A woman who nearly ripped her stomach because she refused to stop binge eating after her weight loss surgery has finally shed half her body weight, as she’s committed to eating healthier.
Hair stylist Sylvia Harper, 37, from Utah came from a family of alcohol and violence, but wanting to avoid those traits, she turned to food instead.
‘I wasn’t handed an easy card in life. There was a lot of alcohol and violence in my childhood and in a bid to not repeat those behaviors I found comfort in food when times were hard, and that became a habit,’ Sylvia said.
Her battle: Sylvia Harper, 37, from Utah turned to food to handle her difficult upbringing. It wasn’t until she got weight loss surgery that she was able to lose the weight
Change: At one point, Sylvia weighted 266lbs. She now weighs 135lbs.
Heartbreaking: ‘I thought about my body every single day. It consumed my thoughts,’ she said, pictured with her husband and five children
Sylvia ate lots of carbohydrates and junk foods, which she would then wash down with sugary pop, and after having five children her waistline continued to expand until she buckled her belt at 266lbs. and was wearing a dress size 20.
‘I was divorced by 20, but I reunited with my high school sweetheart by 24 in 2007 and we have three children together,’ she detailed.
Time to change: One day Sylvia woke up and decided it was time for her to alter her life
‘My husband [Ben] has been incredibly supportive regardless of how big I was, but In a bid to avoid meetings I used to pick fights with him in hopes he would be mad at me and not let me come with him. I was just too ashamed of how big I was and hated how I had let myself go.’
Whenever she did make it to those gatherings she would run for cover whenever someone started taking photos.
‘When we did go to social gatherings, I used to hide myself behind everyone else whenever pictures were being taken and that was only when I couldn’t avoid them altogether. I would never post full body pictures of myself on social media,’ she said.
‘I couldn’t keep up with my children because I was out of breath really quickly,’ she said. ‘They wanted me to trampoline with them and go on bike rides, but it was just too painful for me so I’d make up excuses as to why I couldn’t go with them.
‘I thought about my body every single day. It consumed my thoughts, it was endless. I would wake up each morning in the hopes that the last seven years were just a dream and I was actually skinny. “How did this happen? How did I let myself go like this?” I would feel so much despair and hopelessness.’
Sylvia decided enough was enough, and in 2017 she decided to have vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) weight loss surgery. Within just one year, she shed half her body weight to weigh 135lbs. and now wears a dress size four.
It’s time: In 2017 she decided to have vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) weight loss surgery. She is pictured shortly after the procedure
Life-altering: Within just one year, she shed half her body weight to weigh 135lbs. and now wears a dress size four. She is pictured recovering in hospital
Different: The surgery prevents Sylvia from eating more than 56g at a time, which has helped her drop the weight
New mindset: Sylvia also became much more active following the surgery
Constant battle: The surgery left skin around Sylvia’s body that she got rid of. It also didn’t totally curb her love for food
Although Sylvia feels amazing to finally have control, she says weight loss surgery was not the easy way out. She adds that VSG is like a painful relationship breakup – but with food.
‘The hardest part about losing weight has been the mental part,’ she said. ‘After having weight loss surgery, I could only eat 56g meals. Somehow, I thought I’d feel full, I thought those meals would satisfy my smaller stomach.
‘The reality was my addiction to food meant I wanted more, my addiction was never satisfied.’
She continued: ‘Immediately after my 56g meal I was restless. I was thinking about all the junk foods I used to love. I did give in, but only a few times and eating one bite too much left me in a lot of pain. I felt like I was breaking up with food. I was losing a relationship with food but nonetheless the feelings were real, I was anxious and depressed. It really hurt.
‘Overall it was fear that stopped me overeating post-surgery. It was the only thing that could stop me. I knew that if I indulged the pain would kick in and it could rip my stomach. If that happened, I’d be on a feeding tube for the rest of my life.
‘I also knew this was my last chance to lose weight and I had to take it seriously. I sought counselling to help me learn new coping mechanisms to succeed.’
Pushing on: ‘The hardest part about losing weight has been the mental part,’ she said
Staying committed: The mom-of-five had to learn to put herself first over food after the surgery. If she didn’t, her stomach could burst from too much food
Success: ‘I was finally winning the battle against food addiction,’ she said
Lending a hand: ‘To all those ladies out there who want to lose weight, listen, there is absolutely no shame in seeking help from someone who is specialized in weight loss,’ she said
But, after perseverance and counselling Sylvia now feels like her life has just begun and loves being able to do all the things she couldn’t do before.
‘It took about four months to get used to it, but once I started to say no regularly, I didn’t need to over consume,’ she said.
‘I didn’t need those carb-rich, sugary foods in my life. I was finally in control and saying “no” to certain foods made me feel powerful. I was finally winning the battle against food addiction.
‘I now have a second chance at life. I can live my life to the fullest and I can do all those things that my body wouldn’t let me do before. People around me often say how happy I look now and they are shocked when I show them the before and after photographs.
‘To all those ladies out there who want to lose weight, listen, there is absolutely no shame in seeking help from someone who is specialized in weight loss.
‘Not everyone needs as much help as I did, but if you now feel like you are at that point I was – believe me that there is hope for you and there is help for you out there.’