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Mind Over Obesity

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Growing up obese, I never understood what a healthy lifestyle was because eating uncontrollably and staying inside to play video games was just my norm. My obese phase started in elementary school, so an overweight lifestyle was something I had always known as a child. My poor health affected my performance when playing basketball, a sport I had been playing since I was 5-years-old. My parents started to notice that I struggled to maneuver up and down the court and over time my involvement with this sport gradually declined.

I’ve always appeared as one of the overweight kids in the class, one of the kids who could never pass the fitness test, and one of the kids who always had a full plate of food, but at the time, I never cared about all that and viewed obesity as just a part of who I was. Every annual weigh-in during PE class, I saw my numbers go higher by at least ten pounds every time. After getting cut from the basketball team before my freshman year of high school, I completely put away the sport that was my only source of exercise. As a result, I was thus laden with my bad habits of eating and inactivity.

It isn’t really until high school where social life becomes a major part of our lives. I was unhappy with who I was and where I was health-wise. After my sophomore year of high school, during the summer of 2013, I personally felt that it was time to get myself in better shape by dieting and rediscovering my old passion for basketball as my source of cardiovascular exercise. At this stage of my life, I was 5’3” and 205 pounds: numbers that almost exhibit severe obesity.

Raised in a family with a history of Type II Diabetes, I knew that I needed to shift my true purpose for losing weight. Motivation played a significant role in my overall goal of losing weight. At first, I was losing weight for the social aspect of being accepted for my appearance. But at the end of the day, I would never get that far with my goal with that mindset. I redirected myself and started to lose weight for my own well-being because if I didn’t, I really could not imagine where I would be health wise 40 years later down the road.

Through intensive diet and cardiovascular exercise, I was able to start progressing my health. It was a slow and hard process to get acclimated to at first, but once I entered a mental zone in which I was literally addicted to my progress, losing weight became easy. I made it enjoyable as well, as I rediscovered my love for the game of basketball, a sport I had put down for a couple of years during my obese phase. Understanding my caloric deficits and counting my macromolecule intake allowed me to track my diet effectively and in turn, I learned how my food intake along with certain balances of exercise affected my body and overall feeling. By the end of the 2013 calendar year, I grew three inches and lost 50 pounds.

Reflecting on this long process, I became more motivated in life when it came to overcoming obstacles. Overall, I was happier. I fell in love with the slow process of progress. Every morning, I saw myself in the mirror but always felt like I looked the same, but inside I knew I was changing. I had people supporting me the whole time telling me how much slimmer I was getting, always providing me with positive feedback. Although I was doing all the hard work, I would not have been able to do this without the help and support of my family and friends.

Losing weight not only involved diet and exercise, but I also needed to learn the basics of what to do, how to do it, and why I was doing it. Researching biochemistry models of fitness allowed me to make progress quickly and efficiently. At the end of this process, I realized that I had a passion for health and wanted to express this for the world and those suffering from what I suffered growing up as an obese child. My passion for health has evolved to the point where I can help mentor others who are struggling with obesity. Since my change in lifestyle and online research on weight loss, I can effectively tell others my story and why I did certain things to get to the point where I am at today.

I am currently a Biological Sciences major at the University of California, Irvine studying to be in the professional health field as well as working as an aide at a Physical Therapy clinic in Newport Beach. The reason why I enjoy working in Physical Therapy is my aforementioned love for the process of progression. I see the same patients coming in every day for routine check-ups, and firsthand I get to see how much better someone is improving because of my own hands. After experiencing what it’s like to improve my health, I am now able to see myself as someone with the capabilities to provide support and guidance for other people in society.

In the end, motivation is what guided me to this point. I learned that you always need the right motivation to do certain things in life. For me, it was losing weight for my own well being. If you ever try to set out big goals in life, before you even begin, reevaluate why you are doing it. Always do it for the right reasons. Never let society dictate what you do in this world, and you can begin to make your own positive impact. Once you achieve one long-term goal, don’t stop. Stay driven to accomplish more and allow your experiences to be a precedent for others in society.

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Fitness/ Diet

My 26.21 Mile Accomplishment

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I never expected to run a complete marathon. Running a marathon may sound like something only elite athletes or future Olympians would do. It just didn’t seem plausible for me to run for hours straight, especially since I grew up like anyone else. I was involved in cross country in high school, went to class, work, and lived my daily routine normally.  But this year on March 18, 2018, I ran my first ever marathon. After I graduated college, I wanted to take on a new challenge and decided to get back into running. I thought to myself that I might as well “go-big or go-home.” Next thing I knew, I signed myself up for the LA Marathon.

