DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my colleagues just went on one of those cleanses that is so popular these days, and she lost 45 pounds. She looks amazing, and I am so jealous. I have plenty of weight to lose, and I have been struggling for years. She was struggling, too, so that's why it's even more amazing that it worked. I keep hearing from people that these things are not a good idea because they are hard on your system and that you usually gain the weight back. I don't know what I should do -- I am really tempted to sign up for her program because I can see that she lost the weight and she looks so much younger. What do you think about this idea? -- Want to Lose, Salt Lake City
DEAR WANT TO LOSE: It is wonderful that you are motivated by those around you who are making strides at taking care of their health. But slow down before you make a decision as to what you will do for yourself.
To figure out the best choice for you, go to your primary care physician and get a complete physical. Assess your health needs and ask for guidance on how to achieve your fitness and health goals with your doctor. Talk to your physician about the cleanses you have heard about, and ask as many questions as you can think of about weight loss and health care. Request a plan of action that your doctor thinks will be helpful for you. You may get a referral for a nutritionist along with an exercise routine.
Chances are your doctor will not recommend that you follow one of the more extreme cleanses. Follow your doctor's orders and do your best to stick to the plan. It may take you a little longer than your friend, but if you work consistently, you can meet your goals.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have three kids who seem to outgrow their clothes every year. Usually I just give their clothes away to Goodwill. But I had the thought to organize a clothing swap. A lot of my kids' clothes are still in good shape -- same for many of the kids at their school and even at church. I figure if other people participate in a clothing swap, we can all clothe our children without spending a fortune. How can I make this recommendation without insulting anybody? -- Creative Solution, Detroit
DEAR CREATIVE SOLUTION: This is a great idea, and chances are many members of your community will like it. Ask the leadership at your school, church and community center to see where the best location would be for a swap. Once you get a facility to sign on, talk to your friends and drum up interest. Clothing should be divided up by size, so some coordination is necessary. Then get the word out and invite a host of families to participate. Welcome all to the swap and share your bounty with one another!