Christine Carter, 28, is a weight-loss success story, but her journey to a happy, healthy weight might look a bit different than most people's paths. And that's totally fine with her.
In August 2014, Carter underwent laparoscopic gastric sleeve resection surgery, and to date, has lost 150 pounds and kept it off.
"Nothing else was working."
Christine Carter's "aha" moment that she needed to get serious about weight loss happened in July 2014 when she attended a family reunion. She hadn't gone in several years, but was looking forward to reconnecting with her extended family.
"I saw my favorite uncle standing across the room," recounted Carter. "As he approached me, he just kept walking. He didn't recognize me because I weighed 275 pounds — I had to introduce myself to my own family. I felt like I had hit rock bottom," she remembered.
At the time, Carter had replaced her smoking habit with a food addiction. She ate when she was stressed and was spending at least $2,000 a month eating out at fancy restaurants in Dallas.
"Portion control was my problem, I would eat three times the amount of food I should," Carter explained. " I was on ten medications and was constantly in the doctor's office. I felt horrible — I could barely move or go up a flight of stairs, and I was only 26!"
She had tried the route of traditional exercise and diet, but always failed and the constant failures were hurting her self confidence, and causing her to become depressed. When a co-worker underwent gastric sleeve surgery and started losing weight, Carter made an appointment with the same doctor.
"It's only a tool."
Gastric sleeve surgery makes the stomach smaller, which helps people to lose weight since they're eating less and feeling fuller, faster. The surgery removes more than half of your stomach and is a permanent change.
Recent studies have found bariatric surgeries help to reduce weight and body mass index six years post-surgery. A recent study found teen obesity surgery can lead to huge weight loss and health gains that can last at least three years.
Initially Carter (who had surgery at age 26) lost 60 pounds following the surgery, but she was still eating unhealthy foods, even though she was eating less. After the initial weight loss, her weight started to creep back up again. She gained ten pounds back in a month.
"I realized I was going to fail again if I didn't fix my mindset," Carter said. "I realized that the surgery was only a tool and you can still 'out eat' it."
In May 2015, Carter hired a personal trainer, identified her bad eating habits and patterns and got serious once and for all about changing her approach to health.
"I didn't miss a single workout and I didn't have a single cheat meal, and I lost another 90 pounds by November," Carter recounted.
Carter worked out every day for an hour, doing mostly cardio, weight training and light exercises. She didn't overwhelm herself and stuck with it. Since Carter doesn't cook, she started seeking out healthy pre-made meals at stores and limited sweets until she reached her weight-loss goal.
"Life is different now."
In November 2015, after Carter had lost 150 pounds, she scheduled a tummy tuck and breast lift to deal with the excess skin on her body.
"I gained a lot of weight in my abdomen, and worked really hard to save up money for the surgery," Carter explained. "I'm young and I wanted to look like I did before, but I could have lived with the extra skin — thinking about it shouldn't stand in the way of your weight loss."
Carter has embraced the loose skin on her arms and legs, "I'm not going to have a thousand surgeries," she said, but the tummy tuck was important to her.
"The biggest change I've experienced is above my shoulders," Carter said. "Everything was a problem before: I was insecure and had poor habits. I feel like a cloud has been lifted. I'm confident. Life is different now."
Today, Carter is using her Instagram account to inspire her 128,000 followers to get healthy, too.
"I remember how transformation images would give me hope, and I wanted to inspire other people. I started with 50 followers and it's just grown rapidly," Carter said. "My biggest joy now comes from helping others transform the way I did."