Me at my heaviest - 275lbs.

After losing 150 lbs and sharing my story and pictures, people ask me all of the time about extra skin, stretch marks, and scars. They ask things like "Do I have them?", "Will they have them?", "What did I do?", "Can you compete with anything like that", etc. Also, many people have asked to see photos. So I am blogging about this in hopes of answering some questions that people may have about this experience.

Yes, I did have extra skin on my abdomen after the weight loss.

I hated my skin. I knew it was coming. At 275 lbs, losing a lot of weight would most likely mean there would be some extra skin somewhere. I tried to picture what it would be like to be fit and thin, and it was discouraging knowing the extra skin would be there. For a long time, my thought was "why bother?". Even when I started losing weight, I couldn’t help but feel like I was going to put in all of this work, and I don’t even know how bad it would be or where it would be. I had known other people who had lost a large amount of weight and ended up having extra skin all over. Was that going to happen to me? The idea was very hard for me, not just that I didn’t think it would look good but even more so the uncertainty that I had felt about it. If someone could have predicted for me, “okay you are going to have extra skin here, here, and there”, then I could just work on accepting it and moving on. But not knowing was awful, especially when my goal and dream was to compete and model. But the more I learned about and practiced fitness and nutrition, it wasn’t as much about how I would look in the end and became more about how great I felt and healthy I could get. I realized it was worth it for that, whether I had skin or not.

Me after losing most of my weight, before I had any surgery.

As I was losing weight, I tried to stay positive about being able to compete with extra skin. I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be that bad, and maybe I could hide it on stage. The bikinis are pretty tiny and they don’t cover much. But I assumed I'd I’ll figure it out, and I’ll just make it happen. So I hired a competitive coach, and began training for a show. I thought I was making great progress, but then one day I went to see my coach and she took a really good look at me. She said that in her opinion, it would be best to have the skin removed and breast implants before I compete. She also told me she couldn’t train me anymore. I was devastated, and I felt really disappointed. I thought that she must know, since she’s the professional.

So I didn’t do that show. I didn’t stop exercising or eating healthy, but in my mind at the time I didn’t know if or when I would ever have the surgeries, so I guess I just put competing aside for a while. I didn’t stop wanting to do it, but it wasn’t my focus at the time. But after a while, I stopped believing what my coach had said and I decided she may not know what she’s talking about. I said "screw this, I’m still going to try!" So I hired new trainers, and they 100% believed that it would be fine and that I should absolutely compete. Having that support really gave me a great push, and I began training for the next upcoming show. I was still nervous, and I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to hide it. I just wouldn’t know until show day. My coaches assured me that we would make it look great. As I got leaner, and got my suit for the show, I started to feel more and more confident that it would be okay. The suit looked great, and hid everything. Then when show day came, I was able to tape my skin down under my suit. I went out on stage with confidence and it all worked out fine.

Me on stage before having surgery. Although I had a considerable amount of extra skin, I was able to hide it well.

Yet still, the extra skin was a problem. It was hard to fit into clothes properly, and I was self conscious about it with my husband. It was also a constant reminder of old days and what I had done to myself. It made me really sad to think about how little self worth I had to have had to treat myself and my body the way I used to. I was a totally new person now, and it was like a leftover piece of the old me. For all of these reasons, I decided to have the extra skin removed.

Now, this was not an easy decision, as I was very afraid of surgery. I felt like it was morbid to be cut open and rearranged like that. I searched YouTube for videos of people who had already had skin removed, and all I could really find were people with horrible scars. Big, black jagged scars! I didn’t want that, but I didn’t know because everyone heals differently. It also depends upon what you are going into the surgery with to start with. It was going to cost a lot of money… close to $10,000. Then recovery time was 6-8 weeks and that sounded horrible to me. But after much thought, tons of research, and looking at photos/videos... I decided to go ahead and get a consultation. My husband and I went together to the Landings Surgical Center in Halifax. My consult went very well, I was a perfect candidate. I went ahead and booked the surgery.

The night before my skin surgery.

Leading up to the surgery, I was very emotional and scared. I would have frequent breakdowns about it. Was I doing the right thing? Was this crazy? I was absolutely terrified. I would have horrible nightmares about the surgery every night. It was really difficult to wrap my head around all that I had gone through and what I was about to do. Even thought I wanted the skin gone, it was still a part of my body. It seemed so bizarre to be removing an actual piece of me and throwing it away. I knew what being in a different body felt like but even a fast weight loss is gradual. This would be even stranger because I would wake up instantly different.

Finally, surgery day came. I arrived at the clinic and right away, the staff were very comforting. They gave me my hospital wear for surgery and before I knew it, I was lying down counting backwards from 10. I think I got to 4 and was out like a light. When I woke up, pain came quickly. It wasn’t unbearable, since I was on medication and all bandaged up. The nurses helped me get to and from the washroom and brought me my meals, as I stayed overnight at the clinic. My husband picked me up the next day, and with lots of pillows in the car I was pretty comfortable on the ride home.

