A woman who used to gorge on McDonalds is now unrecognisable after losing half her body weight in just 15 months.

Candace Streich, from Michigan, US, looks totally different after undergoing bariatric surgery. Opening about about her weight loss journey, she says she knows firsthand the physical and mental challenges of struggling with obesity.

"As a kid, I got the 'big boned' label and took my fair share of teasing and being picked on for not being small like the other girls," she said. "I'll never forget that time I tried out for cheerleading, and my solo cheer turned into a giggle fest because I was the 'bigger' girl in the tryouts. They even poked fun at my so-called chubby hands with 'missing' knuckles."

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Candace added: "The more they teased, the more I turned to food for comfort. In my teens, I was chowing down on a whopping 3,000+ calories daily. I'd go all-in on bags and boxes of food just to see if I could finish all of it. Greasy, salty, and heavily processed foods were my kryptonite. My go-to McDonald's order? A double quarter pounder with cheese, a 10-piece nugget, large fries, a big ol' sweet tea, and a McChicken.

Candace Streich poses in her underwear before her weight loss
She used to struggle with the physical and mental challenges of obesity

"Depression was my constant companion. I felt like life had boxed me in, my self-esteem was a no-show, and I was stuck in oversized, frumpy outfits."

The turning point came when Candace realised how much her life revolved around food. She said: "I had turned 30. Others my age were happy and thriving, but here I was, just trying to survive and hiding from the world. While I was always too afraid to step on a scale, my weight was well more than 300lbs (21-stone)," shared Candace.

In 2022, Candace decided to undergo vertical sleeve gastrectomy surgery. "I was determined to get healthy," she said. "Conditions like sleep apnoea, plantar fasciitis, prediabetes, and more had taken their toll on me. I took the significant step of undergoing vertical sleeve gastrectomy surgery in June last year at Ascension Borgess Hospital Bariatric Center in Kalamazoo."

Candace Streich poses in a crop top and shorts after her weight loss
Candace lost half her body weight in just 15 months

Candace's journey wasn't just about shedding pounds; it was a battle against mental and emotional demons. "I had my fair share of ups and downs," she said. "Some days, those changing hormones would bring on tears, and I'd get cravings for comfort food, even though I physically couldn't indulge. Body dysmorphia made me second-guess my progress. That's where therapy came in, helping me sort through those emotions and changes."

She added: "My mental well-being also played a huge role. I had to mentally prepare myself for this journey and understand that giving up wasn't an option; it was a lifelong commitment. Once I had mentally prepared myself, I found the strength to trust and follow the process, knowing that setbacks and plateaus are all part of the deal."

Candace Streich poses for a photo before her weight loss
Candace says she was depressed when she was bigger
Candace Streich poses for a photo after her weight loss
In 2022, she decided to undergo vertical sleeve gastrectomy surgery

Candace now incorporates healthy eating habits into her daily routine to maintain her weight loss. She diligently meal preps twice a week, focusing on three to four days of lunches.

"After gastric surgery, portion control is key," she said. "I typically eat 85 to 141 grams of food daily. I focus on protein first, then veggies and then complex carbs last. My protein goal to maintain my weight is between 75g-150g protein."

Candace also exercises regularly and goes to her local gym four to five times a week. "If I skip the gym, I make it an active rest day, but I still get my steps in and walk 1 mile (1.6 km)," she said. "Being active has given me newfound energy. I no longer need to nap during the day and wake up feeling energised every morning."

Loose skin is a common concern after significant weight loss. Candace relies on compression garments, medicated powders, and weightlifting to fill loose skin areas with muscle.

Candace Streich poses for a photo after her weight loss
Candace now incorporates healthy eating habits into her daily routine to maintain her weight loss

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"I've considered skin removal surgery, but it's not my top priority," she said. "My main focus is on taming that relentless inner dialogue about food. Even though my weight is now in a healthy range, I recognise the importance of continuously improving my relationship with food. Before the surgery, I was already engaged in therapy to develop strategies for avoiding emotional eating, and I still go to therapy to maintain that progress."

Candace's presence on Instagram and TikTok has connected her with a vibrant bariatric community. She has made friends, inspired others to undergo surgery, and received overwhelming support from followers. Looking ahead, Candace aims to maintain her weight loss, continue her fitness routine, and embrace a happy and healthy life.

Candace's message is clear for those considering weight loss surgery or embarking on a similar journey. "Prioritise your health and research the available options," she says. Your future self will thank you."