For Kathleen Golding, her weight-loss journey began when she was very young.
“I remember being in the fourth grade and having to get a note from my pediatrician granting me permission to start Weight Watchers,” the 26-year-old shares with PEOPLE.
Struggle Into Her 20s
By the age of 21, she was struggling with anxiety and depression, which led her to turn to food to cope. This stress eating resulted in her gaining a hundred pounds by her 22nd birthday.
“I was stuck in a constant cycle of daily binging,” she admitted. “I was eating fast food for every meal and enormous quantities each time.”
At her highest weight she was 331 pounds on her 5"6" figure.
She Made The Decision
By August to 2015, she had enough of the constant struggle and started the process of getting gastric bypass surgery.
“The morning [I decided to do it] I turned down an offer from friends to go to an amusement park because I knew couldn’t fit in the ride seats, and the following Monday I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled to discuss diabetes medications,” she recalls.
She knew her weight was affecting her health and her emotional well-being.
“For a long time, I felt completely hopeless. I felt trapped in my body, and no matter what I did to try and lose the weight, I failed," she said. "I went into this surgery with the mentality that this would work for me, and I looked at it as me finally taking back control of my life.”
Strangers would mock her on a daily basis.
“They had pointed to my legs and I knew why — I had stopped shaving my legs because it was difficult to reach my calves, and that was funny to them,” she said.
In June 2016, Golding finally underwent the surgery. In preparation for the big day, she lost 20 pounds and after the surgery, she claimed that the weight quickly began to "melt off".
“I felt this incredible sense of confidence that I had totally forgotten about. Even after losing only 30 lbs., I felt amazing, both about my appearance and the way my body was able to move,” she admitted.
Golding lost a total of 178 pounds, and now maintains a total weight of between 150-155 pounds. She says that getting the surgery was a positive decision she made in her life.
“For some reason, weight loss surgery is seen as ‘cheating’ or being weak, but for me, I found strength in being able to say ‘I can’t do this on my own. I want to be healthy, but I need help,’” she said.
Life After Surgery
"This first photo was taken 4 months before I had gastric bypass surgery. I remember seeing this picture on Facebook for the first time and sobbing," she wrote on an Instagram post. "I hated myself that day."
Now that she is maintaining a healthy weight, Golding no longer eats fast food and enjoys spending time at the gym.
Golding now says she is finally at peace with her body.
“I have some loose skin and it definitely has its imperfections, but I worked hard for this body,” she says. “I spent so much time hating it but I’ve realized that this is the only body I’ve got and I’m going to take care of it.”