06/03/2015 04:20 pm ET Updated Jun 03, 2016

How I Healed Myself With Small Changes

"What is wrong with me?" I wondered. I thought I was making all the right decisions - I had started swapping white bread and pasta for whole grains, I cut meat out of my diet, I was drinking diet soda instead of regular soda and eating snacks marked "low fat," but I was still carrying about fifty pounds too much on my five-foot frame. Like many others, I thought 'health' meant simply the difference between calories in and calories out. What I didn't know was that I was hurting my body in ways I never even knew were affected by nutrition. I was stressed out, depressed, and my skin was prone to terrible breakouts. One night in January 2012 I decided to go out for a run, which completely uncharacteristic of me. That night was a turning point, although of course I didn't realize it at the time. When I couldn't run to the end of my block without the crushing feeling that my lungs might explode, I was devastated. That was my wake up call, and I vowed right then and there to take control of my health.

I took up running, thirty seconds on and thirty seconds off. When that was comfortable, I would select a point in the near distance, such as a stop sign, and run to that point. When I reached one goal, I set another. I invested in a blender and started drinking smoothies every morning because I couldn't stand the taste of vegetables. I drank more water, phasing out the diet soda. The more I learned about nutrition and what health really meant, the more able I was to tune in to what my body was asking me for. I stopped being concerned with losing weight and focused simply on becoming healthy. I realized how stress was affecting my well-being and learned to manage it, spending more time with myself doing things I loved. I eventually came to know this as "self love" -- and it is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle.

There are two morals to this story. The first is that "health" is defined by far more than the food on your plate and the number of miles you run. Everything you do contributes to your health, from your sleeping habits to your self care ritual to your stress level to your relationships. The second is that the journey to a healthier lifestyle is just that -- a journey. It's not an "all-or-nothing" situation. Just because you can't run a marathon right now, doesn't mean you can't move your body at all. Walk around the block. Tomorrow, walk a little further. Get clear on your goal and break it down into small, attainable steps. It will take time but if it's something you truly desire, it will be worth it.

Today, three years after my failed attempt at running, I have one half marathon under my belt and am training for my second. Brussels sprouts are my favorite thing ever, and I make time for myself every single day. I am down to my goal weight and have been for a while now. I truly healed myself with small changes, and you can too! Take some time to really assess your lifestyle and your goals. Get crystal clear on what you really want. Then create small, actionable steps to get yourself there!