Looking at herself in the bathroom mirror, Lisa Stirling's smile falters as she takes in her size 18 body. She's lost a staggering 65kg in the last year, 20kg of that after having a gastric bypass in October... but she isn't ecstatic with the results.
And it's not because Lisa is desperate to lose more weight. In fact, the mum-of-three is the lightest she's been since becoming a mum in 2005. Instead, Lisa misses her bigger body and the confidence she felt with it.
"I never had a problem with my body at 192 kilos," Lisa asserts. "I felt confident in that body. I felt good about myself and I felt happy.
"When people now talk about my weight loss and say things about me looking so skinny, I want to scream, 'But I don't want to be skinny'! I know they're trying to pay me a compliment, but I don't find it complimentary."
At a towering 1.82 metres tall, Lisa says she's only ever known life as a big woman. At the age of 12 she was already weighing 120kg. At her heaviest she weighed 192kg, and she confesses that her average weight has always been around 150kg.
Lisa, 33, explains, "I have big hands and big feet, so I'm supposed to be a big woman. Not everyone is meant to be petite. Some of us are meant to be bigger. We're all built differently and I have never had any interest in looking like a model."
Her self-confidence stems from her teenage years when Lisa one day decided she wasn't going to spend the rest of her life hating her body.
"I've always stuck out like a sore thumb, but I remember thinking that I was going to learn to love myself for who I was," she tells.
"And I've kept up that act of rebellion since I was 13 years old. I know it's hard for people to think this is true, but I was actually happy at a size 30 and at my heaviest weight. I loved that body and those boobs and the curves."
Lisa's incredible confidence and views on body positivity have even garnered her an impressive 21,000 followers on Instagram. "I still can't believe it to be honest," she exclaims. "I have people watching my stories from all over the world."
But in late 2017, the small business owner from Auckland's Cockle Bay, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She was then put on a waiting list for a gastric bypass, where doctors decrease the size of the stomach to aid weight loss.
"It felt like my body was failing me when I found out I had diabetes," tells Lisa. "It's like your body has a tipping point and when you hit a certain weight, it just can't take any more. But I was very nervous about having a gastric bypass because I didn't want to lose too much weight."
In fact, the mum kept it a secret right until the last minute, only telling her husband of 16 years, Paul, that she was having the operation for her health and for the sake of their kids, William, 14, Emily, 11, and seven-year-old Jacob.
In October last year, she underwent the surgery at Manukau Superclinic, despite having already lost 45 kilos from healthier food choices and exercise. And in the last few months she has lost a further 20kg. She's now a size 18 and weighs 127kg.
And while Lisa is lighter and healthier, and attracting plenty of compliments, she says she'll probably always miss her old size.
"I look in the mirror and I just look so small," she says. "But in my head I don't feel small. I still feel like that big curvaceous woman. There's such a disconnect and it can be a little confusing."
But Lisa adds that while her husband Paul, and even the kids, keep tight-lipped about her shrunken frame, she can tell they're happy she's healthier.
"And I suppose in a way I'm happier that I'm healthier, but I kind of feel like I've sold out and made myself less to make other people more comfortable," she tells.
"But deep down, I'll always be that 192kg woman who is all guns blazing about her body and feeling positive in it. I'll always defend that old me because I did truly love being that size and I will never regret or apologise for her taking up too much space in this world."
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