A sex abuse survivor has lost more than 64 kilos since deciding to take back her life and empower herself to feel good about herself again.
Ashley Amaral, 31, from Toronto, Canada, saw her weight spiral to 155kg after years of using food as an emotional crutch to overcome her ordeal from the age of 10.
"I was abused when I was younger, so food became my coping mechanism, it was my drug of choice,” said Ashley.
"If you're fat and ugly, no one will touch or abuse you again, that was my mentality as a ten-year-old.
"At school, bullying led me to gain a lot of weight too, I was very unhappy with how I looked and I used food to bury my problems.
Ashley later reported the incidents to the police and told her family, but the damage to her self-esteem was done.
After a series of incidents - from being called bullied at school, to needing a seat belt extender and even being asked to leave a rollercoaster - she decided to change her life.
"The person I saw in the mirror wasn't me anymore, it was a mask that I had put on to hide with and it was at that moment that I decided I was ready to take back control of my life,” she said.
"I knew in that part of my life, I was going to help my physical and mental health, by dealing with what happened when I was younger.”
In 2011, she had a gastric sleeve after years of failed fad diets, and thanks to strict healthy meals coupled with exercise, she’s lost over 64kg.
"Before I was big and round with no shape, now I feel like a woman, I have curves and feel sexy. Before I could pretend I was confident but I didn't truly feel that way,” says Ashley.
"It's very empowering to be a woman and feel sexy about yourself, to not need anyone or anything else to feel that way.”
Since her drastic life overhaul, Ashley's found inner happiness and confidence in her appearance – even inspiring those close to her to lose weight too.
Ashley now weighs 84kg, has stopped letting life hold her back, and can now enjoy playing with her son.
"My friends are super proud of me, some have been motivated to start their own weight loss journey now,” says Ashley.
"I have so much more stamina now, I do pole classes and can play around with my son without dying after two minutes of exercise.
"I'm excited to be able to run around and raise my son to lead a balanced healthy lifestyle, I can play sports with them and not be out of breath."
DAILY DIET BEFORE
Breakfast - McDonald sausage and egg combo double with hash browns, a Coke
Snacks - chocolate, chips
Lunch - Pizza slice, hamburger, fries and coke
Snacks - Junk food and Coke
Dinner - Dip and pita appetizers, chicken fingers, fries and two Cokes
Dessert - large bowl of ice cream with chocolate cookies with chocolate sauce
DAILY DIET AFTER
Breakfast - Greek yoghurt and blueberries
Snacks - Mini carrots, red pepper hummus and calorie wise crackers
Lunch - Salad with lots of veggies and grilled chicken
Snacks - Yogurt, apple slices and nut-butter
Dinner - Grilled chicken, sweet potato with meat sauce
Dessert - Frozen yoghurt or small dark chocolate
- Additional reporting by Caters News
If you or someone you know is suffering from sexual or domestic abuse, call RESPECT any time of day or night.