April 23, 2009

My childhood dream was to become an actress and a singer, so when I was accepted to a prestigious performing arts school in New York City, I was ecstatic. I could hardly wait to start making my dreams come true.

During my first year, I had a single dorm room and I thought I had lucked out. But I soon learned that being on my own made it harder to make friends, and after a few weeks, I felt lonely and depressed. I started drinking, smoking and eating to make myself feel better, and although it perked me up for a while, in the end I felt worse. I gained weight and felt helpless as the pounds piled on. The following year I had roommates, and although it helped alleviate my loneliness, I continued to overeat. By the time I finished my two-year drama course, I had gained 30 pounds.

After graduation came the tough part - going before casting directors for acting jobs. I went on a couple of auditions, but they were all disastrous since I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious in my body. I slowly stopped going to auditions and supported myself by waitressing, which left me exhausted. I started sleeping more and avoided leaving the house.

After months of this endless cycle, I thought about where my life was going and realized I couldn't remember the last time I went on an audition. I had let my lifelong passion slip away right before my eyes. Determined to recapture my dream, I decided I had to make a change.

First, I stopped smoking cold turkey. Quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I ever did, and although the withdrawal symptoms left me feeling moody and irritable, I knew it was something I had to do. Then I went to a counselor to deal with my depression. With regular sessions, I slowly started feeling better about myself. As a part of my treatment, my therapist suggested I join a gym and start weight training since it would boost my self-esteem. I was skeptical at first, but amazingly, she was right. I started lifting weights every other day and walking on the treadmill. I shed the fat from my body and replaced it with lean, beautiful muscle. When I felt depressed, I challenged myself to a walk, swim or any other activity that would make me feel better about myself.

Through therapy, I also learned how to start feeling my emotions. If I wanted to cry, I cried. If I felt upset at someone, I expressed my feelings instead of dulling them with food. I began eating more healthfully by adding fruits, vegetables and fiber to my diet. In less than six months, I lost 25 pounds and felt like a new person.

I've maintained my healthy mind-set for three years now and it's a part of my life, like breathing. I'm now working as a model, singer and actress, finally fulfilling my dreams.