I'm a kindergarten teacher and lost 87 pounds to keep up with my students. I wasn't expecting my family to be proud of me.

  • Abby Smith felt like a "bad teacher." Her weight stopped her from keeping active with her class.

  • She was diagnosed with fatty-liver disease, and her doctors said it could develop into cirrhosis.

  • Smith underwent gastric-sleeve surgery and has lost 87 pounds in less than a year.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Abby Smith. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I always tried to hide my weight behind baggy outfits — usually black clothes. I once talked to the parent of a child in my kindergarten class who said, "You always look like you're dressed for a funeral."

At the time, I laughed it off. But I was hurt. A similar thing happened when one of my kids was climbing a tree in the playground. "You can't climb a tree because you have too much right here," he said, pointing to my stomach.

"Wow," I thought. "Kids are so honest." This little boy certainly was. I weighed 256 pounds at the time. At 5-foot-4, I was dangerously overweight.

I gained between 40 and 50 pounds during my 2nd pregnancy

I had a lot of health problems, including high blood pressure.

My weight issues began when I was at college. I stopped playing the sports I did at school, including basketball and soccer. I started eating poorly — college food and fast food from places such as McDonalds. I got heavier every year.

I tried dieting before my wedding but didn't have much success. During my second pregnancy, I gained 40 to 50 pounds. They wouldn't come off.

Joshua Smith with his wife, Abby, when she weighed around 250 pounds.
Smith with her husband, Joshua, before her bariatric surgery.Courtesy of Abby Smith

Diets came and went. I did everything from paleo to Beachbody. I tried every fad diet. But I'd get discouraged because I'd lose fewer than 10 pounds every time. "They're not working," I'd tell my husband, Joshua.

It was getting me down. I went on a field trip to a farm with my students. I was huffing and puffing. It was hard to keep up. I felt a lot of guilt. It made me feel like a bad teacher because I wanted to do active things with my class. The stress made me eat more. I was an emotional eater.

It was the same deal at home. I was tired all the time. My bad moods affected my relationship with my husband and children.

My older daughter, Aubrey, started playing soccer. I couldn't even kick a ball with her without being winded. Next, I was diagnosed with fatty-liver disease. The doctor said it could eventually lead to cirrhosis. He said that I could prevent it from happening by losing weight. Something had to change.

I had gastric surgery in November and have lost an average 3 pounds a week

We researched bariatric surgery last summer. It seemed like a good option. I met with Dr. Jason Balette, a bariatric surgeon at Memorial Hermann in Houston. "You need to make sure you're 100% on this," he told me. I had to show him I could maintain my weight before the operation.

He performed my gastric-sleeve surgery in November. It took about three hours. My health insurance covered the cost of the operation because my body-mass index was over 40.

Abby Smith and her daughter, Aubrey, cheerleading with gold and purple pompoms in their hands.
Now that she's lost weight, Smith can cheerlead with her daughter Aubrey.Courtesy of Abby Smith

Afterward, I followed the instructions. There was a liquid stage, a puree stage, and a soft-food stage. Then, I could eat small portions of regular food, such as half a cup of chicken. The weight came off quickly — about 2 to 3 pounds a week. I'm down to 169 pounds. I've lost 87 pounds. My goal is to lose a total of 100 pounds. I have a different mindset toward portions and healthy eating.

My family is very proud of me for losing weight

My family loves the change in me. I can join in with soccer and cheerleading with the kids. The biggest aha moment came a couple of months ago. I hugged my younger daughter, Scarlett.

"Mom, I'm so proud of you," she said. "I can put my arms all the way around you now."

As for the new school year, I'm ready to keep up with my brand-new kindergarten class.

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