Discovering the personal path to health and wellness

By Sarah Costello
March 16, 2010

In the rush and chaos of everyday college life, sometimes a juicy burger and a heaping helping of french fries is just the pick-me-up needed to finish that paper or complete a project.

The feeling is familiar to me. For the past three years I have slowly begun to consume fast food on a regular basis. I am skilled at denying the calorie counts and convincing myself that after a long day I deserve a frappuccino or double cheeseburger.

In January 2010, my blissful eating habits came to a screeching halt when I mounted the scale for the first time in three years and came face-to-face with reality. According to the body mass index calculations, I was 20 pounds overweight. There were multiple indications that my weight would continue to increase if something was not done to combat the problem.

Weight loss can be a daunting challenge, especially for a college student. Financial constraints and time restrictions often prevent individuals from switching to healthier menus and exercising regularly.

Fad diets and advertised short cuts may seem the ideal route to losing weight fast, but diets are often short lived and rarely succeed in the long run. HealthCastle.com explains diets often fail because they deprive the body of necessary food groups (carbohydrates and fats for instance) and leave dieters hungry — a situation that will inevitably result in a “willpower blowout.”

I realized the only way to lose weight and keep it off indefinitely is to adapt a new healthy living mentality. According to Inch-AWeigh.com, four out of five American women said they are dissatisfied with their looks. And almost half of all American women are on diets. In a culture obsessed with outward appearances and instant gratification, it is no wonder so many women struggle with low self-esteem.

Though there have been several initiatives in the last year to combat obesity and instill healthier meals in public school systems, people often miss the heart of the issue. The problem is not that a high percentage of Americans look fat but that a growing number of Americans are heading toward high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure and early death.

Pursuing weight loss is a noble goal, but it is a waste of time for people planning to subject their bodies to strict diets until they reach a healthy weight only to revert back to old habits that never really had a chance to die. I’ve tried the South Beach Diet and the vegetarian route. I never succeeded. Each time hunger inevitably proved stronger than my willpower and I’d come crawling back to the McDonald’s line.

Overcoming my habits has been one of the hardest initiatives I have ever attempted. Instead of ruling out carbohydrates, fats or calories, I decided to forgo disastrous cravings and satisfy hunger with low-calorie snacks and meals.

I became a member of SparkPeople.com, a free Web site that provides an abundance of healthy living information and enables users to document food consumption and record exercise plans. I stopped eating fast food, gave up sodas and desserts and introduced my palate to the plethora of savory vegetables that are much better options than french fries or chicken fingers.

Ten pounds later I am halfway to my goal and am surprised at the new habits that have formed. While the first couple of weeks were difficult, I can now say the sacrifices have been worth it. I have found a weight loss plan that leaves me satisfied and has shown sensational results.

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