The industrial scales on the Auckland factory floor where Simone Anderson worked were usually used to weigh freight materials, but today she was going to use them for her own weigh-in.
The days of being able to step onto the bathroom scales had long gone. Instead, Simone had snuck down to the warehouse when she knew none of her workmates would be around.
She stepped on, waited for the needle to stop bouncing and dared to look. At just 23 years old, Simone weighed in at a staggering 169kg.
"I was what the doctors would call morbidly obese," the social media star explains to Woman's Day. "And at that point, I knew something had to change. I realised I potentially wasn't going to have much longer to live."
Simone, now 27, says it was the turning point, her lightbulb moment. After years of gorging on pies and cakes, and visiting the bakery for breakfast, she decided it was time to finally make a permanent lifestyle change.
Well-versed in yo-yo dieting, Simone turned to Facebook to help cheerlead her to long-term success.
"It took me four days to put up my first post," she recalls.
"I stood in my bra and underpants and decided to bare it all to the world. After that, I felt so motivated."
She's now amassed a cool 225,000 followers on Instagram – people who have watched every step of her mammoth journey from unhappy and overweight to slinky social media influencer. And it's been one hell of a journey.
Simone says she hadn't always been a larger person. As a young girl, she was extremely athletic and an active member of several sports teams.
"My early childhood years were never an issue," she says. "I had an incredible mother who was very health- conscious. Every inch of my lunchbox was made from scratch – nothing was ever out of a packet.
"That was amazing, but it did have a downside. Every time I had the chance – birthday parties or anything like that – I was by that table, eating to the point of vomiting almost every time. I would just gorge myself."
Life changed when Simone broke her arm in a ski accident when she was 13 years old. Six months in a cast sucked away the endless energy she had for after-school exercise and she was soon comfort eating.
"I went from being active and able to eat as much as I wanted, to realising I couldn't keep eating that way – but I still did," Simone admits.
"And it never stopped. The weight gain was so gradual, I didn't see it. I used to think to myself, 'I'm not that big,' or, 'I'm not that overweight,' but I was the complete opposite."
For the next seven years, Simone put on around 15kg a year and by the end of high school weighed almost 130kg. She funded her unhealthy habit by babysitting.
"I'd stop off at the dairy and spend my earnings on lollies," she tells.
But it was when she started working at a jewellery factory with her friend Chantelle in 2014 that she found her pal's healthy lifestyle magnified how unhealthy she was.
Simone would often eat a pie and cream cake for breakfast, doughnuts for lunch, then a calorie-laden feast later on, when she was tucked away in the privacy of her own home. By the time she went to bed, she often would have racked up a staggering 5000 calories that day – more than double the recommended amount.
"I feel like I absolutely had a food addiction," says Simone.
"But with most addictions, you go cold turkey – you don't tell alcoholics to have a glass of wine a day or heroin addicts to shoot up just a little bit. But you can't completely eliminate food. You need it to survive. And that for me was the hardest thing of all."
So, inspired by a family friend who claimed gastric sleeve surgery not only changed her life but saved it, Simone decided to have the procedure done too.
"It was a big decision," she reflects.
In 2014, Simone booked in to Auckland Weight Loss Surgery, forking out $20,000 to have the surgery, in which a part of her stomach was removed, leaving a small tube in its place.
She explains, "You're just left with five little keyhole scars, but internally, I felt like I'd eaten rocks for quite a while. I'd describe it as a heavy and dense feeling."
However, in the end, it was worth the discomfort. In 12 months, Simone lost half her body weight, bagged herself a new man and found work as a successful make-up artist. And now, having just had her first book published, you could say she didn't just turn her life around – she did a complete backflip.
And as she spins around in a succession of slinky outfits for our exclusive shoot, there's no doubt that she feels like a different person. But there are still days when low confidence hits – especially when the keyboard warriors slam her for "cheating" at weight loss.
"I don't know if my insecurities will ever totally disappear," Simone reveals.
"There are some days when I see myself as 170kg and I find it hard to shake.
"But I am constantly faced with online hate because there's a lack of knowledge around gastric sleeve surgery. If you haven't been morbidly obese, how can your wrap your head around what I've had to deal with?"
These days, Simone tries to focus on her journey, looking at maintaining a healthy relationship with wholefoods and exercise – and the possibility that now she might finally fulfil her dream of becoming a mum.
"I'm a cougar!" she grins. "My guy Trent is five years younger than me, so I have to be respectful that he is going to need a little bit longer – but I am very maternal and I'd be happy to have a baby tomorrow.
"But most of all, I'm just happy that I can. My periods stopped when I was extremely overweight. Now it feels like the world is my oyster."
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