"I just feel healthier and more energetic. Everyone has to find their comfort zone with their weight, but if you can eat good and feel good because you're eating that food? I think that's a good selling point."

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Credit: Randy Mayor

Patricia Reidy Lawrence has always loved cooking. The Long Island, New York, native used to cook dinner—often from scratch—for her kids every night. And like many people before her, Pat found that Cooking Light magazine really broke her out of a routine, opening up her repertoire to new techniques and previously despised ingredients (looking at you, avocados and mushrooms).

And, like many people before her, Pat says there wasn't a huge life-changing event that triggered her progression from the magazine to letting the Cooking Light Diet plan her meals. In her own words...

"I just started it and liked it."

That doesn't mean Pat didn't have her reasons for subscribing to the meal plan, though. Now settled into Gaithersburg, Maryland, and retired from the publishing industry going on two years, Pat said she was skinny her whole life. But, metabolism being the fickle mistress she is, the pounds started creeping up over the years.

When her son got married in May 2015, the anxiety of finding a dress that fit and the wedding pictures that followed bothered Pat. She was the heaviest she'd ever been at 176 pounds. It wasn't a eureka moment for Pat per se, but it was further evidence that she didn't like the direction her health was heading.

So she subscribed to the Cooking Light Diet.

"When I saw I wasn't going to be deprived of pierogies, I knew this was 'it.'"

Pat and her husband, Bill, are into genealogy. They love learning about where they came from and immersing themselves in the culture of their forebears. And since Bill's father was from Hungary, they took a trip many, many moons ago to visit cousins there. Those cousins brought them to a huge kolbász [sausage] festival overflowing with Hungarian deliciousness. The next year, the Lawrences decided to make sausage and gulyás (a Hungarian soup) to pay homage to their roots and commemorate the trip. They invited over a couple friends, and everyone had a marvelous time indulging in the Hungarian fare. Little did they know that meal would snowball into a tradition. Friends, then kids, then kids' friends joined in on the noshing via word of mouth.

Credit: Patricia Reidy Lawrence



Now, 15 years later, the Lawrence Kolbász Fest is an event unto itself in Gaithersburg, hosting over 100 friends and family. Everyone has a great time helping prepare the pierogies, sausages, and gulyás, and a band from the local Hungarian community even performs.

Credit: Patricia Reidy Lawrence

Though the event was put on pause last year due to the coronavirus, Pat says when it's safe to resume the gathering it will keep happening.

"Food is so central to our culture," Pat says. "It'd be very difficult for us to not eat food connected to it at this point."

And when Pat subscribed to the Cooking Light Diet, what was on her menu the very first week? Pierogies with Bacon, Sautéed Onion, and Sour Cream, of course. If ever there were a sign Pat was on the right track, that was it.

And that was over four years ago.

Pat, how does your (herb) garden grow?

It took Pat not quite a year on the Cooking Light Diet to go from 176 pounds to 145. And she hasn't put any of it back on in over four years. Well, that's not entirely accurate.

"Over Thanksgiving, I was getting close to 150," Pat says. "But three or four days of sticking to the plan got me back down to 145 again. You can forgive yourself and move on, though. You don't have to make up for past 'mistakes.'"

But pounds aren't the only way in which the Cooking Light Diet has changed Pat's life. She's always had a formidable spice cabinet, alphabetized and organized meticulously. At the behest of numerous recipes calling for fresh ingredients, though, Pat decided to start an herb garden in the summer. Pat would also like all of you to know, "I am not a gardener. But because of the Diet and all those suggestions, I started growing. And what an absolute difference it's made to the recipes! Now I have rosemary, thyme, parsley, and oregano. I've turned into a rosemary fiend."

Credit: Patricia Reidy Lawrence

There's no motivator quite like delicious food to turn a brown thumb green, folks.

"You fit the Cooking Light Diet into your life, not the other way around."

In her own words, Pat says "the Cooking Light Diet is really, really flexible." She says the variety is enticing and keeps meals from ever getting boring.

"Sometimes I'll switch all my meals around to prevent repetition, so that's not a problem."

Pat also says shopping has become less complicated. After years of using the service and keeping her spice cabinet stocked, her grocery list is "basically just produce and meat." And for people with limited cooking time on their schedules, Pat says there are lots of recipes you can have ready in under 20 minutes, like the Flash-Marinated Skirt Steak, which her husband called "the best steak I ever had."

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

If the variety and praise-worthy recipes weren't enough to win Pat over, she says the versatility of the Cooking Light Diet would've been enough.

"It's not a diet plan where you're absolutely stuck to 'you must eat this.' I'll schedule something, but if I'm not in the mood for it, I'll flip through the suggested recipes and pick something else I have the ingredients for."

And it certainly doesn't hurt that her family loves the meals. Pat call the Diet "kid-friendly," saying that she and Bill formed a coronavirus bubble with her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. And when two of the other adult members of her bubble were under the weather for several weeks in October, it was Cooking Light Diet Grandma to the rescue!

"I made the Chicken and Mushrooms in Garlic White Wine Sauce [one night], and my 4-year-old grandson loved it so much he asked for five helpings! Small servings, but still! It's food that kids like."

Credit: Photo: Johnny Autry

Results that speak for themselves.

It's not just the maintained 30-pound weight loss over four years that makes Pat love the Cooking Light Diet. Or the variety, versatility, and kid-friendliness. Or the cultural food connection. Or even the Facebook Community that's become like a second family to Pat.

"It's my favorite group on Facebook, and everyone is so kind and encouraging," she says. "People just support you—there's no critiquing whatsoever. People feel pretty safe saying they're going through a rough patch, and they're met with nothing but kindness."

All of those things are great, but it's mainly about how the Cooking Light Diet has made Pat feel.

"I just feel healthier and more energetic. I walk everyday. I have a regular exercise plan now. Other aspects of your life...you just feel encouraged to take better care of yourself. Everybody has to find their comfort zone with their weight, but if you can eat good and feel good because you're eating that food? I think that's a good selling point."

Credit: Patricia Reidy Lawrence

We agree, Pat, and we're so glad you found the Cooking Light Diet. Egészségére!

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