A young woman whose family told her she’d ‘explode’ if she ate any more managed to lose half her body weight by dieting and exercising — but now her family has stopped speaking to her, accusing her of being too skinny.
Instagram fitness influencer Gessica Parisi-Rodriguez from Grand Rapids, Michigan struggled with her weight since childhood, and by age 17 she topped out at 252 lbs. — prompting judgmental comments from family members, who told her it was ‘too bad’ she was so big because she had a ‘pretty face.’
As an adult, the now-25-year-old has managed to lose 122 lbs., bringing her weight down to just 130 lbs. — but unfortunately, her family is still critical, and some have even ‘cut ties’ with her over her healthier lifestyle.
Gessica said that, growing up, family celebrations included an over-abundance of food.
‘I’m from a Sicilian-American family who own quite a few restaurants and pizza places all over Michigan, so food was always a huge part of every gathering and celebration we had, which was often,’ she said.
Gessica learned to eat not just to celebrate good times, but to get through difficult times.
‘I was a really lonely kid,’ she said. ‘My mom remarried and had my sister when I was five, but I felt very excluded from my blended family and I unintentionally turned to food for comfort and solace.
‘So, as you can see, it didn’t matter if it was in celebration or in hard times, I would always eat.’
At 17, she was eating over 4,000 calories a day. A typical day would start with a double chocolate muffin and milk or orange juice for breakfast, then a ham and cheese sub with chips and juice at lunch.
For dinner, she’d eat breaded pork steaks with mashed potatoes and two or three bread rolls, washing them down with a few cans of soda.
She’d snack throughout the day as well, eating bowls of pasta, bread, more potato chips, Nutella sandwiches, and soda.
Her family noticed and piled on the criticism, telling her she was unlikely to find someone who loved her the way that she was.
‘My family would say things like, “If you keep eating like that you’re going to explode,” “It’s too bad you’re so big, you have such a pretty face,” and “I hope you find a man that can love you looking like that.” My love life was non-existent.’
What’s more, her health was at risk.
‘Simply walking was a struggle as I was always out of breath. I couldn’t take part in sports at school even though I always wanted to play football or volleyball, I just couldn’t muster up the courage being so fat. I also loved to swim, but never did it because I was too embarrassed to be seen in a swimsuit.
‘I was at high risk of type 1 and 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, PCOS and hypothyroidism due to my obesity.
‘I was also struggling to find clothes and shoes to wear. It was saddening that I couldn’t express myself through fashion because everything that fit were for older women,’ she said of her former size 22 figure.
‘I felt awful,’ she said. ‘I hate to say it, but my physical appearance and overall perception of myself made me self-loathing. I truly thought I was a failure and that I wasn’t good enough in any way.’
Then something changed: Gessica found God.
‘I had a life changing experience with Jesus who helped me to recognize, for the first time in my life, that I wasn’t living to my full potential. So, through mental and emotional strength and fortitude I found through God I started to make some changes to take care of my health,’ she said.
She started walkingin increasing increments until she was walking one to two hours a day.
She also started tracking her calories while cutting down on the unhealthy food she enjoyed.
‘I did it all naturally,’ she said. ‘I didn’t cut out the things I love, I just ate less of them.’
Her breakfasts became healthier, as she’d choose oatmeal with a tablespoon of peanut butter. For lunch, she now eats homemade enchiladas, and dinner might be a turkey hamburger on low-carb bread.
She still snacks, but picks fruit or protein cookies.
She began losing weight, and eventually started to incorporate weight training and cardio at the gym.
Now, the 5’5″ Instagrammer is down to just 130 lbs. and wears a size four.
Gessica’s entire world has been turned upside down, and she now loves herself and has a totally different, much healthier mindset.
But although most people love her new look, she sometimes gets told she’s too thin by those same people who told her she was too fat.
‘I believe some family have become uncomfortable with me finally looking good and healthy after years of being the “fat family member” or “fat friend,”‘ Gessica said.
‘They compare themselves to me and put my new body down and are mean about it. They try to discourage me from continuing my healthy lifestyle and in some cases, they have completely cut ties with me,’ she went on.
‘Sometimes you can’t win because people who said I was once too fat now say I’m too skinny and unhealthy, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
‘The truth is I now love myself. After coming face to face with some ugly beliefs about myself and recognizing who I really was I was set free.
‘This journey has been the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the most rewarding. I now feel comfortable in my own skin, and the people who say I look amazing are the people who matter such as close friends or my husband.’
She also has advice for others trying to lose weight.
‘Weight loss doesn’t have to be complicated, although you wouldn’t think so with all the conflicting information out there,’ she said.
‘Start simple and from a positive place. If you know nothing else, just start walking and grab a little less food for each meal. You will learn more about exercise and nutrition along the way.
‘Above all, remain positive and believe in yourself that you can do this.’