends will be coming from out of town, and we can’t have young whipper snappers outshining us, either. The fourth marker is Thanksgiving. I think I might work that day so I won’t be lulled into a food stupor from too much turkey, mac-n-cheese and greens. The fifth and last marker will be my birthday, Dec. 25. I want to get a jump start on all of y’all who decide to swarm the gym after Jan. 1 due to resolutions. You know who you are.

I’m putting it all out there so you can be encouraged by my health and wellness journey, be inspired to go on one yourself or simply point and laugh. Whatever floats your boat, I’m not ashamed. Oh, and one more thing (deep breath): I’m starting off at 186.6 pounds. There, I said it. You read it. It’s out there for the world to see. All I have to do now is stay focused and not beat myself up if I slip. God speed my friends.

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.

More from The RootDC

Chad Johnson: The latest victim of fame

Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta: Episode 8

Invisible Man’ play on its way to D.C.

The search for equity in our nation’s schools