Weight loss, when doctor recommended, is a journey that can transform your whole life. But not necessarily in the ways that you think.

I remember when I was turning 17 years old, I desperately wanted to lose weight and achieve my "dream body." I cut down on calories, exercised, and eventually started seeing results. Sounds simple enough, right? Well I'm holding back a few details from you.

By "cutting down on calories," I actually mean going from a very reasonable 1,200 calorie diet, to a very drastic 200 calorie diet on days I didn't "splurge" on 500 or 800 calories a day. I kept a detailed journal of my eating habits and feelings of accomplishment, and basked in the figure I was transforming into, which never seemed to be quite skinny enough. I still had lower belly fat despite my trimming waistline. I was confused and misunderstood my own body by assuming it was because I hadn't lost enough weight. This "understanding" is what I told myself whenever my mother sat me down and tried convincing me to eat more, or when my brother and sister raised concerns over my new habits. Little did I care, however. Instead I turned to "thinspiration," an online community fueled by millions of people facing eating disorders and encouraging themselves and each other to follow unhealthy eating habits. I saved photos to my camera roll of gorgeous skinny girls that held headlines such as "be strong" and encouragements not to allow myself to eat unhealthy, promising of the guilt that would come afterward...which consequently always had. I faced this lifestyle for months, until I had eventually concluded that I had reached my goal weight, even if I still hadn't reached my "ideal body." I breathed a sigh of relief as I came to the "realization" that I could now eat whatever I wanted, because I had worked hard and I couldn't possibly gain it all back after achieving such a slim figure.

In the blink of an eye, I gained all of my weight back.

And that's the sparknotes version of the story of how I nearly fell into an eating disorder, but was saved by my own ignorance. When I had seemingly suddenly gained all of my weight back, enough time away from my former way of thinking had passed where I was able to reflect and realize how scary my mindset really was. I became so obsessive over losing weight, I allowed it to be all I could think about, all I wanted to work on, and my favorite topic of conversation. I considered myself a near expert in nutrition and felt pride in every plate of food I left unempty and every morning I woke up seeing less of myself. While I started to gain the weight back, I was upset about the loss of my physical progress, but relieved about the gains I made mentally. After this one, every weight loss journey I had embarked on since was unable to be successful through calorie counting. I just couldn't do it anymore, my willpower to micromanage my calorie intake had left along with my ideas of "healthy eating."

Looking back, I'm fully aware that while I may not have yet to achieve and maintain my goal weight or body image, I am ten times happier because of the fact that I can recognize right from wrong and am given the chance to approach weight loss healthily. When you achieve something the wrong way, you never truly feel as though you accomplished anything. For example, having hatred for yourself won't go away once you "finally" look the way you want. In fact, when you are so unhappy with your image, you often will never feel a true sense of accomplishment, regardless of the number on the scale or reflection in the mirror. It is as if you threw yourself into a bottomless pit to get to your destination. The further you fall, the closer you believe you are--but in reality, you're nowhere close because the destination doesn't exist within the route you took to get there. You may lose all of the weight you wanted to, but you're nowhere close to the happiness you thought you'd achieve by doing it the wrong way.

Now I plan on doing things differently. I've had enough of focusing on weight loss so much that I let it get in the way of my being happy. I'm living in the moment and making decisions based on what I believe is best for the person I see myself being, with the mindset that I already have it all. I'm trying to create a new mindset that will guarantee my success because I stopped giving it so much importance and attention, and if you're struggling with weight loss as well, I encourage you to work on this with me.