As of this week I have lost 55 pounds and am on the road to getting healthy and in shape. I have been running and walking and eating as clean as possible, and I haven’t felt this stable and mentally well in years. It may certainly be that I am between episodes, but I don’t want to look at it that way. I see it as healthy eating habits taking their effect on not only my body, but my mental state. Never before have I transitioned into a semester so smoothly, nor have I been able to stay ahead in coursework in this fashion (although I have been doing really well about getting things done since last fall). In December I am hopefully graduating and moving on to the next chapter of my life.

I have made significant changes to my lifestyle in what I eat and what I do everyday. I used to eat upwards of 6000 calories a day, including at least 9000mg of sodium and nearly six times the amount of fat, sugar, and cholesterol I should be ingesting. My diet consisted of large portions of fast food, Buffalo wings, nachos, foot long subs loaded with chicken, cheese, and ranch dressing, fried food, Chinese food, buffets, and everything else that could possibly put one’s health in jeopardy. On top of that I would drink two caramel frappachinos from Starbucks (Venti of course) on most days. And I smoked over a pack of cigarettes a day!

This spring I was not only tired of looking at myself in the mirror and being disappointed in who I saw, but I was very concerned for my health and decided to make a huge change. At first I really struggled with food for about a month, restricting and temptations to binge and purge.

However, I began to keep track of calorie intake and stopped eating fast food, subs, and pretty much everything I was eating before. For me it was making a huge shift in my habits. I had to have the right attitude and motivation to say enough is enough. I need to be in control of my diet, not the other way around. But I was really fighting myself for a while and I was unhealthy about eating less. But with help from my counselor and researching healthy ways to improve diet and lose weight, I started to learn how to manage my intake and what my body needs to get in balance.

So what did I eat?

I replaced my former diet with organic homemade smoothies from fruits, veggies, and water. I began eating salads with light dressing. I started cooking my own chicken with a tiny drop of olive oil that I wiped around the skillet to coat it. I ate egg whites instead of yolks. I ate plain cheerios with almond milk with a fat free yogurt for breakfast. I made steamed sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables, and stopped eating fried foods, processed foods, white bread, pasta, deserts and candy, milkshakes, added salt, and I avoided restaurants. The only things I drank were water (lots!) and black coffee. I made spinach and veggie burgers with no cheese. I stopped sodas and juice completely, and cut out all junk food like chips, cookies, and beef jerky.

Of course this was a huge battle. I did a lot of research on nutrition and got an app for my phone called MyFitnessPal which helps keep track of my nutrition and exercise. I learned what my body needs and doesn’t need. It needs potassium, vitamins, iron, protein, and some fats. It doesn’t need more than a few teaspoons of sugar or over 2300mg of sodium a day. It needs fiber and Omega 3’s. It doesn’t need over 300mg of cholesterol or trans fat. I check the nutrition labels and do my best to abide by the serving size. And I eat most of my food earlier in the day and much less at night so my body can burn off the calories as my metabolism slows down for sleep.

My research has opened my eyes to what it means to eat right, and instead of “dieting,” I made a lifestyle change. I go for walks, do calisthenics, and I’m going to get into the Insanity workouts in full. It is very difficult, though. I have had to practice a huge amount of self-control and that is not easy after having struggled with overeating for all of my teens and early adulthood. Also, might I add, I am under a pack a day and have the goal to kick cigarettes for good before I turn 25 (so 2 years).

My joints feel better, I have more energy, and my heart feels less strained, though I know it will take a little while for my body to recover from the terrible things I have put it through. But making those changes is incredible to help maintain emotional health. My head has room to be filled with goals and ambitions, and I am not crashing into depressive psychosis when things get stressful with school. I have been working on my novel and reading my books, and I have been conscious about what I am doing from a health standpoint. Walking for 30 to 40 minutes every morning is a huge boost to my day and I am ready to work hard to push myself further in my studies.

Eating healthy is vital to our well-being. My counselor has been helping me too and has told me that the human body has ways of telling us what it needs and what it doesn’t need, no matter how much our taste buds want it. We just have to listen. Nowadays, I don’t even like soda anymore, and I will enjoy a tall skinny caramel latte from Starbucks. But 12g of sugar in the morning (to burn it off throughout the day) is much better than 84g – twice a day! Plus I’m not restricting myself from a tasty beverage; rather, choosing a healthier option. I do that with everything I can and it makes it much easier.