While I did run cross-country in my senior year of high school in 2011, long-distance running was still new to me. Cross-country races are 5 kilometers, or about 3.1 miles, while a marathon is 26.2 miles long. Not only that, but I didn’t keep up with running after high school since I got into weightlifting. As some may know, weightlifting builds muscle, which contradicts the effects that long distance cardio has to break down muscle and build endurance.

Photo by Go to Ann Kathrin Bopp on Unsplash

Signing Up- May 12, 2017

The first thing I did to prepare for the marathon was to give myself ample time between when I signed up for the marathon and when it actually took place. I signed up for the LA Marathon on May 12, 2017. That gave me a little over 10 months to prepare. Yes, I could have just started my training early and signed up later on, but by signing up early, there was an added motivation because actually doing the marathon became “real”. It also helped that once you sign up and pay for the LA Marathon, there are no refunds, which means there was no backing out now!

When I signed up for the LA Marathon, I signed up for two other races as well: The Santa Monica Classic 10k (6.2 miles) on September 10th, 2017 and the Pasadena Half Marathon (13.1 miles) on January 21, 2018. This three-race series was known as the “Conqur La Challenge” that gave me a bundle deal and helped me pace my progress throughout my training cycle.

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

The First Milestone- September 10, 2017

Now, I was almost ready for a 6.1-mile race by September.  As time passed, these smaller run checkpoints ensured that my mileage was going up. I felt stronger and better with each practice run I made and noticed my time was improving, a critical factor when training for a race this long.

Besides my mileage going up over time, my running frequency also went up over time. I was still going to the gym and lifting weights in addition to my running as part of an experiment I was doing. I wanted to see if I could maintain my strength and minimize muscle loss while still building running endurance. Most people focus on bodybuilding or stamina, but balancing both at the same time was a challenge I wanted to overcome.

Photo by Chanan Greenblatt on Unsplash

The Second Milestone- January 21, 2018

Next came the half-marathon in January. I prepared for this by signing up with one of my closest friends. While we may not have trained together very often, we did go to all three races together. Knowing I was going through this marathon experience with a friend helped out a lot. I had someone to talk about training with and had support during the actual races. This was another great source of motivation and was very important to my training.

As the official marathon date approached closer and closer, I cut back the number of times I went to the gym to lift weights and increased the number of times I ran. Before beginning my marathon training, I was going to the gym 4-5 times a week and only running once a week. I slowly changed that to going to the gym 3-4 times a week and running two to three times a week.

Photo by Pietro Rampazzo on Unsplash

Marathon Day- March 18, 2018

As the marathon approached, I, unfortunately, had a minor setback. I hurt my knee after running some very steep hills a few weeks before the marathon. I realized I had neglected incline training but overcorrected by running too steep of an incline. While it was a tough decision, I decided to take some time off before the marathon to let my knee heal. Looking back, this was the right decision because I had already prepared a substantial amount up to this point. One extra week of running was not going to make a difference, but if I had chosen not to take some time off, I could have hurt my knee worse.

When the big day finally approached my knee had gotten better, but I was still a bit nervous about the grueling run I was about to partake in. However, I just remembered to have fun with it and before I knew it, I crossed the finish line and conquered the 26.2 miles!

“I crossed the finish line and conquered the 26.2 miles!”

Training for the LA Marathon and then actually running it were such great experiences and I hope to run another marathon sometime again in the future. I will take what worked from training for this marathon as well as what I learned (such as preventing injuries) to have a better experience next time around. Finishing a marathon helped me feel like I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to and it is a challenge I would want to conquer again. I hope that by sharing my experience in how I prepared for my first marathon, others can take something away or be inspired to run their first marathon soon.

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Depression

Even a Million Dollar NBA Player Has Personal Obstacles to Overcome

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We might see professional athletes as role models who are unstoppable, but they too have their own hurdles to get across. Cleveland Cavalier Kevin Love, an advocate for mental health, described his own experiences of how he balanced anxiety and basketball.

In the Player’s Tribune, Love admittedly said that “I didn’t want to look weak. Honestly, I just didn’t think I needed it.” Last November during a game against the Hawks, Love encountered a panic attack and abruptly had to step out midway. People mostly pay attention to physical health and wellness, especially for athletes, and not towards mental health. Growing up around the stigma that all men needed to be strong without discussing any feelings, Love always felt that he was forced to repress his grievances and hardships. By suppressing his thoughts for 21 years, it just made his mental health more complicated.

He emphasizes the importance of discussing out loud our inner feelings and confronting the fact that “I need help.” He wants everyone to know that “everyone is going through something we can’t see.”

“Everyone is going through something we can’t see.”

