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As a kid, I always felt like the largest person in my class. My belief was confirmed in fourth grade when my teacher weighed each of us and recorded our weights on the chalkboard. At 125 pounds, I was the heaviest one in my class, and I was mortified. At the time, I didn't realize that even though I participated in gymnastics, soccer and dance, my eating habits were unhealthful. I often ate cheeseburgers, pizza, chips and other junk food, which kept my weight on the high side.

When I grew older, the pounds came on, and I didn't make an effort to control them. I began to hate my body for being larger than my peers' and felt insecure around my friends. I dreaded going to school and made excuses to stay home. By the time I graduated from high school, my weight was at an all-time high of 220 pounds.

A few days after graduation, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was fed up with being overweight and feeling terrible about my body. I was starting a new chapter in my life and didn't want my weight to determine my happiness. Since I knew that starting a regular exercise program was essential to getting fit, I started exercising with aerobics videos at home. In the beginning, I could only handle 15 minutes of it before I was too tired to continue, but I kept at it. As I became stronger, I was able to increase my workout sessions and eventually completed a whole tape. I started to look forward to my workouts and added jogging and running to vary my program.

Adjusting my eating habits was the hardest change I made. Luckily, my mom was incredibly supportive and prepared healthy, low-fat meals for me while also preparing the family's favorite high-fat meals. I went to the grocery store with my mom and she allowed me to pick out healthy, low-fat food for myself. When I wanted dessert, I ate frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. Pretzels replaced chips as snacks and I started drinking water.

Another important change I made was that I started to eat when I was hungry instead of eating because I was bored. The food changes were difficult to adjust to, but after just two weeks of following healthy eating and exercise habits, my clothes were looser, which motivated me to stick with my new habits. Every time I lost 5 or 10 pounds, I treated myself to a new workout video or exercise outfit. A year and a half later, I had lost 65 pounds and gone from a size 20 to a size 8. When I reached my goal weight, I joined a gym to tone and shape my body.

Sometimes when I see my reflection in the mirror, I still picture the 220-pound girl I used to be. But then I recall all the hard work, sweat and tears. I realize that I'm worth it all, and I've never been happier.

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