I still have the photo of where it all started. The photo of me at my heaviest weight — 350 pounds — doing my best to jog one mile around my local park. I could hardly maintain the jogging pace from one light pole to the next, but as frustrating as it was, I knew that I had to start somewhere. It was time for a change.

I was often tempted by my favorite foods in my teens which consisted of bread, cheese, pasta, pop, and candy. This diet clearly reflected the way I presented myself, inside and out. I woke up to my alarm every morning, wondering what the point of leaving my bed was. I remember the internal dialogue I'd say to myself upon getting out of bed. I'd think "I hate my life" or "what's the point of living anyway." As harmless as this may seem, I started to believe it after so many times of telling myself these words.

I specifically remember one time at an amusement park I had to get off a rollercoaster just because the seatbelt wouldn't clip around my wide stomach.

I climbed out of the train car feeling defeated and felt all the eyes on me as I was holding up the ride. The amount of embarrassment that flowed through me still wasn't enough for me to change my unhealthy ways. In fact, it wasn't until my mom started changing her diet that I knew that I wanted to do something about my weight, too.

I was tired of feeling uncomfortable all the time. I hated the way I looked in pictures, how I felt waking up exhausted every day, how I felt trying on new clothes, and how I felt walking down the sidewalk. On top of this, I knew that if I didn't change my ways, it would have severe consequences on my health down the road. For so long I made excuses about the reasons that I couldn't lose weight, but I became fed up with my own excuses.

So what did I do? I stopped making excuses about why I couldn't go to the gym or go for a jog, and I changed my diet.

I cut the carbs, increased my protein and fiber intake, and started drinking more water. There were some days that I'd go to the gym twice and I'd walk five miles at a time until my legs couldn't take it anymore. I was determined to lose the damn weight and I wasn't going to let anything get in my way. Slowly, I started to see the results. I would step on the scale and see 50 pounds gone, 80 pounds gone, and finally 100 pounds gone. It wasn't until I got to college that I started to work harder and I finally reached a weight loss of 150 pounds. I reflect back on this experience of life-changing events and I know that I couldn't have done it without the help and encouragement from my amazing family and friends. They were there every step of the way, every pound lost, and every night that I got home from the gym.

For those of you reading this and feel the same way that I did, I encourage you to take the first step.

Don't wait for next week, or the new year. Start tomorrow, go for a walk, take the stairs, and dance like a goofball in your living room. Slowly start changing your diet, don't make a change in your diet immediately because we all know you've tried that and it doesn't work. Set realistic expectations and don't ever get discouraged when you don't see results. Often, the results are not physical but reflected in the way you interact with yourself and others around you.

If no one else believes in you, know that I do. I know you can do this.