The primary concern regarding mental health illness is that it isn’t seen visibly. That is why it is difficult for some people to accept this illness without observing any tangible evidence.

A few months later after Love confessed his situation to the public, Carson Daly conducted a full interview with him on the Today Show. He finally decided to break the silence and opened his heart to the public about how he overcame the stigmas of mental illness. Even though it may be a never ending process filled with dark thoughts and a constant battle in your mind, he found much more support when he spoke openly about mental health to others. Now, Love goes to a therapist and is continuing to combat his internal fight every day. His social media fans are inspired by his actions and are fascinated by his admittance.

It’s not only Love who acknowledges mental illness as a prominent problem; it is a recurring trend where celebrities are opening up about their internal struggles to the public during interviews. Diminishing psychological health is understandable for people who are constantly under high pressure and stress from society. A few months ago, renowned people such as Janet Jackson and Ariana Grande opened up about their personal conflicts in the People’s article. We should respect that these public figures, role models, and celebrities are still human. As humans, we all have individual hardships to conquer; but together, everyone’s support can help bring awareness and care for mental diseases. As more people feel comfortable enough to come out from the dark to discuss their feelings openly, mental illness will soon demand a greater focus in society.

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Interviews and Stories

When My Bones Dried Up

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In December of 2013, I was diagnosed with Very Severe Aplastic Anemia. I was just 19 years old at the time. What confuses me even to this day is that I had been healthy and active before this diagnosis. As a college student, I was very busy, but I also tried to eat healthily and went to the gym frequently. Subconsciously, I felt invincible.

It happened all at once and out of nowhere. One week I was enjoying my winter break, and the next week I was fighting for my life in the ICU, battling Pneumonia and the swine flu with an almost non-existent immune system.

My life completely flipped. I had never really been sick before – I couldn’t even remember the last time I had the flu. Suddenly, I had a rare illness. I became a patient in a large hospital. My hematologist explained to me that I needed a bone marrow transplant and discussed treatment options like chemotherapy and other medications.

Honestly, it took me a while to understand the severity of my condition. I was oblivious and hopeful. I remember daydreaming in the hospital, fully convinced that I would be all better within a couple of weeks and back to my normal life. But I soon realized that wasn’t the case.

After 1 month in the hospital, I went home to continue my recovery. Every day involved a ridiculous amount of medications. Twice a week, I visited the hospital for check-up appointments, as well as blood transfusions to keep my body going until it could produce enough blood on its own.

One of the hardest parts was abandoning all the things I had done before my diagnosis. I took a medical leave from school, my internship, and pretty much gave up everything else. Going anywhere left me at a high risk of infection because of my weak immune system. I spent most of my time at home or at the hospital. One-hundred percent of my focus went to my health.

I missed my normal life.

It even transformed the lives of the people around me. My mom quit her job so that she could take care of me, and my family did everything they could to make sure I stayed healthy. We were living in a different world.

As my condition slowly improved, I began going to appointments a little less frequently. But my progress became stagnant about 6 months into my treatment. So, the doctor decided that I should undergo a second round of chemotherapy to treat my condition.

Six more months passed. Not much progress. There weren’t really many options left, and I still hadn’t found a match for a bone marrow transplant. Personally, I wanted that to be the last resort. I understood the risk behind receiving a transplant, and I still had hope that my health could improve without it.

I forgot to mention that a few months after I was diagnosed, I began seeing an acupuncturist. He treated me twice a week, but mainly encouraged me to follow a certain diet. I avoided the foods that he told me to avoid while doing my medical treatments.

Anyway, the chemotherapy wasn’t really working. My medications were making me feel worse and worse as time went by. Something needed to change.

About 1.5 – 2 years after my diagnosis, I made a change. Without telling my hematologist, I actually started weaning myself off of my medications (careful to make sure it didn’t negatively affect me). Soon, I was taking almost no medication. I focused on living a healthy lifestyle, following the diet that my acupuncturist recommended, exercising, and praying that it would all work.

And it did.

Check-ups showed that I was improving at a faster rate—this wasn’t long after I had stopped taking my medications. After about 1 year of consistent improvement, I told my doctor that I had stopped taking my medications on my own. Thankfully, she was happy with the progress and told me to keep doing what I was doing.

Now, over 4 and ½ years later, things are looking great. I’ve graduated from university. I work full-time. My last appointment showed that my red blood cell count and white blood cell count are at a normal range, with my platelet count being a little low.

I’m lucky that this all happened while I’m still young. Yes, I know that sounds weird. But the fact that I was young meant my body had more strength to fight and recover. I’m sincerely thankful. No matter how difficult it has been, I live with much more gratefulness and vigor in life, and I feel ready to fight whatever comes ahead.

 

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