Ana Barboza was 262 lbs. when she decided to get gastric bypass surgery

By Gabrielle Olya
Updated December 07, 2016 03:52 PM
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Ana Barboza - Main
Credit: Ana Barboza

Ana Barboza had been steadily gaining weight since moving to a new state and dealing with a hormonal imbalance. Before she knew it, she was 262 lbs.

“I had a bad relationship with food,” the 5’3″ IP docketing systems coordinator, 30, tells PEOPLE. “I grew up in a Latin culture and my parents were always telling me, ‘You have to eat all your food!’ And they gave me massive amounts of food.”

She put on more weight when she relocated from New York to Washington, D.C.

“I used to live in New York, and I was more active and moving around. When I moved to D.C. for work, I gained 35 lbs. and I couldn’t drop it,” she says. “I also have PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal disorder that can cause irregular periods, unexplained weight gain and difficulty getting pregnant], which makes you gain weight. I was pre-diabetic, my feet would swell and my cholesterol was through the roof. I was a heart attack waiting to happen.”

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Credit: Ana Barboza

After trying calorie counting and various diets with no lasting results, Barboza — who says she never liked junk food and would “rather have steak over a piece of cake any day” — decided to look into gastric bypass surgery.

“I didn’t think I had any other options,” says Barboza. “I was so overweight that when I went to the gym, I was in pain. I had sciatica. I couldn’t work out — I couldn’t even walk. I didn’t think I would make it to my 30s and that worried me.”

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Credit: Ana Barboza

She consulted with Washington D.C.-based bariatric surgeon Dr. Brian Long about the procedure in May 2014, and six months later she had her bypass performed.

“I know some people describe the surgery as an easy way out, but it’s very difficult,” says Barboza. “It doesn’t make you lose the weight, it helps you lose the weight.”

In preparation for her surgery, Barboza had to learn to eat smaller portions and spend more time chewing her food to aid in digestion. After the procedure, more adjustments needed to be made.

“I can’t have high-sugar foods, fruit and juices, bread, rice or fatty foods,” says Barboza, who first shared her story on RealSelf. “With the surgery, when you eat, you’re not supposed to drink 30 minutes before or after. Those are things you have to learn.”

WATCH: Rosie O’Donnell Drops 50 Pounds Following Surgery

If Barboza does eat too much sugar or junk food, she experiences extreme nausea.

“The sugar hits your intestines quickly so it makes you feel sick,” she explains. “Even if I wanted to do a full cupcake, I can’t, but I can have a fourth of a cupcake. [The surgery] really keeps you in check. It really helps you control what you’re putting in your mouth.”

For Barboza, having bypass surgery has meant making a complete lifestyle overhaul.

“You’re life is going to change — it’s really wonderful and you’ll have great results — but you really have to commit,” she says. “You have to realize that this is a tool, and how you implement the tool is the result you’re going to get.”

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Credit: Ana Barboza

An unexpected complication is the effect the surgery has had on her dating life.

“If I go on a first date it’s hard, because how do I explain to my date I can’t have two glasses of wine and a full meal?” says Barboza. “Then they think you have an eating problem. Dating has been difficult.”

But despite the lifestyle changes she has had to make, Barboza has no regrets about getting the weight-loss surgery. Thanks to her smaller portions and healthy diet, she has now dropped to 142 lbs.

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Credit: Ana Barboza

She says the best part is “all the compliments! You feel fantastic. And I can actually shop at Forever 21 and Nordstrom and fit in a cute dress. Before I would pass by the windows and not be able to buy the clothes.”

“I feel better, I feel healthier,” she continues. “I can actually walk my dog. I enjoy life more. I’ve always been a happy person, but I’m extra happy now.”