April 23, 2009

I was 9 years old when my parents divorced and my father moved out. The breakup caused me enormous grief, but instead of talking to someone about my feelings, I kept them inside. I ate junk food like chocolate, chips, cookies and cakes to cope, and since I didn't exercise, I gained a lot of weight. By the time I turned 13, I was up to 185 pounds. I felt guilty about overeating and being overweight, so I started throwing up my food and lost a few pounds. Two years later I started attending a boarding school, where I didn't have access to junk, so my bingeing/purging subsided and I gained the weight back. For the next nine years, I tried many different diets, but none worked. One day I stepped on the scale and saw that I was at 178 pounds. After crying for three days, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and made the best decision of my life: I made it my No. 1 priority to become healthy and fit. I knew that there was no miracle diet or pill that would do it; I had to work hard for it. All my life, I knew that exercise was essential to getting fit, but I hated it. I never participated in sports and always had an excuse to get out of gym class, so I began my exercise program by doing something easy: walking. I walked for 15 minutes around my neighborhood and gradually increased the time and distance. Sometimes it was hard to get motivated to go out and do it, but after the first three months, when I saw results on the scale and felt better, I looked forward to exercise. I also built up my strength by weight training in a gym three times a week. After a few months, I discovered cross-country skiing and I fell in love with that as well. I also made significant changes in my diet by cutting out junk food and other high-fat items like whole milk, butter, cheese and creamy sauces. I replaced them with low- and nonfat versions and ate lots more fruits and vegetables cooked in a bit of olive oil. As the pounds came off, I saw the curves of my figure and had positive thoughts about my body for the first time in a long time. I started to build muscle and felt healthy and energetic. These changes gave me the confidence to stick with my healthy habits. I dropped 2-3 pounds a month in a healthful manner. I now maintain my weight by eating a healthy diet and exercising and I am confident I always will. I learned that the key to my healthy lifestyle is patience. By choosing simple, enjoyable exercises and slowly increasing the intensity, I learned to enjoy them and look forward to them. Now I can't live without exercise in my life. I lost 63 pounds and I know I will always maintain my weight loss, because the path I have chosen is the path of a healthy body and mind. For the first time, I have learned to love my body.