Exercise has its perks
I always blamed my weight problem on my two pregnancies - I gained an average of 50 pounds each time, and, after having kids, I put my health on hold and focused on raising my family. Between preparing meals, caring for the house and looking after the kids, my days were crammed and I didn't have time to eat healthfully or exercise. My weight eventually settled at 175 pounds, and I felt uncomfortable with my body. I often wore my husband's oversized sweats and T-shirts to disguise my shape.
When my youngest child turned 3, I knew my pregnancy excuse was getting old and unless I made it a priority, I would never lose weight. I also knew that my being healthy was important for my children's future because I didn't want to be a mom who couldn't keep up with her kids.
My husband worked at the local YMCA and secured me a free membership to its fitness center. Since the Y had child-care facilities on the premises, I didn't have to worry about finding someone to take care of the kids while I worked out. I faithfully arrived at the gym at 10:30 every morning and started jogging on the treadmill. Instead of feeling tired and exhausted, surprisingly, I felt reinvigorated and energized. Going to the gym also gave me a "sanity break" from my usual routine, and I started to look forward to my workouts.
The pounds slowly started to come off and I was thrilled. To jump-start my weight loss, I cut high-fat snacks out of my diet and also watched my sugar intake. Curbing my cravings for sweets - especially chocolate silk pie, my all-time favorite dessert - was hard, but after a few days I realized I felt better without the junk food in my system. I stopped drinking soda and instead guzzled water. I watched my portion sizes and ate enough to satisfy my hunger instead of eating out of boredom.
I lost 1-2 pounds a week and shed 20 pounds in three months. To celebrate, my mother and I went on a clothes-shopping spree since my old clothes no longer fit. People began noticing the changes and the compliments started, which boosted my self-esteem. After I started strength training, the pounds came off faster, and I reached my goal weight of 125 in six months. By the time I turned 30, I was in the best shape of my life.
After losing weight, I continued to challenge myself by training for a 3k (1.86-mile) race. Completing the race went beyond my expectations - I never realized that I could be an athlete. My next challenge was to finish a 15k (9.3-mile) run - and I finished in the top half of my age group.
The most important thing I've learned from my experience is the importance of making time for myself to exercise and eat right. When I do, I'm much happier and so is my family, which in the end is the most important thing of all.