Woman Who Gained Weight After Death of Newborn Son Drops 120 Lbs. to Be a Better Mom to Second Son

Photo: Nicole Ford

Nicole Ford had struggled with her weight her whole life, and as soon as she finally got her weight under control, tragedy struck and she began emotionally eating again.

“I have always been overweight, but senior year of high school I lost 60 lbs. after a kid on the bus called me a ‘fat b—-‘,” Ford, 26, tells PEOPLE. “I kept the weight off for almost two years and then got pregnant with my first son Mason. Unfortunately, he passed away at two days old due to a congenital heart defect. After that, I was very depressed and did what I knew – eat.”

Six months after Mason died, Ford became pregnant with her second son Jacob. After giving birth, she continued to gain weight. At the end of 2014, Ford reached a turning point.

Nicole Ford

“My son had started walking and running around,” says the Fort Polk, Louisiana-based mom. “I noticed just chasing him, I was always out of breath. I didn’t want to bring him to the park alone because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up.”

“I didn’t want him growing up with a mom that couldn’t play with him,” she continues. “I also didn’t want him having to grow up without a mom, due to me passing away or any other negative effects of obesity.”

Nicole Ford

Ford decided to undergo vertical gastric sleeve surgery to aid in her weight loss.

“With only being left with 20 percent of my stomach, smaller, healthier portions were the key,” she says. “It took a few months for my body to adjust, but then I starting going for walks around the neighborhood.”

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Three months after surgery, Ford started going to the gym where she would do cardio on the treadmill and elliptical and also lift weights.

“The surgery is only a tool,” she says. “If you don’t put in the hard work and make better decisions it won’t work.”

Nicole Ford

Now, Ford is down 122 lbs. and feels better about her body than ever.

“I have become confident in myself again,” she says. “I am a much more positive person. I really feel like it has helped with my depression as well.”

She has also been able to be a better mother to Jacob, now 3.

Nicole Ford

“I have become a better mom that is always ready to go, always ready to chase Jacob around,” says Ford. “I am able to play with Jacob whenever he wants to. Before I lost all the weight, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

“I am also a better role model for him,” she continues. “He has someone to look up to that is healthy and active – something I never had [growing up in a] family that showed love through our stomachs. He loves to work out with me, and is always challenging me to do push-ups and burpees!”

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