Twice a year we award two students our iVein Health and Wellness Scholarship. Students must write an essay that promotes a practical approach to a healthy lifestyle in college and how these habits can be sustained over a lifetime.
We received many great entries, but there can only be one winner. Here is the winning essay:
A bowl of trail mix – a curated mixture of almonds, walnuts, dried apricots and dark
chocolate morsels – sits beside me as I write. I wonder if I will be denied this
scholarship because of the last chocolate chip I munched. But that chocolate chip
keeps me going. By giving myself choice, living a healthy life has become a way of life.
Sustaining a healthy lifestyle has never been easy for me. When I first began college,
I mindlessly enjoyed the unlimited ice cream and chocolate chip waffles on Saturday
mornings. I had days when ice cream on top of my waffles made for a classic pickme-
up morning feast. I eventually realized, however, that this meal had the exact
opposite effect of a “pick-me-up”. I felt lethargic and tired. I was first surprised and
then became depressed once my jeans became a little too snug. Like many college
students, I bounced between extensive varieties of diets. The 1200-calorie days. Fatfree
foods. Zero-carb diet. The ketogenic approach. Many of these diets were great for
a few days, even weeks. Then, I’d get a sniff of fresh chocolate chip cookies or a
grilled cheese sandwich. Sometimes, it would simply be a carton of full-fat yogurt.
When I’d have one of these “cheat” bites, my entire day of dieting would crumble
apart and I’d resort to overeating, perhaps it was even binge eating. I would not be
able to concentrate on school or immediate assignments. Rather, I’d take the day off
while eating all the sinful foods I had restrained from myself. There were days I
would eat until my stomach hurt. There were nights I hated my body and myself. I
would feel useless and simply go to sleep. The next day, the diet would start again.
To overcompensate, I’d go half a day without eating. Needless to say, I never lost a
sustainable amount of weight during this period of dieting. More importantly, I was
unhappy, unproductive and very unhealthy.
A year later, I began studying for the MCAT – a crucial time for any premedical
student. While studying for the exam, my days were jam-packed with study sessions
and summer school so I didn’t have much time to think about my diet. I fell into a
rhythm of waking up early each morning and eating four home-cooked meals
everyday. Every evening, I would go to the gym so I could energize myself without
the need for caffeine. I slept by midnight everyday and made sure to get 8 hours of
sleep. Studying for the MCAT was like training for a marathon; I didn’t want to cram
and made sure I had ample energy to study diligently for the entire summer.
Suddenly, it wasn’t so hard to eat healthy on a regular basis. No urgent cravings and
no binge eating. With the exam only weeks away, food was not the center of my
Today, I am twenty pounds lighter than my first year of college. I am mindful of what
I eat and how much I eat. However, I hold myself to no restrictions. A philosophy of
healthy living as a lifestyle allows me to enjoy day by day. I’ve learned to forgive
myself and celebrate milestones. These changes have brought me ample more
happiness and pride than my weight loss.
As a medical student, I have the great pleasure to learn from physicians who value
the art of medicine as much as the science behind it. One physician in particular is
Dr. Sheffield, an endocrinologist at Kaiser Permanente. During a lecture on obesity,
he asked us, “Which two specialties in medicine express the most compassion?”
According to a survey, the answer was oncology and pediatrics. His rationale behind
the answer was that both of these specialties have something special in common;
oncologists and pediatricians never blame the patient for his or her disease. Then,
Dr. Sheffield asked us to consider the following hypothetical situation: “It’s 2 AM,
and you’re the physician on call. An obese, diabetic man just suffered a heart attack
from exacerbated atherosclerosis.” He wondered how many of us would blame the
patient, “if only the patient watched what he ate”. He urged us to think like an
oncologist or pediatrician and be more compassionate towards our patients.
I think back to my difficult and ongoing journey towards maintaining a healthy
lifestyle. I will never blame my patient for his or her inability to sustain a nutritious
diet. I have learned from my personal and academic experiences that healthy living
is really a challenge of a lifetime. I strive to eat mindfully, exercise frequently, sleep
well and perhaps most importantly – forgive myself. Eating well and losing weight is
hard. Maintaining healthy habits to be sustained over a lifetime is even more
difficult. I have realized that I will not lose weight in a day, nor will I gain it
overnight. The best and most practical approach is to forgive myself and move on
with the day. No day should be wasted because of a chocolate chip cookie.