I know the benefits of eating healthily and exercising. But the truth is, I do those things — or try to do those things — because I’m vain. I worry about what I will look like if I don’t take care of myself.

It wasn’t always like that. When I was in my teens and 20s, I ate junk and cared very little about the benefits of exercise. Exercise was a way to socialize. In high school I played sports — basketball and softball — and made friends with fellow jocks. In college I took aerobics classes (complete with my Olivia Newton-John outfit and headband — “Let’s Get Physical, Physical”) and joined a gym because I wanted new friends and I needed something to do other than study and go to bars.

And after college, forget it. I worked as a reporter where Dunkin Donuts coffee and doughnuts was my regular breakfast and late-night deadlines meant eating pizza or subs. Exercise was walking to and from my car and sometimes taking the dog for a walk. Fortunately, I did not put on a lot of weight. I was blessed with good genes, I guess. (Thanks, Mom!)

But as I started thinking about having children, I became concerned about my physical being. I knew that I should exercise. By then Jane Fonda’s aerobics videotapes were the rage, and I bought one complete with the step to go with it. (I still have that step!) I got pregnant and soon added pregnancy exercise videotapes to the collection.

That exercise helped, as my post-baby body looked OK. But I knew there were extra pounds, having to wear “mom” jeans to accommodate the pouch that was now there. And as for wearing a bikini again, forget it! I still won’t wear one. Thin as I am, having babies took its toll on my cute belly. (Sigh — I miss that belly!)

To make it more difficult on me, at that time I had just moved to South Florida where being perfect looking is emphasized nearly everywhere. Boob jobs, liposuction, and Botox — oh, my!

Rather than go to the extreme, however, I kicked up my workouts. I started by using the exercise equipment at work during my lunch break, walking around the lake in my neighborhood, climbing up and down the stairs in my townhouse, and working out to my old Jane Fonda step aerobics tape.

When I switched to a work-from-home job, I joined a gym and began doing weight training combined with cardio exercises. That’s when the pounds finally started going away and I regained my shape. I’ve been a member of that gym ever since.

If I feel like I’ve hit a wall and lack the motivation to push myself, I work out with a personal trainer. The trainer always asks me what my goal is, and I say I want to look good. I don’t have a marathon coming up, I’m not planning an outdoor adventure, I’m not joining a sports team. I just want to look good. And now that I’m in my 40s, the pressure is even greater to keep looking good. Yup, I’m a little vain.