“When I was 6 and my parents divorced, I started to think of food as balm for the soul,” Lisa Strum says. Though she got thin by dieting and stayed thin during her adult years, her pattern of eating for comfort didn’t change. Strum’s late husband developed chronic health problems early in their marriage. “When he had a health crisis, I would overeat to calm my stress.” But she always lost the new weight by going on Atkins, Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.

“His last illness was very bad. He was sick for a year — in the hospital, then a nursing home and finally hospice. I turned to food and hit a lifetime weight high of 203 pounds. I had shortness of breath, acid reflux . . . and felt overwhelmed being in charge of everything,” Strum says. “I knew I had to lose weight to get control of my life again.”

She returned to Jenny Craig. “As a widow, I didn’t want to cook for myself and didn’t have the time. It was the perfect solution for me, and the food tastes good,” she says. Not having to make decisions about what to eat helped her, as well as keeping track of her meals. “When dealing with loss, structure becomes really important . . . it’s a scaffold you can hold onto.” Strum says she thinks differently about food now.

“I know food isn’t the answer to stress. It’s finding your spiritual center. That handles stress better than food.” Strum says she wants to lose another 10 to 20 pounds.

Strum has a Jenny Craig entree, such as scrambled eggs and sausage, or pancakes with blueberries, for breakfast. Lunch and dinner are also Jenny Craig entrees; often, chicken potpie or prime rib in a merlot sauce. Strum says she snacks on blueberries, frozen Trader Joe’s dark sweet cherries or any of the Jenny Craig snacks and desserts.

Strum uses a step counter and walks the Long Beach boardwalk during the summer and in a Florida bird sanctuary during the winter. Her routine is simple: Walk more steps today than yesterday.

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“Be mindful of what you’re eating. Don’t use food to escape stress. You’re in charge. You make the decisions. Commit to your decisions.”

INSPIRE others with your weight loss story. If you’ve dropped the pounds and are ready to show your before and after pictures, share your journey with readers who are hoping to do the same. What was your starting weight? What is it now? How did you do it? How long did it take? Use the form at newsday.com/droppinglbs, or email ann.smukler@newsday.com. Include your name, address and phone numbers.