'What nobody prepared me for': The unexpected way losing weight impacted this Kiwi woman's mental health

Expecting to feel happier and more confident after losing 35kg, Kylie Cassidy was taken aback when instead, it took a huge toll on her mental health and self-esteem.

By Anya Truong-George
When she was 92kg, Kylie Cassidy says she didn't have a care in the world.
In 2005, the Wellingtonian was happily married with a young child and says even as a "bigger girl", she was always "full of confidence".
A talented photographer, Kylie had an exhibition coming up and sitting at a size 18, realised she could no longer shop at the same places she used to.
Wanting to have as many dress options as possible for the classy event, she decided she wanted to try losing some weight.
"I didn't feel unhappy about myself," says Kylie.
"But I did have an upcoming exhibition and really wanted to fit into a nice dress, so I had the goal to get down to 80kg from 92kg," the 35-year-old explains.
"I was aware that I wasn't eating that great and I wasn't doing any exercise so I thought, 'I'm just going to give this a go', and it just fell off quite quickly."

Small goals, big results

Before embarking on her weight loss journey the now mum-of-three says she knew she wasn't eating well, but it had just never really bothered her.
So, when it came to losing weight, she found the initial change of diet was a huge factor in helping to quickly drop the pounds.
"The journey was surprisingly easy.
"I was eating two pre-cooked sausages in white bread each day, loads of biscuits and sugary treats, as well as two litres of coke.
"I grabbed a few books from the library and learned about eating wholefoods and clean eating," she reveals.
"I started with a change of diet and walking for exercise and then, as the weeks went by and I started to feel more energetic, I started to introduce yoga and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
"The first 30kg initially fell off very quickly," Kylie says.
"It was the last 5kg and maintenance now that is the hardest.
"Once I hit that [80kg] goal I just kept going, making small weight loss goals along the way."
Kylie says that she had always been full of confidence even at a larger weight.
Kylie says that at first, as she had hoped and expected, she felt fantastic.
She had lots of energy, she could run and keep up with her kids and was getting plenty of compliments from people around her, but it was as the compliments kept flying in that Kylie found herself becoming more and more anxious.
Rather than the boost of confidence and happiness she had hoped to gain from her weight loss, she discovered her self-esteem began to plummet and her anxiety began to increase.

Hitting 'rock bottom'

"I never had anyone comment on my size when I was bigger, so I wasn't quite prepared for the complete change of attitude and treatment from others," explains Kylie.
She says people began to comment on her transformation saying things like, 'Wow, you look so good now,' and 'No offence, but you were so big, and now you look so hot.'
"Men who had not blinked an eye at me previously, suddenly became interested," Kylie says.
She explains that while she knew people thought their comments were nice things to say, they didn't realise that instead, they were having the opposite effect, leaving Kylie feeling incredibly hurt.
She began to believe that people would only like the smaller her, resulting in constant negative self-talk.
"Once I hit my goal weight I started to develop anxiety," she reveals.
"I believed that if people thought I was fat and ugly but never told me, then what else do they think of me behind my back?
"I just thought that if I put the weight back on, people would think less of me," Kylie adds.
"I actually believed that my worth was based on what others thought."
On and off for the next 13 years following her dramatic weight loss, Kylie battled with anxiety, constantly finding herself worrying about what people thought of her and feeling pressure to keep the weight off.
But last year everything came to a head as she hit, what she describes as "rock bottom".
"I just couldn't keep up."
"The anxiety crippled me and spread from not only weight issues, but to everything going on in my life."
A busy mum-of-three, working full-time and struggling to keep up, Kylie could barely sleep.
Incredibly shaken and finding it difficult to function, Kylie was prescribed anti-anxiety medication.
"I had tried to battle for so long on my own without medication, but I just needed some assistance – it was the best decision I had ever made.
"I'd hear that it was better to try and work out the issues going on deep down, and that medication is only going to mask it all, however I was in such a state that I needed medication first, in order to function."

Building from the ground up

After going on anti-anxiety medication, Kylie began counselling, which she says has helped her realise that the only people whose opinions should matter or affect her are her friends' and family's.
While many people around her seemed to do a complete 180 when she lost weight, Kylie says her husband, friends and family had supported her "100 per cent" throughout it all and continued to treat her the same way, regardless of her weight.
She adds that she also realised even though people on the outskirts of her life might have made comments about her weight, they actually probably didn't care or notice as much as she had thought and told herself.
"I look at what I love about my friends and family and weight is not a factor of it at all, so why would it be that way for me?," says Kylie.
"I certainly don't judge them or think any less of them for how much they weigh, so I just had to remind myself of that.
"It's taken me about a year of counselling to learn what I actually should love.
Kylie says her husband, friends and family had supported her "100 per cent", despite the change in attitude from people in the outskirts of her life. (Image: Instagram/@kylie_smiley_nz)
These days, Kylie says she feels far more relaxed about her weight.
She's been able to keep the weight off, now usually sitting at around 57kg, and says she doesn't diet - she's dieted in the past but says it was impossible to maintain such a low body fat.
"I like to to be able to eat cake and drink wine - you have to leave room for the odd treat and live a little!"
She combines a mixture of F45 (a form of 45 minute group circuit workouts), hiking and yoga to keep fit.
"I concentrate on fuelling [my body] with what it needs, and exercising to give me energy and support the somewhat hectic life I have.
"I've realised that doing things for others boosts my confidence and self-worth immensely, and I highly recommend doing that."
She says she also focuses on boosting her confidence by following her passions.
"Working on my design and my photography; just things to build my confidence up outside of my weight – because weight is not my worth."
At her smaller weight she's also subject to ridicule for being healthy and exercising, getting called 'skinny' and a 'twig' on regular occasions, but says she's learned to not take it to heart as much.
"These sorts of comments say more about who they are as a person, so I try to ignore it," Kylie says.
She adds that following Kiwi influencers on Instagram who are open and honest about their own personal struggles with mental health and weight, such as Simone Anderson and Makaia Carr, has also helped her.
"I try to feed my brain with people who are confident in their body and how they deal with 'haters', I guess they call it.
"I've come to realise that people are always going to have some sort of opinion, no matter what size you are."