By Liana Jacob
THIS former morbidly obese student was so frightened at the thought of her parents having to BURY her that she had weight loss surgery and shed more than HALF her body weight in just two years.
University student, Stephanie Sanjurjo (22), from New York, USA, was obese for as long as she could remember and with having most of her family who are also obese, eating was a ‘social activity’ for her.
She used to eat whatever and whenever without doing any physical activity unless it was necessary, which led her to reach OVER 28st 4Ibs and a UK size 32.
She was mercilessly bullied by her peers and that on top of being told by doctors that she may suffer at least one heart attack before she hit 20, reality hit her.
She decided to completely turn her lifestyle around, naturally losing 6st 2Ibs by reducing her carbohydrate intake.
But this wasn’t enough for her to make a long-term difference, so she decided to have the vertical sleeve gastrectomy surgery in March 2016 and lost a further 9st 4Ibs and is now a much slimmer 12st 12Ibs and a UK size 10.
“As a child I was shy, introverted and often ostracised by my peers. I was bullied relentlessly every day at school,” Stephanie said.
“In many ways, food was my only friend. I turned to food for comfort and support; whether I was sad or happy it didn’t matter – I ate.
“Most of my family are also obese and it was normal to be very large. Eating is often a social activity and in my family, this was no different.
We showed our love through food. We celebrated with food.
“I used to hate myself; a deep-rooted, loathing hate. I was super morbidly obese and depressed; so young but already so tired of life.
“I say my highest weight is twenty-eight-stone four pounds because that was the highest number I’ve ever seen on a scale.
“The realisation that my parents might have to bury me hit me like a ton of bricks. I was told by doctors that I’d probably have at least one heart attack by my early twenties.
“One day I woke up and realised how fortunate I am to be alive, that every day was an opportunity for something amazing to happen.
“I began to love myself and in turn, I wanted to actually take care of myself and my body. I went into losing weight with the intention of making a permanent lifestyle change.”
Stephanie intentionally avoided ‘fad diets’, walked around the track during her lunch break, cutting out soft drinks, switching from white bread to whole wheat, cut out carbohydrates and shed over six-stone.
But because she had so much weight to lose, she decided to make a more drastic change and in March 2016 she had vertical sleeve gastrectomy, which is the removal of a large portion of her stomach, reducing it to the size of a banana.
“I often did not move unless it was completely mandatory and had no concept of eating mindfully. Now? I love moving. I walk for hours just because I want to and because I can,” she said.
“I actively and consciously make efforts to choose food that will actually benefit me. My eating is not always perfect, I don’t always get to the gym when I plan to. I just strive to continuously improve and do better today than I did yesterday.
“Losing weight is not always easy. I was faced with people who were unsupportive; both intentionally and unintentionally.
“In addition, being severely overweight my entire life and losing over fourteen-stone has left me with a large amount of excess skin.
“It can be hard sometimes to look in the mirror and not see the body you’d expect to see after losing weight.
“People are very supportive. I often get neighbours who come up to me to tell me how ‘beautiful’ and ‘skinny’ I am now.
“I know they mean well, and I appreciate their positive feedback, however it is sometimes hard to imagine what they must have thought of me before.
“My advice would be to start slow. You did not gain the weight in a week, so you can’t expect to lose it that fast. Real progress takes time.”
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