April 23, 2009

I'd been considered "big boned" all my life and with a childhood of unhealthful eating habits and lack of exercise, I was always an extra 25 pounds heavier than my peers. Whenever something in my life didn't go my way, I'd blame it on my weight and turn to food to comfort myself. My self-esteem suffered terribly and I hated the way I looked and felt. By the time I graduated from high school, I was at 190 pounds and popping out of my size-18 clothes.

After high school, I worked at a restaurant and took full advantage of my employee discount, gaining 20 pounds in four months. A friend and I joined a weight-loss group and although I lost about 10 pounds by making some small changes in my diet, I rewarded myself with a bag of chips or ice cream. When I gained back the weight, I figured, "What's the use?" and resumed my usual eating habits.

Six months later, I met my boyfriend, who accepted me for who I was on the inside. He didn't care about my size and would get upset if I put myself down in his presence. He convinced me to give weight loss another try, and this time I cut all fat out of my diet. I ate salads, potatoes and cereal and started to exercise with aerobics videos at home. I lost 10 pounds in a month, but two months later I started craving fat and went back to eating chips and chocolate. Before I knew it, my weight was back up to 210 pounds.

Six months later, I was tired of fighting with my weight. I decided to get fit, once and for all. I joined a weight-management program sponsored by a local gym and immediately sought the help of a personal trainer. After listening to my story and goals, she designed a cardio and light weight-training program. After the initial meeting, I met with my trainer every week and we tracked my progress and discussed any problems I encountered.

I went to a dietitian who taught me the importance of using food as fuel, not a way to comfort myself. I also learned the importance of watching my portion sizes. I began reading labels and measured how much I ate. At first it was hard to adjust to eating less -- I actually felt like I wasn't eating enough. However, on my nutritionist's recommendation, I started to eat six small meals a day, and as a result I was rarely hungry.

I lost 20 pounds in three months and I felt great. I began to see curves where I had none before and started weight training to shape my body even more. By the time I reached my goal of 155 pounds, I was strong, healthy and had more energy than ever before. Today, healthy eating and regular exercise are essential to my being and staying fit. It's been one of my greatest achievements. And being happy is the greatest reward.

Workout schedule Strength training (alternating upper- and lower-body sessions): 45 minutes/4 times a week Walking, running or biking: 30 minutes/5 times a week

Maintenance tips 1. Take lots of pictures! You can only see so much in the mirror and photos will show you how far you've come. 2. Eat to fuel your body, not to nurse poor self-esteem. 3. Train smarter, not harder. The more you know about nutrition and exercise, the easier it will be to reach your goals.