By Kate Harrold
AFTER being fat-shamed by her dad, this woman deliberately consumed countless calories a day as an act of rebellion – until a heart attack scare pushed her to lose over half of her bodyweight.
Banker, Michaela Miller (31), from Greeley, Colorado, USA, did not lead an active lifestyle whilst growing up. Struggling with weight gain, Michaela flitted between diets, under the guidance of her parents, without ever taking the time to truly learn about good nutrition.
As such, Michaela developed an unhealthy relationship with food. Wanting the best for their daughter, Michaela’s parents were particularly concerned with her weight. Her father, more so than anyone else, would bring this up telling Michaela to lose weight.
As the relationship between the pair became strained, Michaela began to use eating as a form of rebellion. At the time, she wore a UK dress size 28 and weighed 21st 6lb. Michaela would regularly eat fast food for lunch and dinner and often emotionally binged.
When Michaela was 25 years old, she mistook an allergic reaction for a heart attack. Fearing for her life, she knew that things needed to change. Everyday activities like walking became painful and Michaela developed anxiety and depression.
Having already tried several diets in her youth, Michaela knew that she needed a more permanent change and decided to undergo a self-financed vertical sleeve gastrectomy surgery. This is where a section of the stomach is removed meaning you become ‘full’ quicker.
The surgery was no quick fix. Michaela also had to completely change her lifestyle and eating habits. She now exercises daily – incorporating a mixture of cardio and weight-lifting workouts – and eats home-cooked high protein meals.
Whilst Michaela still struggles with self-love from time to time, her active lifestyle has given her a new lease of life. Michaela is now a UK dress size 8 and weighs 10st 10lb – halving her bodyweight.
“My adolescent life was not very healthy or active. I hopped from diet to diet under my parent’s instruction,” Michaela said.
“Healthy eating and exercise felt like it was either a way to lose weight or a punishment for being overweight. I struggled to learn about proper nutrition and develop a positive relationship with food.
“My family was hard on me about my weight and my relationship with my father suffered greatly for it.
“I thought that eating and gaining weight was my way of taking back control from my father. It was my way of rebelling. The more I was pushed to lose weight, the more I ate.
“It wasn’t until I decided to get weight loss surgery that I realised I was sabotaging myself. I wasn’t taking control. I was letting his toxic mind-set take control.
“I couldn’t do anything without being in pain, breathing heavily, or sweating. I had high anxiety and depression – I just wasn’t living. I was so young and life was passing me by.
“At twenty-five, I suffered from an allergic reaction but I initially thought it was a heart attack. I was scared for my life. I was afraid of dying young, but also of never really living too.
“I had tried diets and tracking calories. I needed a permanent solution that I couldn’t back out of.
“I had read about a young woman who had a vertical sleeve surgery. My health insurance wouldn’t pay for it but I knew that this was the path for me so I was determined to finance it myself.
“Weight loss surgery is often viewed as the ‘easy way out.’ Nothing I have been through and done has been easy. Weight loss surgery is only one aspect. I had to completely change my lifestyle and my relationship with food.
“My life is completely different now – everything is easier.
“From walking upstairs, to exercising, to hiking, to trying on clothes, to painting my toenails – even going to the bathroom is easier. I used to struggle to wipe my butt which is uncomfortable, but true.
“There are things that I could easily take for granted now, but I never want to forget the struggles I used to have and where I came from.
“Losing weight has freed me. I am finally able to live the life I always wanted to do. I have more confidence, less fear, and less anxiety.”
The mental recovery has been the hardest for Michaela who still occasionally struggles with motivation and seeing her body for how it is now. Thankfully after delving back into dating, Michaela met her partner and the two deem themselves to be ‘#swolemates.’
“When you’ve been fat your whole life, it takes a long time for your brain to catch up to the fact that you aren’t anymore,” Michaela said.
“Even after four years, I can still have days where I feel like the biggest girl in the room. I’m working on self-love.
“Social media played a huge part in my self-love journey. I saw other women experiencing similar things and with similar bodies and it made me realise that I’m beautiful too.
“Loose skin, cellulite, rolls, dimples, and stretch marks are normal and none of those things detract from your beauty or worth.
“I worked hard for this body and I deserve to love it and feel proud and sexy, and I try to share that message with other women.
“The best compliments I get are when people say I look fit or strong. We have to learn that we’ve always been beautiful – thinness doesn’t change that. It’s just that we were too trapped to see it before.
“Weight loss allowed me to mature and grow so I knew that I needed an active partner and that I wouldn’t just settle again.
“My partner is amazing. He’s my perfect match and keeps me motivated. We love to meal prep and exercise together.
“My biggest advice for those just beginning their weight loss journey is to just start with adding movement into your daily life.
“Movement is medicine and the more we move, the better we feel. The better we feel, the more likely we are to eat healthily. Focus on health and feeling better, not losing weight.”