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After losing over 400 pounds, mom can keep up with her 4 kids: 'Don't give up on yourself'

LydiaMay Wylesky found comfort in food. After giving birth to her 4th child, she knew she needed to make changes to be a better mom.
LydiaMay Wylesky weight loss
While LydiaMay Wylesky lost 100 pounds by exercising more and cutting out sugary drinks from her diet, she plateaued and turned to gastric bypass surgery to help.Courtesy LydiaMay Wylesky
/ Source: TODAY

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All her life, LydiaMay Wylesky has been overweight. When she started kindergarten, she weighed 102 pounds. Over the years, she kept gaining weight and became so heavy that scales couldn't measure her. While working in a scrap yard, she climbed on one of the industrial scales and learned she weighed 618 pounds.

“It was depressing,” the 39-year-old from Charleston, South Carolina, tells “I did what many people do. I just tried to find things that would make me feel better … (which was) food.”

Wylesky knew she’d be a better mom to her four children if she lost weight and underwent gastric bypass surgery. Since then, she’s lost more than 400 pounds. 

“I decided I can’t do this,” she says. “I can’t keep going on this rollercoaster ride.” 

Weight gain

Wylesky says she was a big baby, weighing 10 pounds 7 ounces, and was a large child, too. By middle school, she weighed 218 pounds. In high school, she weighed 308 pounds.

LydiaMay Wylesky weight loss
LydiaMay Wylesky decided to lose weight to be a better mom to her kids.Courtesy LydiaMay Wylesky

“I just had bad habits in life, stress eating,” she says. “Food became my happiness.” By her mid-20s and second pregnancy, Wylesky weighed around 400 pounds and she continued to gain weight. Right before her fourth pregnancy, she tried to lose weight and was down to 552 pounds. Still, doctors felt concerned by how heavy she was even though she now weighed 518 pounds. Instead of congratulating her, her doctor chastised her.

He said: "'What are you going to do? Because if you keep going the way you are, you’re going to be dead in five years and your kids are not going to have a mom,’” she recalls. “It just motivated me even more.”

Weight loss

To lose her first 100 pounds, Wylesky cut out energy drinks. She tapered her consumption by only taking one sip before tossing the rest. Soon, she realized she could save money by not having any.

After giving birth to her last child, she realized she needed to change more habits and cut soda and rice from her diet. She also got a tricycle because it supported her weight better than a bike. At first, she started riding it — with her baby strapped into a carrier — to her mailbox in the mobile home park where she lived.

“That was tiring,” she says. “You’d have to go down about 20 mobile home houses and come back 20 mobile home houses, and there’s a little bit of an incline.”

She continued to push herself to ride greater distances, often taking her children along with her.

“After I got comfortable doing that multiple times a day for a couple of weeks, then I’d ride down to the ice cream shop with the kids,” she says.

LydiaMay Wylesky weight loss
When LydiaMay Wylesky weighed 618 pounds she felt exhausted by cooking meals for her children and needed to sit down to finish.Courtesy LydiaMay Wylesky

Wylesky says she and her children would split one serving of ice cream and ride their bikes back. Once they took a two-mile ride to their favorite breakfast spot.

“They were exhausted from riding their bikes even though they just had a really good breakfast,” she recalls. “That was the first time ever I felt I was able to wear them out on their bicycles. It was like, ‘Wow, I’m actually making progress.’” 

But Wylesky’s weight loss plateaued, and she felt she needed some help. She turned to gastric bypass surgery. At first, she struggled with the weight loss program prescribed prior to surgery. She couldn’t eliminate carbs from her diet.

“You’re supposed to stay away from bread, rice, potatoes and processed sugars, and you write down on food logs what you eat,” she says. “I’ve always just done what I know how to do. I would eat what I wanted.”

That meant she’d eat a salad and lean protein for one meal and then enjoy spaghetti and garlic bread for the next. Finally, she realized she needed to follow the plan.

“I was so stubborn and set in my ways,” Wylesky says.

LydiaMay Wylesky weight loss
LydiaMay Wylesky tells her children she has "bat wings" since losing weight and having excess skin. She sometimes feels self conscious about her appearance but feels proud of what she has accomplished.Courtesy LydiaMay Wylesky

When she underwent the surgery on Nov. 5, 2021, she weighed 490 pounds. Now, she's down to 194.

Non-scale victories

Wylesky has always loved being near water, finding it calming. At her heaviest, she'd try taking her children to visit local waterfalls, but always chose ones that didn’t require a long walk. For her most recent birthday, they visited Chattanooga, Tennessee, and hiked to Ruby Falls, walked through the caves and visited many other sites.

“The big hikes, there was no way I was ever going to do that at the weight I was,” Wylesky says. “Now, I don’t have to find the shortest smallest trail.”

She also feels like she’s better able to keep up with her children, including the younger ones.

“You’re not capable of living a very happy life when you’re 600-plus pounds and forcing yourself to stand in front of the stove for 20 minutes and then sitting down on a chair to finish cooking dinner for your kids because you’re exhausted just from standing,” she says.

Her weight loss experience taught her a valuable lesson.

“Life is definitely worth living,” she says. “I’m so glad that I was able to stick to something this time.”  

LydiaMay Wylesky weight loss
Since losing more than 400 pounds, LydiaMay Wylesky now enjoys hiking to see waterfalls and doesn't need to stick to short walks.Courtesy LydiaMay Wylesky

 Her advice to others

Wylesky has one bit of simple advice to others hoping to lose weight or adopt healthy habits: “Don’t give up on yourself.”

“I really just didn’t care about myself,” she says. “Once I decided I had worth and my kids needed me — and I needed to be better for them — that was when I was able to start making the necessary changes and tipping the scale in a positive direction.”