Courtesy Eve Guzman; Source: Eve Guzman/Instagram
September 13, 2016 11:35 AM

Eve Guzman was featured in PEOPLE’s 2015 Half Their Size Issue after going from 277 lbs. to 138 lbs. by dramatically decreasing her portion sizes and sticking to a high protein, low-fat, moderate carb diet. Since her weight loss, the genetic toxicology research assistant and mom of two, 33, has coached people all over the country on how to lose weight, helping them drop a combined 2,950 lbs. Guzman recently competed in a figure competition, and will be sharing the next phase of her journey in an exclusive PEOPLE blog. You can also follow her on Instagram.

The most common question I’m asked about my journey is, “How has your life changed since losing 150 lbs.?”

This question always evokes gratitude and appreciation in me, but also causes a flood of memories about what it was like to be overweight. It’s the question that makes me the most emotional, bringing me close to tears every time. Going from fat to average to figure competitor has given me the life of my dreams by allowing me to do normal things without stigma. But it wasn’t always that way.

Growing up as an overweight child was pretty tough. I remember kids saying I was the fat girl who smelled like cookies. And it was so hard to keep up with kids in physical education. I would huff and puff my way to complete a 14-minute mile run, and the other kids would giggle as I crossed the finish line. Every time we were scheduled to run that mile, I would get anxiety as the day approached. I thought about all the stares I would receive as I jiggled and flopped around the track.

Things didn’t improve as I got older. Getting ready for an event was always the same. I wore all black to make me look slimmer and hide my rolls. Not only did it camouflage my 250-plus-lb. frame, it also camouflaged the sweat. When you are severely overweight you sweat – a lot. I found myself very uncomfortable at picnics and barbecues. I hated when people questioned my choice of attire in 90-degree weather.

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I used to sit a certain way in public to hide the rolls that spilled over my pants. I would sit with my chair closely pushed in with my arms crossed around my lap to hide my love handles and rolls… and I wouldn’t move. I would stay in the position throughout an entire meeting, lesson or training. I would be hot, uncomfortable and my back would ache. I wouldn’t even get up to go to the bathroom because that would mean there was a chance people would see me stand up in front of everyone. It sounds silly and crazy, but that’s what I did.

Sitting on a plane was awful. I would have to keep my thighs squeezed together the entire time so I didn’t spill over into the other seat. I sat up straight, stiff-backed and close-thighed through many flights. It always made for an exhausting flight. Now the seatbelt is loose, and I keep snacks and my water bottle between my thighs.

There are many stereotypes about overweight people. We get labeled as lazy, unclean, unintelligent and just “less than.” I got less respect at work, school, retail stores and restaurants being an overweight woman. If I ordered a salad or diet soda I would get a weird look like, “You know you don’t eat salads.” I felt uncomfortable ordering fatty food too. I just couldn’t win.

These days, when I have a cheat meal and order wings and spinach dip as shared appetizers, and then a huge burger and fries, I get looks like, “Where is she putting all that food?”

It’s like night and day – and I am so proud and grateful.

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