I met Kara at Healthevoices in Dallas, Texas. Her energetic spirit and her amazing singing voice inspired me. Here is her story.
I’m Kara and I am 25-year old, a wife of 6 years, and mom to a 2-year-old baby boy. I grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, but have lived in the Kansas City area for almost 7 years. Right now I’m finishing up my Accounting degree, but in my free time, I love to play with my son, read, and be in nature.
Why did you become an advocate?
When I first started trying to lose weight, I looked on Instagram for other girls my age to learn from. It is because of these accounts that I followed through with my surgery. I am an advocate because I want to help other people who can relate to me, whether it be for living with obesity, weight loss surgery, or mental health.

When did you start noticing your relationship with food and your body changing?

The first time I realized my body was “different” was when I started Kindergarten. I got bullied for being bigger than the other kids and I had a hard time making friends. That was the theme throughout my school years. When I turned 15, my mental fight of accepting my body came out as suicidal depression and anxiety.  It wasn’t until later that I saw my relationship with food changing. I fought for years to get my weight down.  But after I met my husband, I felt loved and accepted for the first time, so I stopped paying attention to my weight and my diet. I became addicted to food and would binge frequently.
When did you realize you had a problem?
I’ve always wanted to have babies. But I struggled with undiagnosed PCOS and had very infrequent menstrual cycles. The plan was to “get healthy” before we tried for kids. But of course, life happens, and I got pregnant. As I progressed through my pregnancy, I started to notice the extreme stress that my body was under from the excess weight, and then I was seeing first hand how it was affecting my baby. After my son was born (healthy and beautiful), my gynecologist suggested I look into weight loss surgery. That wasn’t the first time I had been introduced to the idea.
What advice would you give others going through something similar?
Fight for yourself. There are people who will mock you or judge you but they don’t know you or your story. Seek out what helps you and cling to it. Do what works for YOU. And most importantly, be kind to yourself.
How did your family and friends handle it?
My family has always been very supportive of my health efforts. They don’t always know how to talk about it, but they try.
What advice would you give to family and friends of people struggling?
Don’t be afraid to talk! Hard conversations can be the difference in someone’s health. Even if results don’t come immediately, talk to them. Make sure you’re coming from a place of love and acceptance, not judgment. Hearing your concerns can be what wakes them up. 
When did you realize you needed help?
After getting to my heaviest, I tried for 2 years being very strict about my diet and exercise and only saw minimal results, I realized losing the amount of weight that I needed to lose was going to be so much harder than I realized and that I needed help.
As for my mental health, at 16 I started self-harming and it wasn’t until my mother found out did I realize how serious my depression had become.
When did you first start noticing symptoms?
I noticed symptoms of depression at age 15 and noticed my binge eating around age 20.
What are your triggers?
Stress. Overloading my schedule or getting overwhelmed starts my anxiety, which triggers my OCD, which (when I can’t have things perfect) triggers my depression which triggers my binge eating.
How has it affected your relationships?
Luckily, I have a spouse that understands me and is very patient with my mental health.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s been easy dealing with it. He also has been very supportive of my weight-loss but is nervous that the extreme change is going to change my personality.
What do people say that you wish they didn’t?
Not that this is said to me frequently, but I don’t think it’s okay to comment on what people are eating. If you’ve got a concern about someone’s health and you notice their diet might be part of the problem, talk to them in a private place later and mention their health as a whole, not just what they chose to eat for one meal.
Do you think the health care system is doing enough? 
No! Doctors and insurance have biases against patients with obesity and do not always recommend the right care. I also think Doctors need to be more proactive about mental health as well, not just referring to Psychiatrists and Therapists, which tends to be way more expensive.
What lifts you up when you are down? 
 My son is my sunshine. His innocence and joy make me realize that my worries aren’t worth the time I give them. Another thing that really helps me is connecting with nature, getting out of the house and focusing on beauty helps to lift my spirits.  
How can people find you?
Instagram: @karabear_