"At 400 pounds, I wans't able to sit on a regular chair. I wasn't able to sit in boots. I wasn't able to get on a bike."
When Rosie Mercado, a plus-sized model and mother-of-three, hit 410 pounds, she also hit her heaviest weight ever. But her wake-up call didn't come until one particularly mortifying incident on a plane. The model — too heavy to fit into one seat — had to purchase an additional ticket.
The Los Angeles-based model knew then that she had to do something, so she began working out and eating better. She lost 100 pounds the good 'ol fashioned way, but she soon hit her plateau. No matter what she ate or how much she exercised, she couldn't lose any more weight. So, she made the decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery — a decision that stunned her conservative Mexican family.
"It was shocking for them to hear that I was going to do something like that," she revealed. "But they were supportive."
Now, two years since she began her weight loss journey, she's dropped 210 pounds. She hasn't looked back once.
"I'm going hiking, and I'm going cycling," she said. "I have the choice to do whatever I want with no restraint. I'm able to live life. I'm showing this lifestyle to my kids and my family."
We chatted with Rosie Mercado about her weight loss journey, her diet and the challenges she's faced as a plus-sized model on a mission to drop inches:
What was your family and friends' response to your surgery?
I come from a big Mexican family, so we love to eat. That's how we were raised. At first, they were kind of worried because I lost 100 pounds on my own. They didn't understand that it didn't matter what I tried, I just stayed at a certain weight. I plateaued, and I started gaining 10 pounds, 15 pounds, 20 pounds. So, I sat down and talked to them. They've very traditional, so it was kind of shocking for them to hear, but they were very supportive. They were there. They still questioned me: "Are you sure you want to do this? This is really going to change your life."
Well, I got the surgery, and two months later, my family started seeing the changes. Three months later, they saw me started to drop weight. Four months later, they started to see me doing exercise. Five months, they started getting inspired. Six months down, my brother got the surgery. My sister is going to get the surgery next month. It changed their mentality.
Did you experience any resistance or criticism because of your career as a plus-size model?
There were a lot of people that were supportive and a lot of people who really blasted me: "You're a sellout. You got surgery. I don't think you did all the hard work on your own." They don't really understand that there's a lot of hard work. If you don't care of yourself, you will not lose the weight.
Was there a feeling among your fans that you were turning your back on being a plus-size model?
Yeah. I look really small compared to where I was. So people thought I was giving up on the plus-size model and they thought I was ashamed of being overweight. It was never about that. My goal is not to be a size eight. My goal is to be in good health. I want to be a healthy size 14. I want to be fit. I was a quality of life. It was never about becoming skinny. I have hips, and I embrace that about my body. My body is not perfect, and it's never going to be perfect. But I embrace that. I have the freedom of quality of life. I have the freedom of choice. I get to choose what I want to do.
What's your daily diet and exercise regime look like?
I exercise five times a week — cardio and weight training. I lift weights, then I do 45 minutes of cardio. I have a protein shake, and every three hours, I'm eating small amounts of food. Nothing bigger than the palm of my hand. Every three hours, I'm consuming food: anything from almonds to lean chicken to vegetables. I don't eat bread. I don't eat pasta. I don't eat rice. I have low-enzymatic fruits throughout the day, and I drink green juice every single day. I also eat a lot of fish, a lot of salmon. For my carbs, I eat healthy carbs. I'll do a sweet potato every three days, or I'll have raw soy oatmeal with some blueberries and strawberries. I drink a lot of water. I don't drink any processed juices; just water with lemon or strawberries and cucumbers. I try to stay as much as possible away from sugar, which also ages you. I don't have a lot of sugar.
If you stay away from dairies and sugars, you'll stop the bloating. You'll notice how your body changes.
How have your three children (aged 9, 10 and 15) responded?
It's a wonderful time, because I'm able to enjoy qualify life with them. We're able to go out and have fun. We're able to run around. I'm able to chase them. Traveling is easy. They've seen me at my heaviest, and they still see that I'm plus-sized. But I'm active, and they've seen the lifestyle changes. They're more conscious of what they eat.
What would be your main piece of advice for people who want to make a major life change like this?
Lifestyle. It's not about size. People get confused when they hear "weight loss." They automatically think "skinny." But, I think weight loss equals qualify of life. It can be 20 pounds for someone, and 200 pounds for someone else. People need to learn to be happy for themselves. People always criticize you for making the change, especially if it's not normal and it's out of people's comfort zone. You'll always get criticized. Stick to your own happiness. Be your true authentic self. That's all that matters.
Healthy is different for everyone. Happiness is the key to success, and everybody's happiness is different.