LSU and Alabama will play for the right to be called the best on Saturday night.

But I remember the late eighties and early nineties when LSU was often at or near the bottom of the SEC. We weren’t the perennial powerhouse we have been since the 2003 and 2007 National Championships. The team struggled through coaches whose vision, work ethic and player selection left much to be desired.

But in walked Nick Saban and Les Miles, two men who couldn’t be more different in coaching and management styles, but who have re-instilled and sustained a culture of winning at LSU.

That winning culture didn’t come from wishing it into existence. It came from meticulous planning, vision, grueling training and conditioning. Teams have to regroup after setbacks be relentless in their dedication to the idea that the goal was not just worthwhile, but vital.

The bar has been raised at LSU, not all at once, not unrealistically over a short time, but consistently over several years. The results are clear. We are poised to win our third national championship in less than a decade.

It’s what the culture of winning looks like, and it consists of believing in your goal – your DREAM – with mental and physical dedication to everyday choices that are both difficult and disciplined, but that become a reward in and of themselves when you stay the course.

It’s the same desire for success that keeps me going on my 90-day fitness challenge. When I left college in 1991, I weighed 135 pounds. By February of 2010 I weighed two hundred and fifty pounds. By March of that same year I couldn’t stand it any longer and swore off fast food, soda and eating out for six months. I also joined the YMCA and began exercising three to five times per week. By September of 2010, I had lost thirty pounds, and I kept it off for an entire year. But by September of 2011 I was ready to raise the bar again, and so was born Mission: Incredible NOLA.

In the last nine weeks I’ve lost an additional nine pounds by confronting my mental food demons, making wiser dietary choices, and exercising consistently three to seven times per week. I had to go shopping this week for smaller jeans because my current ones no longer fit. I feel great physically. I am proud of my body and the changes I see in it. I want to be stronger, go farther, do more.

I am the six-million dollar woman: better, stronger, faster. I am winning, and winning big. I will never see the 250-pound Nicole again. I will never see the 220-pound Nicole again. The bar has been raised.

I’m the coach of my own life, and I’m not going to look back at age sixty-two (God willing) and wish I had done things differently. I’m going to do it now. Sometimes I’m Nick Saban: methodical, serious and meticulous. And sometimes I’m a grass-eating, risk-taking, genius head case like Les Miles. Either way, I’m getting it done.

I can see, smell and touch my crystal trophy of 150-pound Nicole as if she’s already here. Because she is.

We’ve got one month left, folks. Let’s geaux.

For the regulars, here’s my check-in:

G1: I’m attending a big watch party tomorrow night, so today’s menu will reflect some preventive maintenance. Since I know it will be hard to resist the wings, dips and desserts that are sure to be there, I’m going to go heavy on fruit and veggies today.

Breakfast [9:00 a.m.] – three satsumas (0g fat/120 cals); one serving of butter-flavored instant grits (1.5 g fat/100 cals); three slices of turkey bacon (2g fat/70 cals); 8 oz. of calcium-fortified orange juice (0g fat/110 cals).

Snack [12:00 p.m.] – one Three Musketeers bar (8g fat/260 cals).

Lunch [1:30 p.m.] – two bowls of homemade vegetable beef soup (5g fat/400 cals); water.

Dinner [6:00 p.m.] – two baked tilapia filets (4g fat/300 cals); one cup of canned spinach (0g fat/40 cals); one cup of boiled red potatoes (0g fat/100 cals) with one half tablespoon of margarine (7g fat/70 cals); water.

The anticipated total for the day will be 27.5 grams of fat and 1570 calories.

G2: I’ve got a six-mile walk planned for this afternoon and thirty minutes of kickboxing this evening.

G3: There have been many times over the past several years where I wanted to light Les Miles’s hind parts on fire, but I can honestly say that I wouldn’t pick any other coach to go into this battle on Saturday. Les, I’m all in, Baby. Geaux Tigers!!

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