I was always the fat girl…

And thanks to a family friend who repeatedly assaulted me sexually, I stayed that way most of my life. I felt degraded and disillusioned, and food became my most faithful friend. When I look back at my life, I realize now that the abuse triggered my willingness to accept repeated humiliation: an unfaithful husband, constant stares from strangers, and an insatiable desire to gain approval, spiraled me into an exhaustive and vicious cycle of overcompensation.

By the fall of 2001, at 35, I weighed over 600 lbs, and began my fourth year as a recluse, bound to my home- physically and mentally. The computer became my daily companion along with a host of medical problems - the result of 35 years of obesity. Sleep apnea, congestive heart failure, degenerative joint disease, uncontrolled hypertension, depression, hypothyroidism, and multiple female issues made it easier to WAIT TO DIE, than to even try to live. I couldn't tie my shoes, or walk to the door. I was repulsive.

All of this changed on an especially ugly day when my body began to hemorrhage uncontrollably. The hospital weighed me in at 587 pounds, and as I caught my breath at the sight of those numbers on the scale, I lost it again, when I saw myself in the mirror. I was enormous. It was then that something snapped inside me.

Exercise and dieting were hardly options. Every doctor I consulted refused to do surgery. Finally, I found Dr. Hazem Elariny, and I tasted hope for the very first time when he agreed to do my surgery.

Post-surgically, my weight began to drop leaving me with buckets of sagging skin. My legs, arms, and stomach violently bounced every time I moved. I was so uncomfortable in my old skin, that doctors performed a "body lift" to remove a 23 pound sheet of skin -five feet long, ten inches thick. I awoke from surgery to another crushing blow: my sister, a single Mom, had been killed in a car accident. The pain in my heart crippled my soul as I tried to remember the last time we even spoke.

Somehow I made it through, and endured a dozen or so more surgeries. I had repeated infections and complications: my thigh lift alone required 400 stitches, a major blood transfusion, and multiple repeat surgeries to remove rotting flesh.

My journey from a size 9X to a size 12 and the loss of over 450 lbs was excruciating. Honestly, though, it was far less tormenting than the desperate life I was living.

I'm no longer the fat girl, and at 40 years old, I'm starting over. I created ConnieJackson.net to encourage and educate people, and I just finished my first book Big Issues...Obesity: The Choice Between Life and Death. And even more importantly than all that, I'm building bridges: raising my sister's 4 year old son, dealing with all the issues that shoved me down, and reaching out to people across the world. It's pretty amazing and ironic to receive all this positive attention about my story. But I'll take it, and I'll do good things with it. It's time.