For an isolated kid like me, food felt like a consistent friend. Church on Sunday was really my only social experience, and my social skills were pretty bad. I felt awkward, like I couldnt connect well with others. But lunch on the way home from church was always something I looked forward to. My freshman year of homeschooling, I weighed 214 pounds, at 5 feet, 4 inches.

I also entered a swift relationship at a young age, a decision I believe may have played a role in my weight gain, although in indirect ways. We were divorced by age 21, a devastation I never thought I would experience in my life (let alone at that age).

View this post on Instagram My wildest dreams werent wild enough for what life had waiting for me . . #vsg #verticalsleevegastrectomy #vsgsurgery #vsgpostop #vsgjourney #vsgcommunity #vsginstacrew #vsgbeforeandafter #gastricsleeve #weightloss #weightlossjourney #weightlosssurgery #weightlossmotivation #weightlosstransformation #wls #wlscrew #wlsjourney #wlscommunity #wlstransformation #motivation #businesswoman #businessowner #fitnessmotivation #fattofit #fitfam #instafitness #briaboutique #bodypositive A post shared by Cambria Harris (@cam_bree_uhhh) on Apr 11, 2019 at 11:57am PDT

I struggled with a period of depression that pushed me deeper into my food addiction.

I gained well over 100 pounds during my marriage. And when we made the decision to split , I felt like I had let everyone down around me and proved everyone right who had warned against me getting married so young.

Within the year following my divorce, I slowly began dating. But I quickly learned that I now faced new challenges in the dating pool. Now not only was I divorced, but I was now morbidly obese, which made me feel even more insecure. I found myself relying on food for comfort and support, yet again.

It was always there on the way home from a sub-par date. It was there for me after an empty one-night stand (those were the worst). Food was there at every negative turn I would experience over the next four yearswhen I finally decided enough was enough.

View this post on Instagram Position yourself to take your PLACE in the world that you were destined for! . . . #vsg #verticalsleevegastrectomy #vsgsurgery #vsgpostop #vsgjourney #vsgcommunity #vsginstacrew #vsgbeforeandafter #gastricsleeve #weightloss #weightlossjourney #weightlosssurgery #weightlossmotivation #weightlosstransformation #wls #wlscrew #wlsjourney #wlscommunity #wlstransformation #motivation #plussizemodel #plusmodelmag A post shared by Cambria Harris (@cam_bree_uhhh) on May 1, 2019 at 10:56pm PDT

I always think back to a particular moment in July of 2014, when I was 23: I was on my lunch break, about to prepare for the second half of my double shift at the nursing home I worked at. I tapped out the butt of a lit cigarette I just finished in my car ashtray as I turned into the parking lot. Happy by Pharrell Williams was playing through the speakers of my 1999 Toyota Camryand I felt annoyed and fatigued.

Laying on the seat next to me in greasy paper packaging were two half-pound bean and cheese burritos from a drive-thru, beside an oversized Coke resting in a cup holder too small for it. My scrubs chafed against my thighs, which were riddled with cystic acne . I was 287 pounds.

You know that moment when we ask ourselves, how did I get here? How did I let this go so far? At this point, I asked myself that question about four times a month, and always swore up and down Id start my diet on Monday. But to be truthful, I had given up completely at that point, and another year went by.

But in September 2015, I had a change of heartand mindset.

I met a wonderful man from San Diego in March of 2015. But I wasnt ready to accept the kind of love I was being offered. I was constantly looking for a catch. I mean, come on, how could anyone truly love me at this size? I thought to myself. I had to come to terms with the fact that I needed healing from my past relationship if I was ever going to allow myself to be loved the way I deserved. We ended up going our separate ways so I could do just that.

View this post on Instagram This is truly happy this is love @jordanharris89 thank you for a beautiful night! A post shared by Cambria Harris (@cam_bree_uhhh) on May 5, 2019 at 6:59am PDT

We broke up in September. The week after our breakup reminded me of the feeling I had four years prior when I was going through my divorce. I remember trying to get out of bed to get ready for work and feeling shooting pain in my knees and back, on top of being emotionally exhausted and heartbroken from possibly losing the love of my life. I was done living this way. I knew I had to pull myself out of this dark place.

I called my primary care physicians office and made an appointment to go over my options for weight-loss surgery.

I was desperate to know what life would be like outside the chains of my own body. I felt prisoner to my addiction to food and the consequences of it. I was physically killing myself everyday. I had pain in my joints, my bones, and my heart. I was mentally exhausted from the excuses I'd force myself to believe regarding why I was so big. My heart was also working so much harder than a healthy person's just to pump blood through my body.

View this post on Instagram Lets talk about this thing called lighting and angles guys! When I said I HAVE NOT had a tummy tuck or skin removal surgery, I was 100% honest! I am just like everybody else when it comes to this process of better health! Morbid obesity takes its toll, it is just a matter of fact. It leaves scars and evidence....So what? Have you ever looked at a pro football players medical chart...its a mess Do you think their fans really care? As long as YOU win the game, your fans dont care what package you come in! Do NOT BE AFRAID!!! Live your truth! Sometimes that truth is told in your scars as well! You are still ALIVE! You still have a purpose!!! As Ive said once before and Ill say it again, get to know the person... not the image! . . . #vsg #verticalsleevegastrectomy #vsgsurgery #vsgpostop #vsgjourney #vsgcommunity #vsginstacrew #vsgbeforeandafter #gastricsleeve #weightloss #weightlossjourney #weightlosssurgery #weightlossmotivation #weightlosstransformation #wls #wlscrew #wlsjourney #wlscommunity #wlstransformation #motivation A post shared by Cambria Harris (@cam_bree_uhhh) on May 7, 2019 at 9:19pm PDT

Working in the nursing field, I met several clients who had gone through the process of weight-loss surgery and had extremely successful results. I completed a 12-week educational course focusing on the process of bariatric surgery (specifically the vertical sleeve gastrectomy , or VSG). I trusted my health-care team and felt fearless regarding having the procedure done. On the day of my surgeryJune 6th, 2016my friends and family said I almost seemed giddy as I was being prepped for my operation. For the first time in my life, I had hope for a healthy future.

