Standing onstage in a pair of white skinny jeans, Tyler Reynolds waited to take her place alongside younger sister Loryn for the opening number of Dancing with the Stars and had one of those "'pinch me" moments.
Only several years earlier – weighing around 130kg and estranged from her family – the young costume designer was struggling to walk up stairs, let alone dreaming of dancing in public again.
Life had hit a snag when the then-21-year-old found her weight "ballooning" after quitting competitive dancing due to a raft of injuries.
"It was heartbreaking for me to see Tyler give up something she loved," explains Loryn, 24. "We knew she was hurting inside, but there was nothing anybody could do to help. I just wanted my sister back."
The moment Tyler decided to overhaul her life came after she ended a long-term relationship, which had soured.
"My partner kept saying to me, 'You're fat! You need to go to the gym. What's wrong with you?'" she recalls.
"I could barely get out of bed, never mind get to the gym. Once we broke up, I realised I'd been in denial about my weight and hadn't looked after my health. I also didn't have much contact with my family for 18 months, so they didn't see how bad it was getting."
Reconnecting with her family, Tyler moved back home to begin making positive lifestyle changes. Cream doughnuts were the first to go. And despite being terrified, she signed up to a local gym and exercised during "weird hours" to avoid other people seeing her.
After working out for several months, she decided to weigh herself for the first time. The scales revealed she'd added 50kg to her 163cm frame since she stopped dancing. "I couldn't believe it," she recalls.
Over the next two years, Tyler tried every diet regime she could think of, cutting out sugar, gluten and meat, as well as using doctor-prescribed weight-loss medications. She also started seeing a personal trainer three times a week.
"I wanted to get myself healthy for two reasons: So it would be possible to have children and run around after them, and to relieve the pressure on my joints, which was causing my back and knees to give out. It genuinely wasn't about how I looked."
Despite her unwavering focus to achieve her goals, things didn't go entirely to plan. After losing nearly 30kg, Tyler's weight plateaued for a year.
"In spite of doing all of the right things, my body had given up hope of further weight loss," she says.
"I sat in my doctor's office and completely broke down. That was my lowest point. We'd discussed the possibility of weight-loss surgery three years earlier and I'd said, 'absolutely not', as I felt like it was cheating. Gradually, I made the tough decision that surgery was actually the right call."
In December 2017, Tyler underwent a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, during which the stomach is reduced to about 15% of its original size.
A week later, when the Reynolds family enjoyed a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings, Tyler sat down to a meal consisting of an ice cube of mashed kumara and two teaspoons of blended butter chicken.
While surgery, she insists, was not the easy option, the 28-year-old hasn't shared her story until now because of the stigma surrounding it.
"Weight-loss surgery is a massive risk, and changes everything about your life and how you eat. There were times when I thought, 'What have I done?' But you realise it's for the greater good and your stomach does adjust."
It took 10 months post-surgery for Tyler's weight to drop to 60kg, which she has maintained ever since. And while her confidence has increased 10-fold, she admits to still having body insecurities.
"I'm overwhelmingly proud of Tyler and the journey she's taken," says Loryn, smiling at her sister. "It's been hard. But it's a whole new you, isn't it?"
"Well, it's a new half of me," jokes Tyler. "And I'm a cheap date now!"
The pair grew up with both their mum and grandmother as dancers. Tyler started ballroom classes at six and immediately fell in love with the costumes.
"Whatever she wanted to do, I did too," says Loryn, adding that they competed against each other several times over the years. Agreeing to appear in the opening segment of this year's season of Dancing with the Stars was the first time Tyler had danced in 10 years.
"It was a bit of a shock to the system, but it sparked something in me and reinforced my love for dance. So I recently returned to dancing in the amateur grade."
Tyler rules out ever competing on the hit show – leaving that to Loryn, who took home the coveted mirrorball trophy with dance partner Manu Vatuvei – and is happy to stay behind the scenes creating eye-catching costumes.
Watch: Loryn and Manu give the cutest interview after their DWTS win. Article continues below.
"When I stopped competing in 2009, I still wanted to be involved in some way. My coach Nerida Cortese asked if I wanted to join Dancing making her costumes," says Tyler, who is studying towards a Bachelor of Fashion Design.
"So when Loryn was asked to do the show this year, I knew I would get roped into doing her costumes too! But she's my best friend, so I'd do anything for her."
- CareerMeet Christine Fernyhough - the intrepid Auckland housewife who took on a high country farm and won
The Australian Women's WeeklyToday 10:00am
- RelationshipsJay-Jay Feeney dishes on her sizzling summer with her 'toyboy' Minou
Woman's DayToday 8:00am
- MindHilary Barry's perfect clap back at a viewer: ‘Enough with the age-shaming’
Now To LoveJan 24, 2020
- Diet & NutritionDiet and ‘detox’ teas have been pulled from New Zealand shelves
Now To LoveJan 23, 2020
- CareerNigella Lawson's new direction at 60: 'I feel so much more open to anything and everything'
New Zealand Woman's WeeklyJan 23, 2020
- WeddingsIt's love-all for tennis star Michael Venus as he marries the mother of his child
Woman's DayJan 23, 2020
- Pregnancy & BirthBreakfast’s Hayley Holt is expecting her first child
Now To LoveJan 22, 2020
- Real LifeFacing the fiery inferno: Kiwi family's frightening Aussie bushfire ordeal
Woman's DayJan 22, 2020