Twice a year we award a student the 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:

Health is Wealth

The year is 2017. Social media fitness experts, diet plans, and “the five secret tips to your best body” are ubiquitous. There are unlimited online tutorials on how to lose weight and get the perfect beach bod, but how about living a healthy lifestyle? Most online health and wellness plans advertise that customers will lose 20 pounds in two months on their revolutionary diet. Or that their secret supplement will make consumers feel more energized and promote weight loss. Then the two months are up the supplement pills are exhausted and people return to eating the same foods as before and anxiously await the next fitness trend. In addition, most workout plans are temporary. They only last around eight weeks and provide a few stagnant workouts and exercises that the individual will rarely revisit. Health and wellness is not merely a sprint to the finish line in a race of who can see the fastest results. Health and wellness is a marathon journey that lasts a lifetime.

My fitness journey began when I was about eleven years old in the 6th grade in my hometown Teaneck, New Jersey. I keenly remember the fear and anxiety that came with being overweight at that age. Taking off my shirt in the gym locker rooms and exposing my overgrown chest and rotund stomach was a terrifying experience. I anxiously surveyed the room for peering eyes before I ducked into a corner to quickly change shirts. I quickly learned to do this out of habit and the other kids that didn’t suffered the consequences. The embarrassment was compounded when I was unable to keep up in my physical education class; barely hanging on to the bar during the flex arm hang with all my peers snickering in amusement. Or being one of the last to cross the finish line whenever we had a race. One time I tried to do the rope climb after I saw a boy reach the top and everyone greeted him with roars of applause. When my classmates saw me approach they whispered under their breath, “he’s too fat to climb it” and walked away because I was to fat to deserve their attention. I couldn’t wrap my feet around the rope. And every overweight middle school student can relate to the dreaded moment in health class when they reach the health and wellness chapter and the students incessantly look around the room to find someone that meets the endomorph body type description.

I decided I finally had enough when in that same health class we encountered was to get fit and be healthy. We read about obvious nutrition tips like eating fruits and vegetables and drinking water and basic exercises like running and jumping rope. Then, of course, the popular good-looking boy that could easily do twenty pushups blurted out “ Isaiah can’t run!” I’ll never forget this moment. His words changed my life forever. They are the single most pivotal reason I am here today. My whole class keeled over in laughter. I couldn’t open my mouth to protest. I couldn’t defend myself. I was paralyzed with the truth.

That was the moment that I decided what was truth and what was a lie. I took control of what was fact and fiction. I began my health and wellness journey doing pushups and sit-ups in my bedroom before I went to sleep. I could only amass about four half pushups and twenty sit-ups in which I could barely get my shoulder blades off the ground. But I persisted. The exercise I did at my home formed the basis for the passion and love I have for fitness today. I began to enjoy playing recreation soccer and basketball and continually asked my mother to sign me up for the next year. As I grew older I became healthier but I was still missing several elements of a healthy lifestyle.

I was still very similar to the majority of Americans. When I wasn’t playing a recreation sport I lived a sedentary lifestyle. Currently in America 20% of the population is considered obese (stateofobesity.org). Technology has largely hindered rather than helped Americas health. People can sit on their couches and watch T.V. for hours at a time. Moreso, streaming services such as Netflix allow people to binge watch whole seasons of shows varying up to 20 episodes in one sitting.

As I entered high school I learned what having a healthy lifestyle is. I no longer binged watched T.V. and I participated in my schools sports; track and cross-country. In addition, I did strength training in the gym to make be a better athlete. Squats and deadlifts gave me leg power and core stability; clean and presses made me explosive; Pushups and pull-ups gave me the upper body stretch to generate force and run faster; and abdominal workouts gave me the core strength to finish the last 100 meters of a race as fast as I could. I improved my nutrition by avoiding greasy foods, eating healthier, and drinking more water. For example I dilute sports drinks with water because of their high sugar content.

As I enter into college I am implementing these healthy habits into a concrete routine of health and wellness. I have a schedule of varied workouts like basketball, high intensity interval cardio, heavy weight lifting, body weight drills, running, swimming etc. Furthermore I am improving my healthy lifestyle in college. Actively abstaining from drugs and alcohol that inhibit motor abilities is tantamount to a healthy life. Furthermore I get approximately eight hours of sleep, an often overlooked but necessary part of health and wellness that is crucial to mental and emotional health. Meditation is also a good way of alleviating mental and emotional stress that can lead to overeating. Fitness should be a permanent routine woven into the fabric if one’s life and maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires resilience dedication and devotion, things that don’t come easy, but the benefits are life changing.