Post-surgery, I also redesigned how I ate and exercised to help make my weight loss stick for good.

I totally overhauled my diet, and now I am vegan. The decision to become plant-based was literally overnight. I saw two documentaries in July of 2018Forks over Knives and What the Healththat motivated me to give vegan a go, and I haven't looked back. (This works for me, but dietary choices can be extremely personal, keep that in mind!)

View this post on Instagram The sweat is the same, but the PRIDE is now present and the past is my PUSH! The WORK is where the respect for yourself is born! Never rob yourself of the value in lesson! . . #youbetterworkbitch #vsg #verticalsleevegastrectomy #vsgsurgery #vsgpostop #vsgjourney #vsgcommunity #vsginstacrew #vsgbeforeandafter #gastricsleeve #weightloss #weightlossjourney #weightlosssurgery #weightlossmotivation #weightlosstransformation #wls #wlscrew #wlsjourney #wlscommunity #wlstransformation #motivation A post shared by Cambria Harris (@cam_bree_uhhh) on May 14, 2019 at 1:06pm PDT

As a VSG patient, I was already at a calorie deficit (given that the surgery makes your stomach smaller) and had far fewer dietary options available to me as it was. Choosing to eat plant-based has had more benefits than I could count. Ive never experienced better digestive health, and for a bariatric surgery patient, thats huge. My physical and mental energy have also increased.

This is what I eat in a typical day now:

  • Breakfast : A plant-based mushroom and spinach frittata made with a sweet potato base, baked using Panko bread crumbs
  • Lunch : Handmade spring rolls wrapped in rice paper using seasonal veggies, with low-fat peanut sauce
  • Snacks : Wasabi and soy sauce almonds, fresh watermelon salad
  • Dinner : Jackfruit lettuce-wrapped tacos with homemade vegan elote
  • Dessert : Vanilla bean seed coconut cream pudding sweetened with Stevia, over fresh strawberries

Since my surgery, Ive also started working out. I joined two different gyms and learned I really like weight lifting. I enjoy hitting the gym whenever I can fit it into my schedule (sometimes thats at midnight!) to lift weights and do circuits.

Let me be clear: The sleeve is simply a tool, and a temporary one at that. But for me, it was a reset that I desperately needed.

I have lost 147 pounds in two years, thanks to the kickstart the sleeve gave me. I have honestly never felt better about my body and my health.

But that doesn't mean it comes without its own, new challenges. I am three years post-op and now facing the greatest hurdle since my procedure: the threat of regaining the weight I've lost. I am now able to eat 30 percent more than I could initially after my procedure, as my stomach has stretched a bit and I can consume more than I could immediately after the surgery. What Ive observed over time is that plenty people will have this particular surgery, loose a large amount of weight, and then fall off the wagon when it comes to maintenance. Its very common.

View this post on Instagram We went from Wearing Pink on Wednesday to Transforming on Tuesday #transformationtuesday . . #vsg #verticalsleevegastrectomy #vsgsurgery #vsgpostop #vsgjourney #vsgcommunity #vsginstacrew #vsgbeforeandafter #gastricsleeve #weightloss #weightlossjourney #weightlosssurgery #weightlossmotivation #weightlosstransformation #wls #wlscrew #wlsjourney #wlscommunity #wlstransformation #motivation A post shared by Cambria Harris (@cam_bree_uhhh) on May 21, 2019 at 12:04pm PDT

Continuing to make healthy decisions requires focus and effort every single day.

What allows me to continue to progress towards better health is knowing I have a responsibility to my clients, followers, and loved ones. They help keep me accountable. The idea of disappointing my support system is crippling to me.

My healthy habits directly reflect what I take inand Im not just talking about food. Im talking about content that inspires me and resets my frame of mind. I am forever on the search for inspiring accounts on social media, motivational reading material and audio books, and I even attend specific conferences.

View this post on Instagram He hates my butt @jordanharris89 #weddingday #flashbackfriday A post shared by Cambria Harris (@cam_bree_uhhh) on Jul 5, 2019 at 3:06pm PDT

Reinforcing my positive mindset is my daily priority above all things. I have to refocus on my goals sometimes multiple times as day. This effort is just as important as following the post-op recovery instructions you get at the hospital.

Choosing to have a VSG surgery was the event that changed my life. But the real life-changing decision was more Big Picture than that: to not accept anything less than my best self, no matter what I had to do to achieve that.

Today I feel freed from my old ways of thinking, eating, and my unhealthy lifestyle choices. And do you remember that amazing man from San Diego I was telling you about? I married him. This surgery helped save what life I had leftbut I have continued doing the rest of the work. Today I am actually living.