By Alyce Collins
THIS TWENTY-SEVEN STONE woman was bullied for her weight which led her to becoming a binge eater and HEROIN ADDICT – but she has since hit the gym, HALVED her weight, had surgery to remove TEN POUNDS of excess skin and become a LIFESTYLE COACH.
Lifestyle coach Michelle Bakal (26) from New York, USA, knew she was larger than those around her from a young age, with her family doctor saying she was too large for her age and needed to lose weight early on.
Michelle often felt as though she didn’t fit in at school because people looked at her differently as a result of her weight. Bullies would often call Michelle fat, even shouting ‘watch out’ as she walked through the school corridors.
The cruel jibes made Michelle feel as though she wasn’t normal and at 16 she started experimenting with alcohol and heroin. During this difficult phase, Michelle gorged on food and her weight increased to 27st 1lb, becoming a size 4XL on top and a UK size 32 in trousers.
When she was 21, Michelle went sober as she knew she wanted to turn her life around. In accomplishing her sobriety, Michelle was empowered by what she could do and felt that if she could give up drugs, she could lose weight too. It was then that Michelle faced her battle with food and was diagnosed with binge eating disorder in 2015, which highlighted that she had been turning to food to fill in for emotional support.
Michelle had grown accustomed to eating two pounds worth of spaghetti for a meal, or an entire pie to herself. To kickstart her dramatic weight loss, Michelle had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy in October 2017 and she now goes to the gym five times a week to do weight training and hikes with her husband, Zachary (23) and she now weighs everything she eats.
Michelle’s weight has plummeted to 13st 5lb and she now wears a size medium. After hitting her goal weight and maintaining it for eight months, Michelle was able to have surgery to remove the excess skin she was left with afterwards. In July 2019, surgeons removed 10-pounds of skin, adding to Michelle’s impressive transformation.
“I’ve been overweight since I was a child and I remember seeing the doctor at a young age and hearing that I was heavier than I should be for my age,” said Michelle.
“I didn’t think it was a problem until school started and I felt like I didn’t fit into how everyone else looked. I became aware that not only was I heavier, but substantially taller than all the other girls. So, once school started, I felt like my body wasn’t normal.
“In school, people would call me names and say fat jokes. I would walk down the hall and boys would yell ‘watch out!’ as I was minding my own business. I got looked at differently too.
“At my largest, I was 27 stone and one pound, and I did absolutely no exercise. The most I could do was to walk a short distance, but even that was difficult.
“I would eat two pounds of spaghetti in one sitting, or an entire pie all to myself. I had no understanding of what is in food.
“I started using drugs at 16, starting with marijuana. That progressed to whatever was offered to me. How I got on to heroin was a prescription to opiates by my doctor. Feeling as amazing as it did, heroin was just the next step – especially when I would run out of my prescription. Once that line was crossed, there was no turning back.
“I got sober in 2014 off heroin and all mood-altering substances. It was about a year into my sobriety when I realised that I had been using food my entire life to fill an emotional void. So, if I could get clean off drugs and alcohol then I could lose the weight too. That was the turning point.
“My first step was going to an eating disorder clinic and realising that I have binge eating disorder. I realised that I could not eat for long periods of time and then binge on food to the point of feeling physically ill.
“When I found this out, I wanted to lose the weight for myself – it wasn’t for anyone else, which I think was important.
“As I started to notice the weight falling off, it felt surreal and I wasn’t expecting it. But at the same time, I felt like this time would be different because I wasn’t trying to lose weight to impress someone else. It was for me and me alone.”
On July 16, 2019 Michelle had a belt lipectomy, reverse tummy tuck, breast lift and extended arm lift to remove excess skin from her stomach, breasts and arms. Although she is still recovering from surgery, Michelle is looking forward to seeing the results as her excess skin had become bothersome.
After discovering a love for fitness since halving her body weight, Michelle enjoys motivating others to turn their lives around through posting about her transformation on Instagram, @michelle_bakal.
“Now, I weigh everything I eat – which sounds more annoying than it is but it’s quite simple once you get the hang of it. I have a greater understanding of what kind of proteins, fats and carbohydrates I need to put into my body based on my energy expenditure,” said Michelle.
“For breakfast, I eat two protein bars every day. Since I’m a vegetarian, I get my protein from plain yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs and protein powder. Lunch is usually a cranberry walnut salad, and dinner would be vegan meatballs with some fresh veggies on the side.
“Late night snacks are a must still, so I’ll make a protein mug cake using flap jacked protein pancake mix, along with peanut butter powder and sugar-free syrup.
“I became a lot more active and now go to the gym five times a week to do weight training and body building. I have hiked up high peak mountains with my husband and even gone camping. These are things that I could never do when I weighed 27 stone because my mobility was next to nothing.
“My bariatric surgeon recommended that I wait until I hit my goal weight and maintain that weight for a minimum of eight months before considering skin removal surgery. So that’s exactly what I did.
“The only difficult decision about it was wanting to get it done before having any kids. I had to tell myself that carrying and delivering a child would not leave me with the same amount of excess skin I had from losing 14 stone.
“In July, I had skin removed from my stomach, back, breasts, and arms. The procedures included a belt lipectomy with a butterfly lift, reverse tummy tuck, breast lift, and extended arm lift. This was essentially a full abdominal lift. They ended up removing 10 pounds of skin which had all been hanging off me since I shed the weight!
“I am still recovering from surgery, so I don’t really recognise myself physically quite yet. Emotionally, I feel like I have a better handle at life and how to deal with things now because before I would just bury my emotions with drugs and food.
“It’ll be a 12-week recovery period which is going well so far. I’m focusing on taking it easy because that’s exactly what the doctor said to do. It’s hard when I’ve been independent for so long and now, I have to rely on others to shower and dress myself.
“Losing so much weight has enabled me to explore my love for fitness. It’s enabled me to want to motivate others because I get it, when you’re in a position where you don’t know where to start. But there is always a way out from that turmoil.
“If I can do it, anyone can. Five years ago, I was a 27-stone heroin user but then I got sober, lost weight and learned to love myself again.”
To see more, follow https://www.instagram.com/michelle_bakal/