Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Teen Essay Contest in May 2014

Theme: Inspire Myself, Motivate Others
The Third Place Winner: Tammy Ha
Lowell High School

There is a saying that in order for others to love you, you must first learn to love yourself. I did not realize the truth of this quote until recently. I had low self-esteem and lacked confidence. Next to my fellow high-achieving peers at Lowell, my grades and accomplishments seemed insignificant. When I looked in the mirror, all I would notice were the dark circles around my puffy eyes, the dry patch of skin above my upper lip, the braces attached to my imperfect teeth, and the way my hair curled in the strangest way no matter how much I tried to comb it down. I especially had a problem with body image because of my weight. I wore loose clothing. I wish I had a faster metabolism. I wish I had a body that was thinner, like the bodies of models in magazines. My problem stemmed from insecurities because my body mass index was considered above average.
During my junior year, I realized I had to do something about my weight problem. I was taking an additional semester of physical education because I had not met the fitness test requirements. Secondly, my body mass index was reaching 27, the highest it had ever been. Although I was initially embarrassed, I decided to seek out a dietitian to help me create a healthier lifestyle. We created a personal plan with small attainable goals, such as switching to brown rice, eating more fiber, and exercising for thirty minutes daily. I lost fifteen pounds and as a result, I am not as self conscious about my body.
Through my goal of weight loss, I adopted a more positive mindset. I learned not to care about what others think, or about what society views as the ideal body weight, I focused only on my goal to live a healthier lifestyle. Instead of comparing myself to other people, I compared my own progress relative to time. Of course, difficult times prompted me to question whether I could still move forward. Despite my doubts, I finished through because of my perseverance. I knew I did not become overweight overnight, so I told myself that I cannot expect results of my new lifestyle overnight either. No matter how slow the progress, I reminded myself that big changes are accumulated through small goals.
Of course, the change was not easy. There were days when I felt lethargic due to an increase in homework load. Although I did not enjoy the activity of running, I loved the feeling of accomplishment after I finished. I felt more energized afterward, so I liked to exercise then jump right into homework. The endorphins reduced stress built up from my rigorous classes. Initially, I found the diet adjustment difficult because of my desire of junk food. However, healthy eating became easier when my family made changes  along with me. We all switched to eating brown rice and implementing more vegetables into each meal. We also cut down portion sizes by using smaller bowls. While shopping for groceries, we rethink our choices when grabbing certain foods such as granola bars and cereal. Sometimes we altogether skip certain aisles and only shop in the sections with fresh produce.
My brother, in particular, motivated my diet adjustment. We banned most fast food restaurants; a year and a half has passed out but we still abide to that rule to this very day. We also created a difficult rule: we are allowed one dessert a week. This rule was actually first suggested by my dietitian. I tried, and I failed. Yet when I challenged my brother to it, I was able to abide to the rule because I did not want to let down my little brother. This dessert rule soon extended to other foods as well. When one of us is on the brick of buying a bag of chips, the other will take the bag away and place it back on the shelf. When about to order something, my brother would point out a healthier alternative. We keep each other in check by challenging each other to eat healthier.
My sister also motivated me to live a healthier lifestyle. She tagged along with me during my jogging sessions and also suggested different activities in case I became bored with my current exercise routine. She suggested we play basketball or go swimming. She invited me to hikes with her friend. She was basically someone that I could go to if I felt lazy and needed someone to push me out the door to start my daily jog, or if I needed a partner for sports such as tennis and badminton. I will admit that as of today, I have not been keeping up with my daily jogs. My sister, on the other hand, has recently been clocking in much of her limited spare time in the gym. Sometimes I will notice that she already made a trip to the gym in the morning, only to tell me in the afternoon that she will be going back a second time because once was not enough and that she still has enough energy to fit in another workout session. My sister, as well as my brother, were essential for creating the motivation for me to stick with my new lifestyle changes.
By creating a healthier lifestyle, I created a better version of myself. I learned to love myself, and in turn, I felt that my relationships with other people became more positive. In a similar sense, motivation works the same way. I first inspired myself to become healthier, so I sought out a dietitian and made realistic goals. My family was aware of this change, and I noticed that they, too, set goals for themselves. They caught on with my new habits, and their new habits became another source of inspiration for me. It is a cycle of motivation; you get back what you put in. After all, how can we motivate others when we cannot first motivate ourselves?

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