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Vanessa looks toward the future
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Vanessa in 2003 (MPR Photo/Bob Reha)

Moorhead, Minn. — It's an odd feeling to reflect upon my future. A few years ago, my view of the future was short and grim. I didn't feel that I would be around a long time.

When I was in high school and was looking at going to school at NDSU, I had a checkup with a doctor here in town. Basically, the message was that I need to lose weight, etc., or by the time I turned 30 I would have serious health issues or I could die. Now, being the stubborn teen, I took this standard message that I had being getting from doctors all my life, and did nothing with it.

In fact, the next few years I would say I went in the opposite direction. The doctor stated his case as a threat, not a concern. My impression of him at the visit was that he was compassionless, so to hear this news from him meant nothing to me.

Now as I am rounding the corner to 30, that message haunts me a little. Granted, I have made amazing strides in my health the past two years. But the previous eight years, I was not so good to myself. I was a little self-destructive. I didn't care. I didn't feel that anyone really cared if I was around or not anyways.

When someone tells you that you will die in three months, you make the most of it. When I went to college, I had fun. I never drank when I was in high school, but when I went to college, I quickly embraced my drink. College is fast food. So my diet consisted of McDonalds, Pizza Patrol and nachos from the Minimart. I didn't really exercise, except for walking to classes and dancing at parties on the weekends.

I went on blood pressure medicine in my freshman year of college. It's not really advisable to drink when you're on medicine, but that didn't really stop me. I figured the medicine would balance out the fact that the alcohol would raise my blood pressure levels. I guess you can rationalize anything if you want to.

So each year, as I get closer to my 30th birthday, I can't help but think that I didn't heed the advice of my doctor until eight-plus years later. What is going to happen when I turn 30? Some people freak out about the big 40, but 30 is kind of my milestone. I would like to write that doctor a letter at that time to let him know where I am at.

My Health:

I would like to continue to lose weight. My goal is to lose 50 more pounds. At this point, I feel that I would be at my ideal weight. This is the weight I think would be best for me. It is not the ideal weight that you often see on height/weight charts.

I want to maintain my weight loss. It is easier to lose than it is to maintain. I have developed a new eating style. I can't go back to my old habits or else the weight will come back on. That's the secret.

I would like to be able to be free of all my medications. Right now, I am on blood pressure medicine and also take potassium supplements. This may take longer, as I've had high blood pressure all of my life and it seems to be a family trait. I want to continue to maintain tight control of my blood sugar so that I don't have to ever go on medication again for my type II diabetes.

For fitness goals, I would like to eventually get in shape so that I could run. Right now, I do not run, unless of course a large rabid animal was chasing me -- then I might consider picking up the pace a bit. I have never been a runner so to me this would be a big challenge.

I would like to continue to challenge myself when it comes to the climbing wall. I want to get to the top and ring the bell. This is a challenge for me due to my fear of heights and falling. I have made a step in the right direction, as I have been taking a climbing orientation and climbed up one-third of the wall so far.

I need to continue to challenge myself. There is no goal high enough that I cannot reach -- if I am willing to keep trying and working towards it. That's what I tell myself when I'm 15 feet off the ground.

I want to become toned. When I was losing weight at a dramatic pace, I had several people tell that I would probably need a tummy-tuck. I didn't have surgery to lose weight, so I really do not want to consider surgery to tone. If I am patient and continue strength-training, this should all come together. Surgery is not an answer that I want to consider.

My Career:

What do I want to do when I grow up? I have a good job with great benefits and I work for a great company. I've been in the same position for the past six years. I think we all struggle to find that job that is perfect for us. I envy those that know exactly what they want and get it. They are so lucky.

Often I have thought about going back to school and getting my masters degree, but what holds me back is what I will do with a masters. In my current role, it would have no impact.

I've never really had a dream job in mind and I've always been open to what comes along. I've had a variety of jobs in my short working life, and usually it is the people I've worked with the make the difference, even when the job has been less than desirable.

I often wonder what my calling in life is. I believe that we all have a gift that allows us to make an impact in the lives of others, and will be equally fulfilling in our lives. I'm trying to find that calling. Right now, I feel that sharing my story of my weight loss is the closest thing that I have experienced to finding my calling in life. It has been beneficial to me, and I've found that I have made a difference in others' lives.

My Personal Life:

I think everyone wants someone to share their life with, and I am no different. I want to be able to share the special moments in my life with someone else. I want to be able to come home and share my day with the person I would marry. I don't want to be alone.

Before, I figured I would be alone the rest of my life. Who would want to spend their life with me? Now that I am thinner and feel better about myself, I would think that maybe someone would want to spend their life with me. To be where I am now and to still be alone concerns me. I can’t help but wonder why? I tell myself to be patient.

Do I want to have kids? Yes and no. As a single person, I would choose not to have children. If I found the right person, I may want to have children. I have some apprehension about having children, as I do not want to have someone else have to deal with the weight issues and the pain that I went through growing up overweight. It affects you the rest of your life. I'm not sure I would want someone to go through that. There is a great responsibility in raising children and I'm just learning how to take care of myself.

My Family:

I am working on building better relationships with members of my family. I look at some of the relationships my friends have with their parents and siblings, and they are so close. I am not. My mom always told me that people have a hard time relating to me. Of course, I don't get that. I always feel if someone is nice to me, I am friendly back.

With family, though, I think we both tend to vocalize exactly how we feel, without buffering any of the messages we are sending. The raw messages can be hard to take and often lead to hurt feelings and strained relations. Whether you like them or not, they are still your family.

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