I have always loved to eat, especially when it came to less healthy food like pizza, chocolate and chips. You name it, I ate it. Fortunately, I was a member of my high school's track and swim teams, which kept me active, and I didn't have to worry about my weight.
My life completely changed when I became a stay-at-home mom at 18. With a baby, I hardly had time to get out of the house to do errands, let alone find time to exercise. When I was bored or upset, I ate, which resulted in a 50-pound weight gain over six years. I was caught in an endless cycle of overeating, weight gain and guilt.
Surprisingly, my then-6-year-old son helped me break the cycle. He said, "Mommy, why can't I put my arms around you?" I didn't know what to tell him. His honest question forced me to reevaluate my life, and I decided to get healthy, once and for all.
My son and I went for a half-hour walk around our neighborhood that day. It was the first time I had exercised in more than six years. Although it wasn't a very long or intense workout, it gave me the confidence that I could succeed. I started walking three to four times a week for half an hour, and after a month, I noticed I had more energy and wasn't as tired as I used to be. I had lost 10 pounds in three months when I decided to join a gym. Winter was approaching and I wanted to establish an indoor exercise program so I wouldn't have any excuses to skip working out. At the gym, I took advantage of all the activities that were available: step aerobics, swimming, biking and kickboxing. I did a different workout activity each day and continued to lose weight.
As I became fitter, I learned I could accelerate my weight loss by making changes in my diet. Since I loved food, I didn't deny myself anything, but I watched my portion sizes and I ate more healthful meals. Most importantly, I stopped using food as an emotional cure-all; instead I turned to exercise or another activity to take my focus away from food.
The weight came off slowly, about 5 pounds a month, and I reached my goal weight of 140 pounds in a year. My life is happier than it has ever been, and my son, husband and I exercise as a family - we take long walks, bike rides or runs together.
The most amazing thing I've done since I've lost weight is participate in a 5k run for breast-cancer charities. When I signed up for the race I wasn't sure if I could even finish it because I hadn't run since I was in high school. I trained for five months, and I couldn't believe my once-overweight and out-of-shape body was competing in an athletic event. The race was an exhilarating experience, and using my fitness as a way to help others makes my weight-loss journey even more worthwhile.