Growing up in Utah I was extremely active. I spent nearly every weekend skiing, boating or playing soccer and I never had to worry about my weight. The summer before I started eighth grade my father’s job relocated the family to Katy, Texas, and my lifestyle became sedentary. The location didn’t offer the activities I had once loved and I failed to find other ways to stay fit.
I ate out more often than I did at home and my friends and I were constantly going to fast food drive-through windows. By the time I graduated, I was closing in on 290 pounds, which at 5’11” put me in the morbidly obese category. Later that year, I started college at the University of Colorado and went in for a general checkup. I vividly recall sitting in the doctor’s office with a friend when the doctor pulled me aside to tell me I had developed a mild case of hypertension. I couldn’t believe that at age 19 I was suffering from an obesity-related illness. Still, I let months go by before I decided to make a change.
Finally, January 2008 rolled around and something clicked. I decided that 2008 was the last New Year’s my resolution would be to lose weight and get healthy. I took my health entirely into my own hands. Through online research I discovered how many calories I should be taking in daily and taught myself how to read food labels. I drastically modified my diet and prepared all my own food so I knew the exact nutritional value of everything I ate.
In addition to modifying my diet I signed up for a membership to the local gym and added exercise to my daily routine. During school semesters at Colorado, I was able to get back to the outdoor activities I loved such as snowboarding and hiking to keep exercise interesting.
Over the course of nearly a year and a half my weight dropped to 160 pounds and my blood pressure levels returned to normal. Besides regaining my health, my journey led me to develop a passion for helping other people like me. I am currently interning at the American Heart Association in Houston and aspire to become an advocate for the campaign against childhood obesity. My story is proof that the essential tool for a healthy lifestyle is education.