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Healthy Balance

My weight problem began shortly after I got married. I worked as a waitress at a pie restaurant and my husband had a job delivering pizzas. As newlyweds, our budget was tight, but we were never hungry because we had an endless supply of pizzas and pies. Over the years, I steadily gained weight. I wouldn't go near a scale, but I did notice that I had developed a double chin and my stomach and face became rounder. My husband never complained about my appearance, but I felt uncomfortable and unattractive. When I finally weighed myself, I discovered that I was at 160 pounds.

Determined to do something about it, a friend and I started exercising. We met at 5 a.m. and worked out with exercise videos in my basement. At first it was hard, but as we continued to work out, it became easier and I looked forward to it. I followed a low-fat eating plan, which along with regular exercise, helped me drop 20 pounds. Two years later, when my friend moved away, I tried a new activity: running. I started by running a mile and loved it. I kept at it, increasing my time and distance regularly. Soon, I was running up to 14 miles a session or doing an hour and a half of step aerobics a day. To accelerate my weight loss, I cut all fats out of my diet and ate fruits, vegetables and grains by the plateful.

After two years, at 130 pounds, I noticed my hair was falling out and my periods had stopped. Concerned that I had a hormonal problem, I went to my doctor and he performed a battery of tests to find out what was happening to my body. When the tests revealed nothing abnormal, the doctor realized my excessive exercise and restrictive eating patterns were wreaking havoc on my body. The foods I was eating weren't supplying my body with the nutrients it needed, especially since I was taxing it with an excessive amount of exercise.

Heeding the advice of my doctor and the guidance of a nutritionist, I added foods from all of the food groups and had a healthy balance of all the nutrients my body needed, including fat. I also cut back on exercise, doing aerobics and weight training for only four hours a week, even though I was terrified of gaining back all the weight I had lost. And eventually, I did gain weight, but this time it was 15 pounds in the form of muscle, which takes up less space than fat.

Seven years later, I'm at 145 pounds. My periods started again and I'm healthier than ever before. I now do a variety of activities, including yoga and playing softball, keeping my body strong and firm, which my husband loves. I concentrate on being healthy instead of being skinny. When I treat my body right, I feel happier. The key to being fit is finding the right balance of exercise and healthful eating habits.

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