The holidays are approaching. I can already taste those delicious holiday meals and desserts, oozing calories and their potential to add pounds. But this year will be different because I've rejoined Weight Watchers after a nearly 25-year hiatus. And it feels good.

I can thank my lovely wife this time for my return. She had tried the program the last time I was on it, but it just hadn't worked for her. Between her medications and frustration, she backed away.

I had joined with our older daughter. She had gained a lot of weight because of an illness and medications that triggered appetite swings, and I was carrying around baggage from breakfasts of oversized Manhattan muffins, too many lunches with reporters and just plain frivolous eating.

Our daughter lost about 40 pounds, ending up a svelte 118 pounds, and I dumped 25.

After reaching my goal and going through maintenance, I was thoroughly committed to the program. When our leader, Ann, suggested I think about becoming a "weigher" -- it would be a part-time job -- I was all ears. The great thing about a weigher could only gain about 2 pounds in a week or lose the same, so it was great discipline.

I was at meetings once and sometimes more each week, I met some wonderful staffers and I loved talking with the clients.

As time went on and Weight Watchers brought on their food products, we were not just weighers, we were sales associates. And I was able to sell food to a lot of the folks I was weighing in.

And I continued living the program and evangelizing it whenever I could. Best of all, I was keeping my weight loss under control. I couldn't have been happier.

But there were other weight-loss programs coming along and many of them offered food.

The competition proved challenging and a lot of folks found the Weight Watcher's food to be expensive.

That led to some challenges for Weight Watchers and especially the part-timers like me. On a quiet spring afternoon, along with several of my colleagues, I was laid off.

At first, I tried to tell myself that I wasn't upset. After all, this was a part-time position and I had a career in public relations. This was just a business decision.

But I really was upset. I loved being a weigher. I had structure and discipline to maintain my weight loss, I met wonderful staffers and I had the chance to make a difference for some clients.

A few weeks went by, and I still attended meetings and weighed in, but I noticed that my weight was creeping up again.

I was starting to eat erratically again, not keep track and fool myself into just eyeballing my portions. And then I began eating ... and eating ... and eating my way back up blubber mountain, past the 25 pounds I'd lost until I had gained 35 pounds. And I finally did what any dedicated weight-watcher dropout does -- I walked away.

Over the years, I'd bump into my leader Ann or other staffers, trying to conceal the blubber and feeling guilty. But I just never went back.

The closest I came to weight management was about six years ago, when my wife and I started seeing a nutritionist.

By then I was over 200 pounds Thankfully, I lost 17 pounds, but I was still carrying way too much baggage around my middle, caboose and other places.

When my wife came home several weeks ago to say that she really liked the program for the first time because of the point system and the approach, she asked if I'd join too. I said I would.

That first weigh in was so hard. To see that I was tipping 200 pounds again was a killer. But I did a few things differently this time. I didn't set a goal weight right away, because I don't know what will happen. I have to see what really is possible for this 69-year-old walrus.

The first five pounds have already come off, but not without a few ups and downs.

And the tracking remains so important, and so are the meetings.

Some weeks, I've lost barely four-tenths of a pound, and then I'll lose 2 or 3 pounds the next week.

But no matter what happens, I'm committed to the program. Weight Watcher's really is a lifetime program. I'm just glad to be back on track again.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: