April 23, 2009

When I went away to college at age 17, I never thought I'd have to deal with a weight problem once I graduated. At 5 feet and weighing 105 pounds, I was happy with my weight, but at school, I was stuck eating unhealthful dorm food and snacked on pizzas while studying at night. Then during the middle of my junior year of college, my mother died of breast cancer. Instead of talking about my grief, I used food to ease the pain of my loss. Over the next few years, my clothing size went from a 2 to an 8. I gained 25 pounds, which may not seem like a lot, but on my small frame, it looked like I had gained twice as much. After I graduated from college, I moved back home. One day I saw my reflection in the mirror and it hit me: At 130 pounds, not only was I overweight but I was also unhealthy. Plus, the extra weight was also putting my health at risk. Around that time, I took a job working in the child-care department of a gym. One of the perks of the job was a free gym membership and I took advantage of it. I attended step- aerobics classes and rode the stationary bike. Working out helped me feel better, but I wasn't losing any weight because I didn't change my eating habits. After doing some research, I made changes in my diet. I reduced my intake of fatty foods like cheese, oils, dressings and sweets and added fruits, vegetables, rice and pasta. I satisfied my sweet tooth by treating myself to my favorite desserts, usually ice cream or cake, once a month. To build muscle definition and get my metabolism going, I increased my workout time in the gym. I did step aerobics, biking, stair climbing and the treadmill and began lifting weights. Over time, I found that I was sleeping, working and even exercising better. I had more energy and handled stress much better. Six months later, I had lost 25 pounds and reached my pre-college weight. I was thin before I went away to college, but now my body is strong, lean and healthy. Being healthy also reduces my risk of contracting breast cancer, which is a major concern for me since my mother died of the disease. I've participated in charity runs for breast cancer as a way to honor my mother and support the cause. Losing weight was one of my most difficult battles and a struggle I never thought I'd overcome. I'm finally a healthy, happy woman.