April 23, 2009

My battle with weight began at college when I started a relationship with my first serious boyfriend. On our first date, he commented that I looked chunkier in the daylight than I had in the dark fraternity house where we had met. Instead of taking his cruel words as a sign to leave him quickly, I started dieting to drop the 30 pounds I had gained during my first year of college.

I limited myself to only 5 grams of fat and 800 calories a day. I obsessively counted calories and recorded everything I ate. Six months later, I had lost 15 pounds, but even then, my boyfriend made derogatory remarks about my weight and compared me to other women. Wanting to please him, I continued to starve myself and used laxatives to drop more weight. Instead, the scale stayed at 145 pounds and I started losing muscle tone and energy. Some days I was so tired that I couldn't attend class.

My parents saw me getting weak and lethargic and suggested I seek therapy. I resisted at first, not wanting to admit that I had a problem, but as the weeks went on, I realized I did.

I met with a psychologist from the on-campus health center and started group therapy with other students who had eating disorders. During therapy, I learned that my desire to please my boyfriend was toxic to my mental and physical health. After a few weeks of building my self-esteem through therapy, I left him.

Then I worked on repairing my damaged body. I started regular cardio and strength-training workouts for the first time since high school. It was hard at first, but once I got back into it, I loved the feeling of strength I gained after each session. I also increased my caloric intake to a normal level. When I ate the proper levels of carbs, protein and fat, I finally shed the last 15 pounds I had struggled to lose in the past. I did some research on health and nutrition and learned that when I limited my intake of food, my body was in starvation mode and held onto every bit of fat that it could. Now that I was fueling myself properly and exercising, it didn't need to hold onto the extra weight.

Now at a muscular 130 pounds, I love the way my body looks and feels. I'm also in a healthy relationship with someone who sees me for who I am inside. I've earned a master's degree in counseling, and my goal is to help others who are struggling to live healthfully, because I've been there and I know it's a tough battle. Most importantly, I've learned that if anyone insults my body, I won't automatically turn to losing weight. Instead, I'll lose them.

Workout schedule Step aerobics: 60 minutes/4 times a week Weight training: 45 minutes/3 times a week Walking: 45 minutes/once a week

Maintenance tips 1. Lose weight for yourself and no one else. If you do lose for someone else, it probably won't work. 2. Pay attention to your body -- it's giving you cues all the time. If you're hungry, eat. If you're tired, rest. 3. Working out is one part of your day that is for you alone. Savor the time and look forward to it.