A few days after skin surgery. You can see they cut me open from side to side. That's a fluid drain on the left side. They also re-constructed my belly button for me.

The doctor had given me enough medication for 3 days after getting home, and told me to get more from my family doctor when I ran out. I called to ask about getting more and was told that extra strength Tylenol should be enough. I still had some meds left at that point so I wasn’t in terrible pain and that response seemed reasonable to me. But when I ran out of meds in the middle of the night… Woah different story. The pain that I had felt that night was by far the worst pain I have ever had (and I have had two natural child births). This was on par for sure. I was hysterical, and I literally thought I was going to die. I could only focus on the incision (which looked to me like a horror scene) and being cut in half. It was so scary! Through the night, my husband tried his best to keep me comfortable. In the morning, I called the doctor again and she gave me more medication. Once I had it I was OK again and only needed the pain meds for a few more days. I was up and around after a week or so, but still couldn’t do much. It took some time to stand up straight without pain.

My incision was pretty scary looking at first. Most of the time when I would show people they would make a face, like OMG, but still be trying to smile and act like it looked fine. Or they would come right out and say something like “OMG, is it going to always look like that?!” That part was discouraging. Even with family, it's amazing how hurtful and oblivious people can be. I didn’t really know how it would turn out in the end. It was swollen and red and the scar was very dark for a long time. I didn’t like to show people because of the negative reaction. I still also have my old belly button piercing which at first looked a little strange. If he hadn’t left it there I would have had a vertical incision though and that wouldn’t have given me as nice of a result.

After a while it started to look better and better. The swelling went down, the redness was gone, and I was able to stop bandaging it. I began using a silicone gel (a product given to me by the surgeon) on my incision to help with the scarring. I was getting more and more excited about the result, and soon it was totally healed. The scar had faded, and it ended up looking really great. Now, the scar is hardly there! I really had a great result and I am glad I did it! No more negative reactions, and many are surprised to learn that I even had surgery.

The day of my breast implants and lift. I was out shopping the same day.

I went back the next year to the same surgeon and got breast implants and a breast lift. This wasn’t as scary as the tummy tuck but I was still pretty nervous. I didn’t want to choose the wrong size either, or be way too big, or regret not going bigger. Also, with a breast lift there is usually pretty bad scarring because they typically have to do an anchor shaped incision. But that didn’t happen, because I chose a size that worked well and they were able to avoid the anchor scar. I just have two small, very unnoticeable scars under each breast. Choosing a size was difficult. I first had to buy a bra in the size that I was hoping to get to, and then put it on and fill up bags of rice to put into the bra under my breasts until the cups were filled out. Then I had to measure the amount of rice that I used. It seemed very… inaccurate (lol). But it worked perfectly and the size is perfect. This surgery was a lot less painful and was very quick. No overnight stay, and I even went right to the mall from the clinic to go shopping afterwards!

I have gotten a lot of different reactions about these surgeries. I have heard:

“I think it takes away from your transformation. You are trying to be something you aren’t.”

“You did it because you compete and all of those girls have to get breast implants to get anywhere.”

“Now everything is fake, you aren’t real.”

“Oh so that’s how you lost the weight. The easy way.”

Me at my second show. This is after both surgeries.

Let me just say, I did this for no one but myself. I didn’t do this because I compete (I competed before having the surgeries). Girls certainly do not need breast implants to compete or to model, so that's a big misconception. I don’t feel that it takes away from my transformation, as I lost ALL of my weight before having surgery. This was not a weight loss surgery and not liposuction - this was skin removal. I certainly take great offense to those that think I did this “the easy way". This was the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life. I may have been altered and have “fake” elements to my look but in truth, I believe this is what I WOULD have looked like if I had taken care of myself from the start. It wasn’t about being perfect or having huge "porn star boobs", it was just about getting back all that I had lost through a bad food addiction and self sabotage. Would I recommend having surgeries if you have extra skin? Maybe, maybe not… the most important thing is that you are happy with yourself and comfortable in your own body. Research, talk, and research some more before making any decisions. It’s certainly nothing to take lightly.

What the final scar looks like, after healing.

As far as scarring and stretch marks, I have stretch marks all over me. On my arms, chest, back, stomach, legs, all over. And honestly I don’t even think about them anymore for the most part. They are not that noticeable just due to my dark skin color anyway but they really don’t matter. I like to take care of my skin , I exfoliate almost daily and moisturize every day with coconut oil. They don’t matter for stage, and I don’t believe they matter for modeling. Maybe you’ll come across some jerk that won’t like them or maybe there’s some photographer out there that doesn’t want to work with you because of them, but I've never experienced that and I think it's pretty much a non-issue.

Help me get to CBBF Nationals!

On Augest 9th, 2014, I'll be heading to Winnipeg to compete on the National stage for the very first time! Every item you buy from my store helps to cover the expenses of competing and travel!

Thanks for your support!
XO, Zoe.

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