During my sophomore year of high school, I experienced a growth spurt and also gained 15 pounds. On my small, 4-foot-11-inch frame, it seemed like a staggering amount of weight, and I wanted to lose it as fast as it had come on. I joined Weight Watchers and through the program, I learned about portion sizes, the nutrients my body needed and the importance of keeping a food journal. In this journal, I recorded everything I ate, and I reviewed it regularly to keep track of my diet. I started exercising at home with aerobics videos and within three months, I lost 20 pounds and felt great.
When I went to college, I continued to exercise regularly, but with buffet-style dorm food, it was harder to maintain my healthful eating habits. On top of that, whenever I was stressed out by schoolwork, I munched on Pop-Tarts, cookies and other junk food. My weight rose steadily and in less than a year, I was back at 130 pounds.
Frustrated by my lack of control, I tried dieting to lose weight and when that didn't work, I started bingeing and purging. I followed this pattern for the next six years and my weight yo-yoed. Bulimia eventually took over my life, and I was purging daily. Soon, I was suffering from digestive problems and my metabolism was out of whack. One day I saw my puffy face in the mirror and I didn't recognize the person I had become. The disease had taken over my life.
I joined Overeaters Anonymous the next day and entered counseling with an eating-disorders specialist. I gradually cut back on bingeing and purging, and after six months, I completely stopped overeating and purging, which was a huge accomplishment. I finally faced the issues that had triggered my eating disorder.
I started to focus on being strong and healthy instead of on being thin. I ate four to five meals a day filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Most importantly, I learned that I didn't have to deprive myself of any food - I have a small portion and savor it.
Another important change was that I stopped looking at exercise as a chore. Instead, I made it new and exciting every day by doing a variety of activities - everything from yoga and Spinning to Tae- Bo, Pilates, running and hiking. I was never bored, and with the changes of activity, my body was constantly challenged.
A year later, I had lost 20 pounds when I decided to compete in a running/biking race, something I had always wanted to do. When I placed first, I was stunned, especially considering the way I treated my body in the past. My next goal is to complete a triathlon, which I know will be a challenge, but well worth it. My triumph over bulimia has given me the strength to take on anything.