Laura Jade Bates, 28 from the Central Coast of NSW, shares her amazing story;
I took a deep breath and walked into the hairdressing salon.
This is it, I told myself, don't stuff it up.
My dream had always been to work as a hairdresser, so I was stoked to finally get an interview for the role of trainee after a wave of rejection letters.
But as soon as the salon manager took one look at me, I worried it was over.
"You're going to be on your feet a lot," the manager warned. "Can you handle that?"
I knew exactly what they were getting at.
I was 23 and weighed 150kg.
I was aware that I was overweight, but my heart was still set on being a hairdresser.
I continued to talk about my passion for the job, hoping they'd hear my enthusiasm.
"Well, I'll give it to you," the manager said finally, "but I'm unsure because of your… size."
His words cut like a knife.
I should have felt exhilarated that my dream was about to come true, instead, it was like a nightmare and I was more ashamed of myself than ever.
Sadly, my dream soon turned sour and I left the job after just a few weeks.
I didn't have the support I needed there, and felt like everyone was judging me because of my size.
"I'm just not cut out for it," I told a mate.
My weight had been a constant burden throughout my life.
In primary school, I had to get a special uniform made for me because the regular sizes were too small.
By the time I was 12, I was 100kg.
"I can't understand it," my mum, Carolyn, said. "It's not like you spend all day in front of the TV."
My five older siblings were all active and I enjoyed playing with them.
It didn't make sense.
I'd tried plenty of diets with no results. But I loved junk food – especially chips and lollies.
I could happily devour an entire pack of biscuits in no time at all.
Poor Mum was at her wit's end over what to do with me.
At 13, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries and insulin resistance, which explained why I was putting on so much weight.
But by now my bad habits were hard to break.
Maccas was my staple – I'd easily eat a large burger meal with 10 extra chicken nuggets.
I loved pizza, chips, garlic bread and soft drinks, too.
I was eating myself to death but I didn't care.
The weight continued to pile on until, at 24, I reached a staggering 170kg.
While most people my age were out having fun, I felt like an old woman, too exhausted to do anything at all.
"I'll need knee replacements before I'm 30," I told Mum.
The shocking truth hit me like a tonne of bricks.
Worse, I realised that if I kept living like this, I might not even make it to 30.
From that day, I vowed to take control of my life so I joined the local gym, Central Coast Barbell.
After a few minutes on the rowing machine, the sweat poured down my brow and I was puffing desperately.
Every time I thought about giving up I remembered the promise I'd made and I willed myself to go on.
For six gruelling months I persisted and the weight began to budge until I'd lost 60kg.
"You're like a whole new person," Mum said, wrapping me in a hug.
Finally I had the confidence to start looking for a job.
I still wasn't ready to think about hairdressing again and instead I studied for my certificate 4 in fitness, so I could become a personal trainer.
I loved my new healthy life and hit the gym as often as I could until one day, I was working out doing weights when I felt an excruciating pain shoot down my back.
"Ouch!" I yelped.
Next morning I woke up, hardly able to move.
It turned out I'd badly injured my back, making even the smallest movement agony.
Without the gym, the days dragged by.
Old habits soon returned and the weight piled back on.
I was 40kg heavier in no time.
Depression set in as I realised I was back to square one.
With all the extra time on my hands, I started reading up on weight-loss surgery.
A doctor suggested a mini gastric bypass that would restrict how much food I could eat.
"It's my only option," I told mum.
She nodded sadly.
I was scared, but knew it was now a matter of life or death.
The change was immediate.
Post-procedure, the fat rolled off me within weeks.
After a year, I was down to 83kg.
"I'm so proud of you," Mum beamed.
But I knew this was only the start of my journey.
I needed weeks of physio on my back and with strengthening exercises and lots of rest, I could at last get back to the gym every day.
Now, the smallest things, like being able to touch my toes or take the stairs without gasping for breath, have given me the biggest confidence boost.
I'm even going to return to hairdressing soon.
I'd want to start fresh at a new salon which is exciting but I'm also petrified.
My weight has held me back for so long and I've been able to hide behind it too, so it's strange to get used to not having it anymore!
It's time to move on with my life though.
I'm so ready to pursue my dreams and the job I've always wanted.
Losing weight was the hardest thing I've ever done, and I know other people are struggling, too.