I weighed 150 pounds and was 5 feet 5 inches tall when I started high school. People would say, "You're so pretty. Too bad you're fat." Those brutal words hurt deeply, and I turned to food to feel better, so I gained even more weight. I tried diets to lose the pounds, but none of them worked, and I believed I would be heavy for the rest of my life. When I graduated from high school, I weighed 210 pounds.

One morning, I looked in the mirror and saw how overweight I was; I was 19 years old, but felt much older since I couldn't do things like run or dance. I had my whole life ahead of me and didn't want to live it feeling unhappy about myself. I vowed I would take control of my weight.

I didn't tell anyone about my weight-loss goals because if I didn't succeed, I didn't want to hear negative comments about my lack of success. I made small, yet significant changes in my dietary habits. I began eating one healthful meal a day so I wouldn't be overwhelmed with a lot of changes at once. For the rest of the day, I trimmed my portion sizes. Over the next three months, I added another healthy meal or snack, and soon I was used to eating healthfully all the time. I still treated myself to my favorite foods, such as cake, but I enjoyed only a slice of it instead of the whole thing.

I also renewed my gym membership, which I had bought during one of my failed weight-loss attempts but never used. At first, I walked for half an hour on the treadmill, which was hard since I still smoked. But after I quit cigarettes, I pushed myself harder, and soon I was walking at a higher intensity.

After five months, I was 30 pounds lighter. I didn't realize it until I noticed all my clothes were loose on me, even my shoes. My family and friends remarked that I had more energy and I was becoming a different person. They were excited and encouraged me to continue with my new habits.

Halfway through my journey, I hit a plateau and didn't lose any weight for weeks. Unsure of what to do, I talked to a trainer at the gym, who suggested changing my workout to challenge my body more. I tried weight training, as well as aerobics, yoga and dance classes, and not only did I love the change in my fitness routine, but my weight loss restarted. It took six more months to lose another 30 pounds, but I now wear size-10 clothing.

Reaching my goals has changed my life, and not only on the outside. My weight-loss journey has given me the self-confidence to pursue a fashion career. I know that with hard work and determination, it will happen.