I was never a "fat" kid, but I remember weighing a good 10 pounds more than my classmates did. I never exercised and often used food to stuff down any unpleasant feelings and emotions. Anything sweet, fried or starchy had an anesthetic effect, and I felt calmer, happier and less anxious after I ate. Eventually, the overeating led to weight gain, which left me feeling miserable and hopeless.

I went on my first diet at 12 years old, and by the time I reached my midteens, I had tried countless diets, appetite suppressants and laxatives without success. My quest for the perfect body took over my life. My appearance and weight was all I thought about, and I drove my family and friends crazy with my obsession.

By the time I turned 19, I weighed 175 pounds and realized that I was tired of fighting with my weight. I wanted to be sane and healthy more than I wanted to be skinny. With my parents' help, I entered an eating-disorders treatment program and slowly started learning the tools I needed to control my eating habits.

During treatment, I saw a therapist who helped me come to terms with my negative self-image. I learned that other activities, such as talking and writing about my feelings in a journal, were much more effective and healthier ways to handle my emotions than overeating. Over several years, I slowly replaced my destructive behavior from the past with more healthy habits.

As a part of my treatment, I learned the importance of eating as a fuel source for my body, instead of an emotional cure-all. I started eating moderate portions of healthier food, such as fruits and vegetables. I found that when I ate better, I felt better.

I also began exercising, which at first was just walking instead of driving whenever I could. Soon, I was walking for longer distances and at faster speeds, which helped me feel strong and confident. The pounds started coming off slowly, but since this time I did it sensibly, they stayed off. I started weight training, practicing yoga and even trained for and completed a charity marathon for leukemia research. I lost 10 pounds a year over the next four years and I have maintained my weight loss for more than six years.

Looking back, I realize that I not only have changed how my body looks, but I also have changed the way I think of my body. I take time each day to nurture myself and surround myself with positive-thinking people and people who appreciate me for who I am on the inside and not how I look. I don't focus on my body's flaws or wish to change any part of it. Instead, I've learned to love every muscle and curve. I'm not skinny, but I am the fit, happy, curvy girl that I was intended to be.