I spent my teen-age years being teased mercilessly by my schoolmates. I was overweight, and with a family history of obesity and a rich, high-fat diet, I thought I was destined to be heavy. I reached 195 pounds by my 13th birthday and hated what my life had become. I felt like I didn't fit in with my peers, causing me to turn to food to nurse my poor self-esteem.

I endured the teasing until my senior prom. I went to the dance alone, and at the party, asked a guy I had a crush on for a dance; when he refused, I was devastated. I knew that my overweight body and poor self-image were keeping me from enjoying the life I deserved. I wanted to lose weight and be proud of myself for it.

When I started my transformation, I was tempted to cut all high-fat foods out of my diet, but my cousin, a dietitian, cautioned me against doing that since it would only cause me to crave them even more. Instead, I gradually cut back on the amount of junk and takeout food I ate.

My cousin gave me a list of healthful foods -- like fruits, vegetables, lean meat and whole grains -- to incorporate into my diet. These changes, in addition to walking four times a week, resulted in a loss of 35 pounds over the next two years. People who had known me for years could hardly recognize me, and guys were finally asking me out on dates.

Ironically, one of those guys was the boy who had turned me down for a dance at the prom. He didn't remember me, but when I told him that I was the overweight girl he humiliated at the prom, he was stunned. I respectfully declined his invitation.

I maintained my weight for another year, until I had my first serious relationship. As the relationship grew, I stopped exercising to spend more time with my boyfriend. I also paid less attention to my eating habits, and as a result, the weight that I had worked so hard to take off started to creep up on me again.

The relationship eventually became unhealthy to my self-esteem, leading me to turn to food and even more weight gain. I finally realized I had to make a clean break from the relationship and take better care of myself. When I started eating healthfully again and started exercising, the unwanted pounds melted away.

Then I met my current boyfriend, who introduced me to weight training, something I had always wanted to try, but lacked the courage. He took me through a basic weight-training program and after just a few weeks, my abs, arms and legs were firmer than they had ever been.

I've maintained this weight for almost three years now, and life has never been better. I'm in a healthy relationship, and most importantly, my self-esteem has soared -- I'm a proud and confident woman who will never again be ashamed of herself.

Workout schedule

Weight training: 45 minutes/5 times a week

Stair climbing or elliptical training: 30 minutes/5 times a week

Maintenance tips

1. A short-term diet won't produce long-term results. Instead, make a lifestyle change.

2. Eat your favorite foods in moderation. Deprivation will only lead to bingeing.

3. Drink eight glasses of water a day. It'll fill you up and refresh your body.