The word diet first became a part of my vocabulary when I was in eighth grade. At the time, my parents divorced and I was devastated. Instead of talking to someone about my feelings, I ended up eating and turned to food for support. In less than a year, I had gained 30 pounds and became even more unhappy. During the next two years, I continued to overeat and gain weight. By the time I reached 11th grade, my weight had leveled off at 220 pounds and I barely fit into size 24/26 clothing.

In my junior year of high school, I was tired of being so much larger than my peers, so I took a huge step in controlling my weight: I joined a medically supervised weight-loss program, where I followed a healthful eating plan based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid. I also started walking and biking a few times a week. As a result, I lost 50 pounds in a year and was wearing size-14 clothing. However, the progress didn't last long. I hit a plateau and became so frustrated with the lack of results that I gave up my healthy habits altogether. Not only did I gain back the weight I had lost, but I added another 10 pounds.

I lived like this for the next two years, and when I turned 20 years old, I picked up a copy of Oprah Winfrey's book Make the Connection (Hyperion, 1996). I identified with her weight-loss struggle, and reading the book inspired me to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

Since I already worked at a hospital, I talked to one of the doctors about healthy weight-loss strategies. He suggested I go back to the USDA Food Guide Pyramid and start eating three full meals a day, especially breakfast, which I was skipping. I learned that eating breakfast would stoke my metabolism and help prevent overeating. I omitted high-fat foods like pizza and burgers and began to prepare fruits, vegetables and grains healthfully. Within a month, I saw progress: My face was thinner and I was 5 pounds lighter.

A month into my journey, I started exercising since I knew the food changes alone weren't going to be enough. I began slowly - doing only a mix of walking and weight training twice a week. I felt extremely self-conscious at first since I was so out of shape, but I talked to trainers, who accepted my size and gave me the advice I needed. Once I became confident and saw that exercise accelerated my progress, I started exercising three to five times a week.

Two years later, I had lost 80 pounds, and I now wear a size 12, which is healthy for my body type. My life has completely changed: I'm confident, happy and at my fitness best. I recently completed my first marathon in six and a half hours. I also volunteer each week to help elementary-school-age children battle obesity. I've learned that healthy lifestyle habits begin when you're young - the sooner the better.

Comments (1)

October 24, 2018
It’s important to note that hunger is a basic survival instinct – and we must be grateful for it. The fact that it exists is an amazing feat in itself. Don’t be ashamed. Just know how to appease the beast. There are those who claim the most effective diets are those which have you eating only two meals a day, and drinking water for the rest. I strongly encourage you to ignore these methods, as they are not sustainable. But let’s talk about the late-night secret. It’s simple. And easy. Are you ready for it? Okay. It’s a cup of tea. Don’t underestimate those three words. Not to drink immediately before bed, but rather in the gap between dinner and sleep. Watch this video to find out more