A lawyer who lost nearly 200 pounds is desperate to have an op to remove her excess skin after being left with the "body of Frankenstein's monster".
Joanna Pearson, from Tempe, Arizona, tipped the scales at nearly 420 pounds at her heaviest. Eating three fast-food meals a day, washed down with soda, her weight soon spiraled out of control.
The 37-year-old said she endured embarrassing situations, needing to ask cabin crews on planes for seat belt extenders. The shame and embarrassment she felt was what encouraged Pearson to go on a diet and lose weight, for the sake of her health. She ditched fizzy drinks, and instead of ordering takeaways, learned how to cook healthier versions of her favorite meals.
Within three years, she lost half her body weight, and is now proud of her figure — dropping to a size 12.
But despite her incredible weight loss, Pearson is plagued by the aftermath of her success. She said she's haunted by excess skin, stretch marks and scars that have left her feeling "grotesque" — comparing herself to the monster from Mary Shelley's 1818 novel "Frankenstein."
"Physically I feel like an athlete now, but I am battling body dysphoria and body image issues every day," Pearson said. "When I look at myself in the mirror, I feel like it looks like the body of Frankenstein's monster — strong muscle hidden by all this excess skin. "It looks like a body pieced together with lots of parts," she added.
"If I turn to the side, I can see the outline of a beautiful female body hidden underneath all the stretch marks and scars from where my skin expanded and the weight loss."
Pearson said her arms, legs and stomach are her problem areas now. She said she's spoken to various different surgeons to discuss removing the excess skin, but found it is expensive and isn't covered by insurance companies as it's deemed a cosmetic operation.
Growing up, Pearson said she was never taught about nutrition and had to start from scratch. But after being shamed on a flight when she had to ask for a seat belt extender, she decided enough was enough.
In her first week after ditching fizzy drinks and swapping them for water, she lost nearly seven pounds, spurring her on. She then started buying lean meats and learned to recreate her favorite fast-food meals.
Too embarrassed to go to the gym at first, she started walking for up to 40 minutes every night before she felt comfortable exercising in public.
She lost 75 pounds in nine months, but after plateauing, she realized it would take even more determination — and a total of three years — to reach her goal of losing half her body weight.
“When I needed a seat belt extended on that flight, I remember trying to hide it and being very embarrassed," she said. “It was a really horrible moment, if I could have gotten off that plane and gone home, I would have. I felt dreadful about myself and didn’t even feel worthy to be on a plane, at that moment I realized I couldn’t be the size I was anymore.”
Pearson is now fundraising to pay for skin removal surgery, which she believes will help her complete her body and mental transformation, enabling her to finally live a happier life. She said she needs help after having to spend much of her own money and time taking care of her father, who is battling end-stage renal disease from severe diabetes.
And since she doesn't have skin problems otherwise— such as sores, rashes etc. — her insurance consider the surgery cosmetic and not medical, meaning she has to find the funds herself.
One day she hopes to be free of her loose skin so she can finally close the door on how she used to look, and in turn, how that used to, and still to this day, makes her feel.
“Surgery would finally end this last chapter in my weight loss journey. I’ve been waiting for the final curtain to fall for years but it hasn’t happened," Pearson said.
“I feel discouraged as I worked so hard and have come so far to see the marks of my old life still weighing me down. It’s a constant reminder of what I have had to battle and brings up horribly memories.
“I’ve not been able to think back over all the goals I have achieved and the ways my body has changed because I’ll always be haunted by loose skin.”
This article originally appeared in The Sun. Click here to read more from The Sun.