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Teen Shares What It's Like to Lose 84 Lbs.: 'This Journey Is 80 Percent Mental'

People logo People 2/14/2018 People Staff

Mariah Stolfi’s road to losing weight has been full of ups and downs.

“I grew up a binge eater,” Stolfi, 19, tells PEOPLE. “I remember in fifth grade I was around 150 lbs. I weighed more than my mom and wore larger sizes than she did.”

Her poor eating habits were exacerbated by a stressful childhood.

“I lived split time with both my mom and my dad but moved many times growing up — more than 20 households before I graduated high school. The moves meant changing schools often, which was overwhelming,” she says. “I used food to comfort myself.”

a group of people posing for a photo © Mariah Stolfi

She continued: “We also were pretty poor so we ate a lot of cereal, ramen noodles and frozen pizzas. I was eating half a pizza in early elementary school. I would sneak food up to my room and then flush the wrappers down the toilet to not get in trouble.”

The Wisconsin native also struggled with health issues. In her early teens she was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and sleep apnea. “It is extremely difficult to lose weight and maintain weight loss with PCOS,” says Stolfi, who reached her highest weight of 286 lbs. at age 18. “And the lack of good sleep caused me to be lethargic, which meant I didn’t have the energy to work out.”

“Don’t compare your life to others. There’s no comparison between the sun and the moon, they shine when it’s their time.” ????????

A post shared by l 19 l 5'6 | VSG | ??84.1 Lbs (@mariahlosing) on Jan 21, 2018 at 12:33pm PST

Wanting to finally get healthy, Stolfi decided to undergo vertical sleeve gastrectomy surgery in July 2017.

She is honest with her followers about her struggles. “Weight loss journeys are hard for everyone,” says Stolfi, who hopes to lose an additional 60 to 70 lbs. “But rapid weight loss at my age has really been hard mentally. My mind hasn’t caught up with my body. I still see myself as almost 300 lbs.”

Although she experiences ups and downs, she is committed to her new lifestyle, which includes a low-carb/high-protein diet, along with meal prepping and running.

“There are days where I feel on top of the world in this new body of mine. There are also days where I feel the absolute worst,” she says. “I am truly working on loving myself and the body I am.”

A college student and education assistant who works with children with special needs, Stolfi is also hoping to get a degree in nutrition.

In the meantime, she has this advice to others struggling with their weight: “This journey is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical. If you don’t fix your mindset you will not succeed on your weight loss journey.”

Slideshow: Get Inspired by These Incredible Weight Loss Transformations (Provided by People) 

Robin Janes: Lost 280 Lbs.: Janes, 28, can't remember a time when she was ever small. “Not even in a baby picture,” she tells PEOPLE for the 2018 Half Their Size issue. “I was always overweight, and it continued through adulthood.” By then, Janes couldn't fit on a normal scale. “I went to my friend’s family business where they weigh huge industrial tubs,” she recalls. “That’s how I found out I was 450 lbs.” Her real turning point, though, was when she realized she could no longer fit in the desks at her college, and had to put her education on hold. Ready for a change, Janes started with Isagenix meal replacement shakes, and taught herself to cook healthy meals. She also began working out slowly, with short walks and swims. Now 280 lbs. lighter, Janes loves playing volleyball and hitting the gym, and is working on her degree once again. “I’m back in school. I can work anywhere. I’m not limited,” Janes says. “I feel like before all the doors were closed for me. Now they’re all open.” Get Inspired by These Incredible Weight Loss Transformations


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