Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Sweatpants Lover Unmotivated to Lose Weight

DEAR HARRIETTE: I work from home as a freelance writer, so most of the time I live in my sweats. I was invited to a fancy party recently, and that’s when I realized how much weight I have gained. I tried on all the party dresses that I have in my closet, and nothing fit -- I mean nothing! I couldn’t zip, button, snap or close anything. I was able to cobble together an outfit, but this was a wake-up call. I didn’t realize that I had gained so much weight. I figured I was a few pounds heavier, but this is serious.

I don't feel motivated to do anything about it, because I don't plan on getting dressed up anytime soon. I know that’s an excuse, but what can I do to break out of my cycle? I spend hours in front of a computer screen. That’s how I earn a living. I’m not sure what I can do to change my schedule. -- Popping Zippers

DEAR POPPING ZIPPERS: That dressy occasion was your wake-up call to pay attention to your health. One of the pointers in many weight-loss programs is to stop wearing clothes that stretch because they can be deceiving. You can easily think you are the same size if your clothes expand with you.

You need to break up your routine. The weather is getting nice, so taking a walk is one of the easiest things you can do for yourself. A few years ago, I read a wonderful essay in The New Yorker by humorist David Sedaris about how he got obsessed with a FitBit and ended up losing a ton of weight while challenging himself to walk more as he tracked his steps on the device. That got me to go outside and walk and to get a tracker. There are even free tracker apps that you can add to your smartphone.

Consistency is key. Before you sit down to start your day at the computer, get up, go out and walk for a half hour or so. The ultimate goal is 10,000 steps per day.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was asked to be a reference for a woman who worked for me several years ago. I like her a lot, but I am reluctant to recommend her. When she worked for me, she was often late and had a chip on her shoulder. I mentored her to think differently about the way she approached work. By the end of her tenure with me she was better, but I don’t know what she has done in the ensuing years. I do know that giving a reference is important, and it reflects on my reputation as well. I don’t want to badmouth her, but I feel like I have to tell the truth. That’s why I would rather not do it. Do you think I should call her to explain my concerns? -- Bad Reference

DEAR BAD REFERENCE: Contact your former employee and tell her you want to talk before taking any further steps. Ask her about her career to date. Directly inquire about her punctuality and attitude. Express your reservations about being a reference for her because of her past with you. Listen to see how she explains herself today. If you think you have heard enough to be a solid reference, agree to talk to the hiring manager. Just make sure the candidate knows you have to tell the whole truth.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)