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Happy Inside & Out

Throughout my childhood, I was considered a tomboy. I loved being a jock and played softball, basketball and volleyball in high school. The activity kept me at a healthy 165 pounds. In my senior year, I accepted a college softball scholarship.

When I signed on, the recruiter told me that if I lost a couple of pounds, I'd be faster and better on the field. Taking her advice, I lost the weight by making small changes in my diet. I replaced unnecessary fats like full-fat salad dressing and junk food with healthier fare. By the time I started college, I was 10 pounds lighter, stronger and competing harder than ever before.

In college, I kept working out and eating healthfully, and as the pounds came off people complimented me on my appearance. They started to notice me as a pretty girl, not just as an athlete. This motivated me to lose more weight. My goal was to wear a size 7 by any means. As the pounds dropped off, my friends became concerned about my weight, which affected my relationships with them. My performance on the field suffered: I didn't have the strength to play as hard as I had before.

I went home after my first semester away at college, and my mother burst into tears when she saw me. At 135 pounds, I was thin and unhealthy looking, but thought I looked great. My family had nothing nice to say about my new appearance. It wasn't until I visited a teacher from high school that I realized I had a problem. He told me frankly that it looked like I had an eating disorder and needed professional help. I consulted an eating-disorders counselor who diagnosed me as borderline anorexic. With help from him and a nutritionist who specialized in eating disorders, I faced the issues that triggered my weight loss. I learned that I didn't have to look perfect to be worthy of my family and friends' support. I just had to be me.

Over the next two years, I healthfully regained the weight I'd lost. When I finished college, I was back up to 180 pounds. Based on my height and body type, I wasn't overweight, yet I wasn't in shape either. I joined a gym and started working out four to five times a week. Two months later, I was leaner and stronger. I ate three balanced meals a day and didn't obsess over calories or fat grams. Then, for a break from my regular cardio routine, I took a group cycling class and was immediately hooked. In fact, I now teach two cycling classes a week. I love inspiring my students to push themselves to do their best.

I'm now at 170 pounds and in the best shape of my life. It's wonderful knowing I can eat well and not have to worry about gaining weight. As long as I exercise and eat in moderation, I'll be fine. I may be a "big girl," but I'm also healthy, strong and athletic. Most importantly, I'm happy with who I am, both on the inside and outside.

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