Stephanie Seabrook started to eat her feelings when her parents announced they were getting divorced right after she graduated high school.
“I didn’t know how to cope with my emotions and how I felt, so I just ate and hid in my apartment,” Stephanie told People. “I didn’t want to go out, I was depressed, and food was just a comfort.”
By 22, Seabrook had reached 340 pounds — her heaviest. That moment also came with another life change: Stephanie just broke up with her boyfriend, and though it was amicable, the loss and her ballooning weight led to a panic attack.
“I no longer had someone who would love me no matter what,” she explained.
To Seabrook’s credit, she didn’t wallow in self-pity or hesitate. Instead, she immediately did something about her weight, worried that it would destroy her long-term health, she said, according to the Huffington Post.
“I thought I was going to die obese… One day I had enough and I went for a walk and kept walking until I couldn’t anymore – I ended up walking four miles.”
That was just the beginning for Seabrook.
Stephanie walked four miles a day and stopped eating her usual fast food lunch featuring large fries, a soda, and a trio of burgers. It paid off after only a week — she lost 20 pounds. So Seabrook kept going, and after six months of this new health regime, she dropped another 80 pounds.
By then, Stephanie was brave enough to go to the gym and worked with a trainer. Between her workouts and a healthy diet of lean proteins and few carbs, Seabrook lost another 130 pounds. Equipped with confidence, she plunged into the world of online dating.
But there, Stephanie faced another challenge — men who were squeamish about her excess skin.
“I would be very upfront about it and tell people in my profile that I lost this amount of weight, and that I workout a lot. And the first question that the guy would always ask is ‘Do you have loose skin? That gross saggy skin?’ I always hated my stomach, but I just never thought people would be so against it.”
Stephanie already hated the excess skin that had resulted from her epic weight loss and covered it with baggy clothes. The unkind comments online inspired Seabrook to take one last step — surgery. So in 2012, she booked an appointment, where she had to bend over to let it hang.
“At that point that my mother realized how bad it was making me feel and we booked the surgery right there,” Seabrook said.
Stephanie’s mom also had an amazing idea. To help her daughter leave behind all the negativity, shaming, and insults that came with her obesity, she suggested a special photo shoot (see the NSFW photo here).
“She said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if you wrote all the negative feelings you have about your skin on your stomach?’ Because the ink was still going to be there the next day when I had surgery, and that will symbolize getting everything cut off with the skin. And I just loved it … I really wanted to remember who I was before the surgery. I never really opened up to people about how the skin made me feel. But I wrote it on there and it helped me heal.”
Nowadays, Stephanie lives a very different life in Oregon. Now an Instagram star, where Stephanie shares body positive messages and pictures with her 30,000 followers, Seabrook has also become a fitness aficionado. She has her own business as a personal trainer and said being obese helps her understand the people she’s helping get healthy.
“I want to show people that just because you’re overweight or obese, that doesn’t mean that you’re any less of a person,” she said. “I just want to spread so more love an motivation and help as many people as I can.”
[Image via Kzenon/Shutterstock]