Good health became a family affair

"To say nutrition has always been a part of my life is somewhat of an understatement. When I was twelve, my grandmother passed away from complications of Type II diabetes. By the time I entered high school, my mother had received her diagnosis. By my sixteenth birthday, I was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and was morbidly obese. Something finally clicked: I realized I was next in line to get the disease; to be the third generation with Type II diabetes. My greatest fear was that I would gain the 'freshman 15,' putting me that much closer to my own diagnosis. I was determined to beat the genetics I’d been given and made some serious lifestyle and behavioral modifications.  

I started with some obvious changes; I cut out fast food and soft drinks. I replaced snacks with healthy alternatives like fruit, pistachios and various other nuts. Once some of the weight began to come off, I implemented a light exercise regimen. I convinced my mother to join me and soon enough she had begun to lose weight also. I was fascinated by what impact nutrition played in my life. I did my best to help my mother and acted as a star role model by following a healthy diet. When I left home for college, I carried my momentum forward. I made all my own food and organized exercise classes for my friends and myself.

While in college, I lost some weight through diet and decided to implement a workout routine. Fortunately, I had a friend who was willing to coach me as I started to exercise. We would meet at my dorm and then head to the gym. I would walk there as my warm-up, and she would run back and forth between myself and the gym until I got there. Once we were in the gym, she was always by my side. She helped pace me by jogging a few steps ahead of me, and eventually I ran my first mile in college! She was able to get me around the track and prepped me for 5Ks. She was not only my friend and coach, she was also one of my bridesmaids.

I loved to teach my friends new recipes by holding weekly cooking lessons. Helping my friends eat better and improve their health had become quite the hobby of mine, and it occurred to me, 'Why not do this as my career?' I always had a passion for the sciences, and I’d thought of myself going into a career where I can have significant impact on people’s lives. By becoming a Registered Dietitian, I would be able to have a rewarding and fulfilling career. By graduation, I had lost 120 pounds, and not only changed the course of my own life but also that of my mother’s.College is a tough place to lose weight. Everywhere I turned we had availability of free pizza and junk food. We would road trip to nearby universities and potato chips and cookies always came along for the ride. This was a struggle for me, but I found carrying nuts to be a great solution. They lasted long, were portable, and filled my salt craving. I especially liked that I it took longer to eat pistachios because of the shell. I was able to control how much I consumed without blindly snacking. It’s been a few years since I graduated, but the weight has remained off and my healthier lifestyle has endured. Recently I graduated with my Master’s in Dietetics and Nutrition and hope to continue on to a Ph.D. I used to live for food and to eat, but now I eat to live and am happy to say that pistachios are a part of that."