One year ago, Lauren LaFleur weighed 495 pounds. Twelve months later, Lauren is 175 pounds thinner. It's all a result of the gastric bypass surgery she had on August 21, 2002.
"Once the weight started coming off, I began living a different life and feeling better. Before, I always wanted to hide. I didn't want people to notice me. I tried to blend in, but now I like standing out. I like being looked at because I am a different person," she explains.
Lauren has watched her body and self image transform into something new in the past 12 months.
"Being able to look in the mirror and see a jaw line and to know I look more normal than I ever have in my life and that I fit in better than I ever have before. When I go out, I don't feel like people are staring at me because I am so big. I feel people look at me like I am an attractive girl."
Her weight loss didn't come just through the surgery though. Lauren is quick to remind everyone gastric bypass is not a quick fix.
"You don't go into surgery big and then come out a size 8. It's work. It's a lot of work."
After her surgery she started working out regularly and her diet is dramatically different.
"This morning I had a thin slice of provolone and two saltine crackers,"; she explains.
Lauren can still only eat about a 1/2 a cup of food at every meal. She admits there are days when living with the changes are tough, but she says for her it's been well worth it.
"Before, I didn't even feel worthy. I felt like I wasn't worthy to be treated like everybody else. I always felt like I had to apologize because I took up space, because I took up air. I always felt I was in the way and I don't feel that way anymore."