"I lost over half my body weight after changing my lifestyle - but I'm now left with loose skin"

A woman was left with one stone of loose skin after losing half her body weight - which she calls her "badge of honour". Stephanie Smith, 35, struggled with her weight as a child and into her teens - and nothing seemed to help. She tried every crash diet and gym programme but struggled with disordered eating when starting college aged 18. After entering a relationship which caused her mental health to spiral, food became Stephanie's "drug of choice". She would gorge all day long on sweet snacks such as candy and chocolate between meals as a comfort mechanism and ballooned to over 27 stone and a size 28 - XXXXL - by the age of 27. After the relationship ended, she decided to take control of her size and had gastric sleeve surgery - removing a large part of her stomach - in January 2017. The surgery saw her appetite decrease and she lost 9st by December the same year. She began by drinking a lot of protein shakes and eating plain chicken and vegetables, and avoiding starches such as potatoes or pasta for the first few months. Over time, when she was fully recovered from surgery, she was able to slowly incorporate more foods back into her diet. Stephanie has since lost 15 and a half stone - and can now slip into a size medium with ease. But she has been left with 15lbs of excess skin all over her body - more than a stone. She is hoping to raise the £80k needed to undergo skin removal surgery - which would be done over five surgeries because of how much excess skin she has. Stephanie, a trainee estate agent, from Boca Raton, Florida, US, said: "When I went to college, I started gaining weight when I was going through some personal things. "I was dealing with depression and food was my drug of choice. "Instead of starving myself or turning to drugs or alcohol, I just ate and ate. "After coming out of a bad relationship years later I wanted to make a permanent change - and that's what I did. "Now I feel great, I feel a lot better health wise, and my confidence is better. "The only thing I don’t feel better about is loose skin. I've come to terms with people staring but I'd love to look at myself in the mirror and be happy." As a teen, Stephanie tried "fad diets" and would lose weight before piling the pounds back on again. She said: "I did eat fast food sometimes, but I also ate salads - it was just the quantity. "When I was home, it was a boredom thing. I would eat in excess to the point I felt very full. "Sometimes I wouldn’t even realise I was doing it. I would watch television and eat a bag of crisps or a whole second plate of dinner. "It was the sheer amount I was eating as a comfort because of how I felt." This went on for years, and at 27, Stephanie first began to notice the issue when plus-size shops hardly stocked clothes large enough for her XXXXL frame. To hide her shame, she even bought her own seatbelt extender to avoid having to ask for one publicly when travelling. She realised some health issues she thought were random were a result of her weight - such as chronic heartburn, sleep trouble, and issues with her joints. So in January 2017, when she was at her heaviest weight of 27st 12lbs, she had bariatric surgery - where doctors removed around 80 per cent of her stomach. She spent the rest of 2017 focusing on changing her diet to accommodate her new tiny stomach, and by the end of the year she had already dropped 9st 4lbs. She began to introduce more exercise into her daily life as well - and enjoyed regular gym sessions after meeting personal trainer boyfriend, Daniel Barrantes, 23, in June 2022. Stephanie had already lost over 11st by the time she met him, but they began going to the gym together four times a week and Stephanie saw any remaining health issues vanish and her confidence rocket. But despite now being a healthy weight of 11st, Stephanie says still feels she can't fully celebrate her weight loss - due to her excess skin. Self-conscious, the last thing she wants to do to show off her weight loss is strip off into a bikini. Stephanie said: "There are some days where I look at myself and I'm proud of what accomplished, but I can't wear certain things I would want to wear. "When I go to the beach, I know people will stare, it's not a good feeling, but I understand it. "It is hard seeing the damage I did to my body some days, but this is the reality. "My loose skin is my badge of honour." She is now saving up to have five excess skin removal surgeries for different parts of her body, totalling £80k - to remove the saggy skin left behind. Stephanie said: "I think back now, especially, when I have days where I'm not feeling great about myself, and I wish I took control of my life sooner. "But I can't go back in time and change that, so I'm doing the best I can under circumstances." Supportive boyfriend Danny said: "When I showed Stephanie there were ways to combat cravings, eat at certain times of the day and workout properly without all this pressure put on her, she began to improve and show interest in the gym. "Instead of sighing to go to the gym, she would be the one asking if we could go! "Once the results came in, she was happier, she wanted to stay longer and the motivation kept her wanting to go instead of quitting after a week. "Once she saw the scale lower as well she was even more keen to keep improving herself. "At the point she should have given up, she knew it was time to keep going forward. "Once she threw all the junk food away and replaced the candy jar with a protein jar, I knew she and I were going to be the best version of ourselves. "I am so proud because of the kind of person she is - one with a strong mindset, will power and the hunger to improve even when all seems lost." Diet before - Breakfast: Starbucks - venti latte, breakfast sandwich, and lemon poundcake Lunch: takeout burger or sandwich with fries Dinner: if cooking at home - steak or chicken, potatoes, roasted veggies, baguette or if ordering out - pizza or hot subs/sandwiches Snacks/desserts: candy, chips, cookies, ice cream Drink: coffee, iced tea or lemonade, diet soda Current diet - Breakfast: protein shake or just coffee Lunch: protein shake, or half a sandwich and salad Dinner: steak or chicken and rice Snacks: cottage cheese, protein snacks Drink: coffee, sugar free carbonated drinks or diet soda, water