April 23, 2009

All during my childhood I was taunted and teased by my peers because I was overweight. Although I was never terribly obese, I was larger than my classmates were, and their words left me feeling angry and depressed. Instead of talking to my parents or a teacher about my feelings though, I turned to food to comfort myself. The teasing continued until I was in high school, and by then, I was at 160 pounds. My turning point came when I reached the beginning of my junior year in high school and went to my doctor for a physical exam. The doctor told me that being overweight put me at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems that could cost me my life. I was frightened by his prognosis. I realized that I didn't want to die young, and I decided to make an effort to lose some weight. With my doctor's approval, I followed Weight Watchers' weight-loss program. Through the program, I learned how to add healthful eating habits into my life. I switched from whole milk to skim, monitored portion sizes and added fruits and vegetables to my diet. I was determined to lose weight no matter how difficult the journey was. Six months later, I had lost 35 pounds and my family and friends were amazed. I attended the senior prom and all of the class activities and had a wonderful time. After high school, I loosely followed the Weight Watchers meal plan and as a result, my weight fluctuated by 10 pounds. During the summer, I would lose 10 pounds only to gain it back again in the winter. My self-esteem depended on my reflection in the mirror. I had come to accept that I would be a yo-yo dieter for the rest of my life. It wasn't until I was pursuing my master's degree that I began to understand the importance of exercise. I was under a tremendous amount of stress from my course work when a friend mentioned how exercise helped her deal with stress. Looking for relief anywhere I could find it, I joined a gym and started stair-climbing or walking on the treadmill four times a week. Almost immediately, it helped reduce my stress level and I had more energy. A trainer at the gym encouraged me to start weight training, which I resisted at first, thinking it would make me bulk up. Quite the opposite, the resulting muscle tone made me look better. I started eating healthfully again, and a year later I had lost 10 pounds, reaching my goal of 130 pounds. Along the way, I have learned that I have to be comfortable with myself and who I am. Fitness and well-being must come from the inner self, and not just the reflection in the mirror.