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'I am free to finally be who I am': Fashion model celebrates her weight gain

by Lindsay Lowe / / Source: TODAY

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Today, Liza Golden-Bhojwani is a successful plus-sized model, as well as a body-positive hero for countless women.

But just a few years ago, she was a dangerously thin runway model, following a punishing workout regimen and nearly starving herself to maintain size zero measurements. At one point, she was eating just 500 calories per day, she revealed to Vogue India.

Golden-Bhojwani, 27, shared this powerful photo last month on Instagram, comparing her previous body to her current figure.

"The left side was me at the start of the peak of my career," she wrote in the caption.

At that time, she was just breaking through as a high-fashion model, appearing in magazines like Vogue Italia and Elle and walking fashion week runways in London, Paris, New York and Milan.

“I was booking amazing shows that one never thinks they actually could," she wrote in the photo caption. "It was a serious adrenaline rush.”

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Her success, however, came at an harsh physical price. At the peak of her high-end fashion career, she felt a constant pressure to maintain nearly impossible body measurements for her tall frame, including a hip measurement of just 34.5 inches. Back then, one of her entire meals could consist of 20 steamed pieces of edamame.

“I could be so thin, yet it was never enough,” Golden-Bhojwani told TODAY Style via email. “There was never a point where I could say, ‘Okay this is it, this is the furthest I will go.’ I always wanted to go farther and be even smaller the next time.”

However, when she fainted from hunger in her apartment one night, it was a wake up call. She started eating more, and though she tried to maintain her size zero measurements, she eventually gained weight and stopped booking high-end modeling jobs.

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For a while, she quit modeling altogether. But in 2014, she felt a sudden surge of motivation to work out, lose weight and return to the industry.

“Out of the blue one day, I found myself saying, ‘Okay, this is it, you can do it again, focus, diet strictly and workout like a beast so you can get that body back and get back to working,’” she wrote in an Instagram post.

However, after a while, Golden-Bhojwani realized she was once again trying to fight her body, instead of embracing its natural shape.

She decided it was finally time to accept her body just as it is, and not try to force it into a size it was never meant to be. Last year, she decided to shift her career focus and re-enter the fashion industry as a plus-sized model.

“There has been an increase in the amount of work given to curvier girls these days, and I just felt I needed to give myself a shot at trying,” she told TODAY.

Golden-Bhojwani returned to her modeling agency in New York to discuss the new approach to her career, and she was “pleasantly surprised” by their positive reaction.

Now, her new modeling career is in full swing and she's healthier and happier than ever.

"When I started going out on castings again, I can honestly say I felt a better vibe than I ever had felt before," she said. "I think this may have been where I was meant to be all along, but I just didn’t know it yet."

She admitted there are still days when she feels insecure about her weight, but she has learned to bounce back from the negative feelings more quickly. And, when she looks back at photos of herself as an extremely skinny model, she only feels grateful for how far she has come.

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“I don't miss the misery,” she told TODAY. “I don't miss the calculations and category breakup of what I ate. I don't miss the obsessive compulsive diaries I kept. I am happy to just be alive and at a healthy state mentally, emotionally and physically.

“At the end of the day, if you are not naturally a size zero to two, all the blood, sweat and tears it takes to get there really can really take a toll on you and your mental health,” she continued. “I didn't even know who I actually was as a person. Whereas now, I am free to finally be who I am.”

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