By Scott Thompson

THIS WOMAN’S body confidence saw her eat her way up to a whopping THIRTY STONE but it wasn’t until she was diagnosed with DIABETES and struggled to TIE HER OWN SHOE LACES that she decided to shed the pounds.

Senior business office representative, Stephanie G. Paredes (29) from Richmond, Virginia, USA, had struggled with her weight since she was a child, but because she always felt beautiful she felt she could eat in excess.

Stephanie was always confident and had lots of positive people in her life so was never bullied growing up, but she used to eat when she was feeling emotional or when she was bored. This meant that she happily ate her way to 29st 12lb and a UK dress size 40.

At her largest Stephanie weighed thirty stone and wore a UK dress size 40. MDWfeatures / Stephanie G. Paredes

Although she was very body positive, as she grew in age and size she had to deal with a slew of health problems all directly related to being obese. In August 2015, Stephanie was diagnosed with high blood pressure and sleep apnoea, had problems with her knee and then told she had type 2 diabetes in August 2015.

Stephanie struggled to do normal everyday things that others could and she felt like she couldn’t go out with friends because she didn’t want to slow them down. She struggled going to restaurants with her peers because she struggled to fit into the booths which made her feel embarrassed.

Fed up of not fitting into nice clothes, struggling to tie a shoe lace, not being able to fasten her seatbelt in the car and being diagnosed for diabetes, she realised big changes had to be made. After making the decision to have a gastric bypass in April 2018, Stephanie has slimmed down to 11st 13lb and wears a UK size 12.

“I have been overweight since I was a child. I had no knowledge of nutrition and I was an emotional eater and ate when I was bored. It always led to overeating,” Stephanie said.

“I’ve always considered myself as being beautiful even when I was bigger. I’d embraced self-love and my personality and the way I carried myself attracted people to me. I think this is why I avoided bullying.

Stephanie happily ate her way to thirty stone. MDWfeatures / Stephanie G. Paredes

“I would binge on pizza, Chinese, sweets, crisps, soda and juice and I ate so much bread and rice. I’d say I was eating about 3,000 calories a day and at my heaviest I weighed 29st 12lb in August 2015.

“It was frustrating that I couldn’t walk far without being really out of breath. I felt like I kept pulling back my friends so I didn’t want to go places like the amusement parks with them. I also struggled getting into the seats at the restaurant which was embarrassing.

“It was frustrating that I couldn’t fit into cute little clothes or even buckle myself into cars. Even tying my shoe was a struggle due to being out of breath.

“The turning point for me was August 2015. I already had sleep apnoea, high blood pressure, a bad knee and then was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I realised I needed to change my health and take my condition seriously. Particularly now having diabetes, I didn’t want any further problems. This was very important to me.

“I immediately cut out junk food, soda and juice and started reading labels on foods while counting calories. I would eat three healthy meals a day and two healthy snacks. For breakfast I’d have a protein shake, then at lunch a cup of meat such as grilled chicken or tenderloin, for dinner I’d have another protein that was baked and served it with vegetables.

Stephanie now has to deal with excess skin which is the aftermath of a lifetime of bad eating. MDWfeatures / Stephanie G. Paredes

“I also started walking 10k steps a day and joined the gym. With the help of a personal trainer that first year I did a lot of weight lifting, Zumba and some calisthenics like squats and sit-ups.

“I managed to lose 9st 12lb from this by November 2016 and was weighing about 20st 10lb and I gained a little over that next 12 months due to anxiety medication. My knee was playing up again and I decided to have gastric bypass surgery in April 2018. Since then I’ve continued to lose weight and now I’m 11st 13lb and fit into a UK dress size 12.”

Stephanie says the hardest thing about her journey was dealing with putting her emotions aside rather than putting them into junk food. She also struggled in the beginning as she didn’t know what she could or couldn’t eat.

Though she says that the journey both physically and mentally has been worth it.

Stephanie’s friends and family can’t believe the change and are very supportive. She has made plenty of new friends along the way and they don’t believe it’s her in the before photos.

“In the very beginning back in 2015 I had lots of headaches when I gave up eating junk food and changed my diet,” Stephanie continued.

Stephaie more than halved her body weight. MDWfeatures / Stephanie G. Paredes

“It was definitely an emotional rollercoaster letting go of unhealthy foods. I went through moments of feeling upset and frustrated because I felt like there wasn’t much I could eat.

“Of course, now I feel this emotional journey was all worth it. Although there are many factors to happiness, I’m grateful to God that I’ve lost the weight. I’m no longer diabetic, I have no high blood pressure and no sleep apnoea.

“I’ve kept all my same friends and also gained new ones. People see me walking around during my breaks at work and they join me. They see me walking in place and they get motivated to exercise with me.

“Those around me are amazed at my transformation. They say they are so proud of me. Most people can’t believe that those old pictures are of me. Many say I have motivated them to live a healthier lifestyle and they themselves began losing weight.

Fat to fabulous, Stephanie says she thanks God she lost the weight. MDWfeatures / Stephanie G. Paredes

“If you want to get started on your own journey have a serious talk with your doctor on healthy ways you can change your lifestyle. It’s not about diets, it’s about making real changes that can last.

“I live low carb, high protein and low fat, this works wonders for me, but everyone is different so you need to find what works for your own body.

“If you ever lose your motivation, remind yourself why you started in the first place and remind yourself where you used to be.

“I’d also just like to add that big or small, self-love is so important. Even with the weight loss I still have moments of anxiety and/or depression. Don’t think that losing weight will solve all your problems. It will certainly help but remember to love yourself.”