CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,After a painful breakup, I am committed to becoming healthy again. During the past six years, I have been in a relationship that was not good for me, and depression has taken its toll. I am now at least 100 pounds overweight. I know losing that much won't be easy, but I feel it is now or never. Actually, I am giving myself one year to lose the weight. My problem is that when I exercise, I feel awkward -- no pain, but moving is difficult. Please give me some advice on eating right and exercise so I can reach my weight loss goal in a year on my 40th. -- Thank you, JeannaDear Jeanna,Congratulations on many levels. It's wonderful that you are focusing on becoming healthy rather than simply concentrating on 100 pounds. It's a positive step to move away from a bad relationship, and physical activity is one of the most effective ways to treat depression. It's also wise you're not rushing the changes you want to make. Devoting the next year toward eating better and moving more are not only doable, but probable with that mindset.Your approach is on targetCommitment is paramount to any weight-loss effort. Without it, it will never stand the test of time. Keep in mind that while it's good to determine your long-term weight-loss goals, they will do little to facilitate your progress. So we'll examine how to set up a plan that will serve as motivation as well as highlight each of your daily successes.Slow and steady winsIt can take a long time to lose a large amount of weight. Chart a course for healthy weight loss, which is 1 to 2 pounds a week. Prepare for setbacks, such as holidays or vacations when you don't lose weight. But remember there will also be times when you have a 5-pound loss in a week, so prepare to feel amazing when this occurs.The planSound nutrition must be the foundation of any life-changing fitness program. A low-fat, plant-based, nutrient-dense diet will make these changes possible and supply the needs of your body as you introduce exercise back into your life. Many people begin weight-loss programs with a single focus -- either through physical activity or changing the way they eat; however, the most efficient and healthiest way to lose weight is by incorporating both.Exercise can and should be enjoyable in order to make it a lifetime habit. The surest way to set someone up for failure is to recommend movement that causes pain, discomfort, embarrassment or indifference.Never fearFind a place to exercise that has professionally trained staff and people who care about helping you. Exercise should bring you joy -- not fear. However, intimidation can't be underestimated for many entering a health club after a long layoff or for the first time. Intimidation is real and prevents more people from achieving their fitness goals than any single physical limitation. Walking into a gym setting and coming face to face with high-tech equipment and people who appear to be fitness experts is enough to send you and your commitment packing.Not always as it appearsMost of those regulars at the gym were once just as intimidated as you are now with challenges to overcome. This is the time to ask for help and guidance because this is what health clubs and gyms do for a living. Complimentary orientation programs for new members are standard, so take advantage of this service. They will help you select the appropriate machines, classes, fitness equipment for your needs and then guide you based on your current fitness abilities and goals.Buddy up for supportIt's great if you have a friend or workout partner who plans to go with you because this weaves in the extra support and strengthens your commitment. Two people automatically defuse attention from someone feeling insecure and make the entire experience more enjoyable.Physical activity anywhereNothing is written that exercise must happen only in a gym. You can be active almost anywhere. Your own home or in your neighborhood are likely choices that immediately remove the fear factor and make moving just between you and your body. Take the first step and you'll see that exercise can be completely on your terms and within your comfort zone.Most daysTo make strides toward a fitter body, plan to be active most days of the week depending on your comfort level in the beginning. Spend at least 30 to 45 minutes being physically active. On cardio days you can walk, swim, hike, cycle or dance. And on muscle-strengthening days, you can lift weights, use resistance machines or bands -- or, better yet, your own body weight.Follow a sensible, progressive workout plan so that you are not overtraining.Track your progressRecord your successes in a way that works for you. Take advantage of online programs, use a notebook, or keep a journal. Being accountable by writing things down has proved to increase the chance of success. This may be the single most important step toward your happiest birthday ever.Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail email@example.com. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," at www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.