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A Healthy Balance

By the time I was 13, I was already 6 feet tall and painfully self-conscious about it. I felt lonely because I didn't feel I fit in with my peers, so I turned to junk food like cookies and doughnuts to cope. By the time I started high school a year later, I was 20 pounds overweight and extremely unhappy about my appearance. Being around pretty, thin girls only intensified my negative self-image. I spent my lunch hour eating junk food in the library. I didn't feel good enough to exercise, care about my grades or make friends.

During my junior year of high school, I went through a breakup and lost my appetite for a while. I lost a few pounds and received lots of compliments on how great I looked, so I decided to lose more weight. I limited myself to three meals, cut out junk food and ate more fruits and vegetables. I also exercised by bike riding and jogging. For the first time in my life, I was doing something positive for myself, and the confidence it gave me pushed me to work harder in school. Within four months I lost 25 pounds and earned my first straight A report card. Everyone complimented me, which felt awesome. Suddenly I was beautiful, intelligent and admired.

Soon I became terrified of losing my new identity and so I devoted myself to losing more weight. Each day, I limited myself to 500 calories and exercised one to two hours. In six months, I lost 30 pounds and weighed an unhealthy 110 pounds. I was tired, depressed and weak from my body's lack of nourishment. One night I binged on candy, cookies and all the junk food I could find. I felt disgusted with myself and tried to stop, but I kept binging every time I got around food. As I gained weight, my self-esteem plummeted, and I used diet pills, laxatives, excessive exercise and purging to counteract my destructive behavior.

After four months, my weight leveled off at 180 pounds. I felt like a failure, so I started a new diet and got down to 150 pounds. Unfortunately I didn't know how to maintain the weight loss, and I ended up at 190 pounds, my all-time highest weight. By that time I was 18 and I desperately wanted to get my life under control.

I knew that I needed to devise healthy eating habits for life. I didn't want any food to be off-limits, so instead of depriving myself, I concentrated on striking a healthy balance that included occasional treats, eating when I was hungry and exercising in a healthful manner. I stopped judging myself based on my eating habits. Instead, I expressed my feelings in a journal and I found that I'd been an emotional eater. Now when I feel like things are getting out of control in my life, I write in my journal instead of eating junk food.

After two years, I'm healthy and I feel incredible. Most importantly, I have high self-esteem and an appreciation for myself because I've discovered that when I put my mind to it, I can accomplish anything.

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