A Dublin woman has shared how she achieved a massive 13 stone weight loss after years of struggling with her size and relationship with food.
Carla Piera FitzGerald said she realized in 2019 that things needed to change and so decided to embark on a journey of self-reflection, which would ultimately lead to her transforming her life and reaching her weight loss goals.
She told the Irish Mirror: "I actually had a realization in July 2019 that everything I thought about myself was a lie.
"I was literally driving down the N7 on my way to have a massage with my partner, and I had been doing a bit of journaling, a process called the morning pages and a couple of other things, and things had started to kind of stir within me… my doctor calls it a Damascus moment."
The 35-year-old said she had been battling with constant negative self-talk, but after time it became clear that these thoughts were not her own.
She said: "I just had this realisation that all of this negative self-talk wasn't actually my voice… This person that is speaking constantly in my head isn't actually anything to do with me. This is stigmas that I picked up from society and from people around me, and I was like, 'Huh, so who am I?'"
Carla had tried to lose weight through various diet plans over the years, but nothing ever seemed to work.
She said: "I tried to lose weight my whole life. I've always been overweight, always. I was a bigger child. I've always snuck food. Food has always been my go-to whenever I've been feeling bad.
"I have done everything, Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Keto, Atkins. I have done every single diet, and nothing worked, and I realised it's because I was punishing myself and this time, what was different was that it was coming from a place of love.
She added: "I was living with so much shame, and I thought that I had shame because I was fat, but it turns out that I was fat because I had shame."
Carla had suffered from food addiction for many years and said this time was her last attempt at trying to lose weight naturally before she looked into having a procedure like a gastric sleeve.
She said: "I had binge eating disorder about ten years ago, and I had food addiction then for my whole life, basically since I was a child, and I realised that my food addiction was just this methodology of escaping how bad I felt in myself."
She added: "Similar to addiction to drugs or anything else, it's just using something to numb out and stop the bad feelings I was having about myself. Once I started to realise that, I was on a massive road to recovery."
To ensure she was ready to begin the huge lifestyle change, Carla decided to see a therapist to understand herself and her relationship with food better.
She said: "I decided to start working with a therapist, and I had worked with a different therapist about ten years ago for binge eating disorder, and I knew that I needed to sort my head out.
"I still had some issues that I had to deal with, and as soon as I realised that there was still a mental health issue that I needed to work on, and once I did, I finally felt ready to actually start losing weight.
"I did the body slims programme, which is this fantastic Irish programme unlike anything else you've ever done before, and it really focuses on three pillars of weight loss which is mental health, exercise and diet.
"So it's a calorie-controlled diet, but you pick what you want, and you listen to weekly seminars, and it was really just backing up everything I was learning in therapy about food and why we reach for food."
In just ten weeks of the programme, Carla lost three stone, and she kept going until she reached her goal weight.
She said: "I felt like I had been given the greatest gift. It was a sense of freedom I've never experienced in my whole life."
Not long after reaching her goal weight, Carla discovered that she was pregnant with her first child, Brannach.
She said: "I reached my goal weight in March 2021, and I became pregnant in April 2021. So I had basically a month at my goal weight before I got pregnant, and then I had a couple of weeks before I realised that I was pregnant, and it was difficult to see my body grow again, but I went back to my therapist and spoke with her a little bit on it.
She added: "In a way, I reaffirmed for myself that… I am not getting bigger because I'm putting on weight. I'm growing a human, and this is what my body needs to do it, and after a while, I was completely fine with it."
She added: "When I had Brannach then in January, it was quite a traumatic experience giving birth to him.
"I was hoping for a home birth, and I ended up with an emergency C section after three days of induction, and it left me quite vulnerable. I ended up with postnatal depression, and that was a battle in itself.
"And then once I had kind of come out the other side of that, I was like okay, so I've put on weight.
"My son was over two weeks late past his due date, and it was a lot of stress around Christmas time waiting for him and wondering where he was and why he hadn't come yet and things like that, and I then didn't turn to food again, but I was definitely eating more than I needed to be at the time and I wasn't moving as much.
"But now… I'm like, okay, that was the weight I gained to have my beautiful son, and now I'm just doing exactly what I did before, and I'll get back to my goal weight."
Carla decided to document her weight loss journey through her YouTube and Instagram platforms, halfofcarla, where she has praised her for her openness about her battles with weight loss and postnatal depression.
She said: "I went a bit radio silent after I announced he (Brannach) was born, and that's the three weeks where the depression really kicked in.
"When I came out, and I said it, I think it's probably… the most interaction I've had with people and the most vulnerable responses that I get because I think that in some capacity, most birthing people have some kind of postnatal depression, be that very mild and the baby blues or to the extreme and I was somewhere in the not the very extreme but I could have gotten there if I hadn't sought help."
She added: "I didn't expect the response that I got when I announced that I had postnatal depression because it's something that affects so many people and the amount of women who turned to me and said I wish I had somebody like you when I had postnatal depression to know that I wasn't alone."
Carla said the response she received on social media showed the support online communities can provide for people who are struggling.
She said: "You know, social media gets a lot of stick, but there's also something so wonderful about it because it allows people to share their experiences and help people to not feel alone, and I think that that's one of the most beautiful things about it."
Carla said sharing her weight loss journey has been incredibly rewarding both physically and mentally.
She said: "Personally, the most rewarding thing for myself is the freedom that I feel now.
"The freedom of thought that I don't have to worry about going into a meeting and not fitting into a chair, which has happened to me before. I don't have to worry about if we are going out to a restaurant. Will I fit in the booth? I don't have to worry if I have an event to go to or if I need something to wear in the morning. I don't have to worry that I'm going to be shamed if I go to hospital, you know, because of my weight or some doctor will blame my weight on something.
"There's a freedom of thought that comes with losing weight and freeing yourself mentally that is so rewarding, but also on a kind of a bigger scale outside of myself, it's the most rewarding thing, and honestly, it brings me to tears nearly on a daily basis is the private messages that I get from people telling me that I changed their lives or that I've given them hope or you know that seeing me do this has helped them in some way either be with their mental health journey, either with their weight loss, with their new motherhood journey. The community that I have created or was created around me sharing my story is unbelievable."
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