Courtesy Kaitlyn Smith
Kaitlyn Smith
February 02, 2015 06:30 PM

Once tipping scales at more than 400 lbs., 19-year-old Kaitlyn Smith from Portland, Tennessee, lost 208 lbs. through diet and exercise. One thing she hasn’t been able to lose is the excess skin, a common side effect of extreme weight loss. As she gears up for, and then undergoes, several skin removal surgeries, Smith will be sharing her story at PEOPLE.com. Come back every Monday for updates on her inspirational journey. You can also check out Kaitlyn’s website and follow her on Facebook.

Two years ago I was looking death in the eye. I was so big that it was hard to walk from the house to the car.

At 5 feet, 5 inches tall, I was at my heaviest weight of 414 lbs. I hated myself and was disgusted by the girl I saw in the mirror.

It wasn’t always this way. Growing up, I was heavier than my five siblings – I was always the “fat kid” or the “fat friend” – but I was still happy, outgoing and active. My parents took me to doctor after doctor and tried every diet possible, but I would gain a pound or two a week. It was frustrating because I was doing everything I was told to do, but nothing seemed to work.

When I was 16, I considered gastric bypass surgery but the doctor turned me down. He told me I would “never be or look normal.” It made me feel bad about myself. I gave up. I was done.

A year later, I met a fitness coach who encouraged me to try working out and taught me how to eat right. I started dropping 20 lbs. a month. Within the first five months I lost 100 lbs. I kept pushing, and have since lost 208 lbs. naturally. I am really proud of this accomplishment.

Now I have so many opportunities and blessings coming up, including skin surgery. My journey hasn’t been easy but it’s worth it. I’m no longer just breathing and taking up space. I’M LIVING.

Kaitlyn

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