A woman who tipped the scales at 243lbs (17.3st) has shed more than a quarter of her body weight after watching her mother lose her foot to diabetes.
Dental assistant Savannah Ortiz, 23, from Austin, Texas, was labelled ‘Cookie Monster’ by bullies and found dating impossible after years spent bingeing on fast food and take-aways.
But when her mother had to have a foot amputated as a result of the diabetes she developed due to obesity, Savannah was shocked into dropping 83lbs (5.9st) thanks to a high-protein diet and daily four-mile walks.
Savannah piled on the pounds during her teens, as she and her siblings cooked their own dinners while their single mum worked late.
Years spent eating microwave meals, chips, candy and soda took their toll, and Savannah was soon subjected to the taunts of cruel bullies at school, plunging her into a depression that left her longing to ‘cut the fat off’
Then, when Savannah was 18-years-old, her mum was hospitalised for three months with diabetes, leading her to need a foot amputation.
Savannah said: ‘She was basically on her death bed and all I could do was sit there and watch.
‘Something clicked like never before, that I could be next.
‘I was killing my body from the inside out and my heart was working a lot harder than it should be for a person of my age.’
Savannah started a Keto diet – a low carb, high protein meal plan and began walking for four miles a day.
She said: ‘I started exercising daily – nothing heavy just walking on the treadmill.’
Her new lifestyle quickly had an effect, and soon the same boys who had teased her for her size were asking her out on dates.
Savannah said: ‘Sometimes I can’t believe that it is actually me in photos.
‘They can still put tears in my eyes because it brings back flashbacks of the depression I was in.
‘Standing in front of a full length mirror I became disgusted. There was nothing about my body that I liked. I just wanted to cut the fat off.
‘Kids are mean. I could probably recall 95 per cent of the people that have ever called me fat or made fun of me – calling me the cookie monster, telling me I needed to go on a diet.
‘So many times I was judged for how big I was and not the person I was.
‘You constantly hear it and come to learn that society does not accept ‘fat’ people at such a young age.
‘Now I’ve lost weight those same people email me asking me out, but there’s no way I would date them.’
Savannah’s struggle with her waistline began as a child when she and her siblings prepared their meals while their mother worked late.
Savannah said: ‘I was always a bigger kid, not necessarily fat but not as small as the other kids.
‘One of the factors of weight gain for me was growing up in a single parent household.
‘My sisters and I had to make dinner so processed foods and desserts were on the menu every night because we didn’t have anyone telling us otherwise.’
By the time she was a teen, Savannah had reached 243lbs.
She said: ‘I was very depressed. I held back from doing a lot of things in life at such a young age.
‘It got to the point where I would rather stay at home instead of being active or going out with friends.
‘Being overweight made me feel very alone.
‘Especially when it came to boys, I was always the good friend but never the girlfriend.
‘No guy during high school could look past weight and date a girl because she had a good personality, life doesn’t work like that in high school.’
But Savannah’s new regime inspired by her mum’s ordeal turned her life around.
‘I cut out fast food completely and kept my meals very simple – grilled chicken and oatmeal was all I ate for the first couple of weeks because those were things that I knew at the time to be healthy.
‘As time went on I researched healthy foods and smarter choices I should be making in the kitchen.
‘I think half the battle of losing weight is the lack of education people have when it comes to knowing what is good and what is bad. With healthy eating and exercising weight started to drop off of me.
Savannah said her weight loss changed her life.
She added: ‘I am so much more outgoing now. I love to meet new people and try things that I would have never done before because I was too scared of being judged for being a ‘fat girl’.
‘I take chances and I no longer feel that everything is based around my weight.
‘My self-esteem and confidence have improved majorly and I am truly learning to love myself.’