Stacey Halprin's Weight Loss Journey
Desperate to get help for her weight, 25-year-old Stacey had written in to The Oprah Show about the daily struggles and dangers she faced as an extremely overweight woman. She wrote: "I weigh 550 lbs. This weight was taken on a grocery store meat scale. At night, I cannot sleep unless my head is propped up on six pillows because if I lie flat, I will choke. Each morning, I must shave my face because my hormones are so screwed up as a result of the weight. I have never been on a date. I want to be able to fit into public seats and to tie my own shoes. ... I'm going to die if I do not get help."
Overweight her entire life, Stacey shared her story with the audience and faced down several guests who discriminated against heavy people like her. One guest, Walter, told Stacey that men wouldn't find her attractive unless she were thin. "You've got to stop eating," he told her. "You're a pretty girl. Look at your face—you've got a great face. I can hardly wait until you lose the weight. I'd love to see what you look like, and I'll be the first one to throw my arms around you."
"And I'll throw them right off," Stacey responded.
Walter's discrimination toward overweight people was similar to what Stacey said she faced any time she went out in public. "It's people like Walter who make [life] miserable," Stacey said. "When this is all over and I lose my weight, I'm going to thank God that I went through this, and I'm not going to be ... like them."
"Miracles took place in my life," she said. "I was able to get into a recovery program and get help for my disease."
In addition to dropping the weight, Stacey told Oprah that she also had a brand new outlook on life. "I [used to live] my whole life for the day I became thin, and I'll no longer do that," she said. "My obsession with food is now gone."
Stacey recalled the moment she outgrew her car and could barely fit in the front seat, shared how she spent days at a time in bed and hiding in her dark bedroom, explained how she couldn't clean herself after using the bathroom without stepping into the shower, showed us her special two-mattress bed she slept in to support her weight and revealed that she literally pulled chunks of her hair out every day due to the stress and shame she felt for being so overweight.
These admissions left Oprah in tears. "It was very brave of you to [share] that," Oprah told her.
The hidden camera experience was even more revealing. When they thought Stacey was out of sight, people laughed at her, made cruel jokes at her expense and made derogatory comments about her size. Stacey admitted that these were all common occurrences. "It's as much a part of my life as brushing my teeth in the morning," she said. "But you can never prepare yourself [for the harassment]."
"From that day on, a ball started rolling that I couldn't stop," Stacey said. Though the team behind the film originally wanted a Hollywood star to play the supporting role of Angela, they ended up giving Stacey the part! In 2000, Bruno was released starring Shirley, Kathy Bates, Gary Sinise, Jennifer Tilly and Joey Lauren Adams.
"It's so important for people to know that I thought my life was going to start the day I [weighed] under 200 pounds," Stacey said. "But guess what? Life happens anyway."
The catalyst, she said, was hitting rock bottom immediately after September 11, 2001. "I live a mile from ground zero," Stacey explained. "They closed off all the blocks from 14th Street, below. And I'm below. In order for me to get the basic necessities of what I needed, I would have had to go a quarter of a block...and I couldn't."
So, Stacey made the difficult decision to get gastric bypass surgery. Though it was a tough experience and recovery that she said she struggled with, Stacey said she made the right decision. "I went from immobile to mobile in the course of a year," she said.
With her newfound mobility, Stacey became more active. She started doing water aerobics, lifting weights and doing all of the things she could not do when she was 550 pounds, such as seeing a Broadway play, going to a movie or simply taking daily walks. In fact, now at 277 pounds, Stacey was even able to get a dog that she said she walks three times a day.
"I am living a much better quality life, and it's only going to get better," she said.
After her gastric bypass and 10 more complicated, painful procedures to remove the excess skin, Stacey lost 356 pounds and returned to talk about her new life in her new body.
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But her update contained some happy news as well: Stacey told Oprah that she was also dating for the first time in her life!
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Monica decided to do the gastric bypass surgery and lost 125 pounds. Sharing words of encouragement, Stacey told Monica, "I know you might think that the hard work is over, but the truth is the hard work is just beginning. I'm here to tell you three and a half years down the road, it is so worth it, Monica. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I'm so proud of you, and I will be waiting for you at the finish line, girl. You look gorgeous."
In her book, Stacey shared a weight loss secret that helped her keep the weight off over the past several years: If she had a momentary weakness at a buffet or happened to binge on Oreos in the afternoon, she didn't let the setback spiral into more than a temporary lapse. "Normal people gain 10 and 20 pounds. It doesn't mean they have to keep going," she explained. "What the winners do is they go to the exact next meal and they start like it never happened."
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Yet, even after losing several hundred pounds, she said she didn't feel worthy of returning to the show for a final time. "I didn't feel like I deserved to be here," she said. "But now I know that I deserve to be here, and I don't want to hide anymore."
If her journey has taught her anything, it's that losing weight is a struggle that doesn't magically disappear one day. "My dream was that I wanted to come here and be at the finish line," Stacey explained. "There is no finish line. It's an ongoing process."
Catch up with Stacey and see how she's doing today
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