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A Year Older, A Year Wiser

I have always loved eating, and it always made me feel better when I was upset. Upon entering middle school, I was happy to learn that the cafeteria included all the high-fat foods I loved: cheeseburgers, burritos, cake and candy. I indulged in those foods on a daily basis.

These unhealthful eating habits carried on into adulthood, and by the time I entered my mid-20s, I ate whatever my heart desired, without any thoughts about nutrition. My typical daily food intake consisted of two doughnuts for breakfast, a snack such as cookies or junk food, a gigantic portion of the prior evening's leftovers for lunch and a high-fat dinner. Another factor contributing to my weight problem was that I often used food as a reward or a way to make myself feel better when I was feeling depressed. When I maxed out at 180 pounds, I assumed I was big-boned and meant to be heavy for the rest of my life.

On my 26th birthday, though, I reflected on my life and came to a startling conclusion: I was neither healthy nor happy, the two things everyone should be. I had enough of being overweight and decided to make the changes to live a healthier, happier life. I went to the grocery store that day and bought nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables and grains. I read food labels for the first time in my life and was shocked to see how unhealthful my diet was. I began eating oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, healthfully prepared vegetables at lunch and lowfat snacks, such as pretzels and granola, throughout the day. For dinner, I ate the same foods as before, but smaller and healthier portions of them. When I felt the urge to eat for comfort or boredom, instead of true hunger, I distracted myself by taking a walk or doing something unrelated to food. Each time I made a positive food choice, my self-confidence grew.

After setting up healthier eating habits, I started exercising, which was at first just walking a couple of miles a day. Walking was the easiest activity since I didn't have to buy equipment or a gym membership. After three months of consistent effort, I was amazed when I found I was running three miles a session. I also signed up for cardio kickboxing classes and began swimming when I wasn't in the mood for high-intensity activity. Having a variety of exercise options kept me from skipping out on my workouts and focused toward my goal.

The first 10 pounds were the hardest to lose because I had to get my mind used to a new way of eating and thinking about food. After two months, the 10 pounds came off and I felt strong and empowered. A year later, I was another 30 pounds lighter and fit into size-6 clothing. I've maintained the weight loss for almost four years, and I've never felt better. I am energetic, healthy, confident and very proud of my weight-loss achievement.

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