After a Heart Attack at Age 26, This Woman Lost 217 Lbs.: 'Now I Have a New Story'

Laura Calbert was depressed and at a point in her life where she "didn't care if I woke up the next day"

Laura Calbert was always a “heavy kid” growing up, hitting more than 200 lbs. by the time she was in high school. But it wasn’t until her early twenties that the weight really started to pile on.

“I had these internal things I was dealing with — I wasn’t getting the male attention that I wanted, and I had a difficult relationship with my father — and I just stopped caring,” she tells PEOPLE for the 2020 Half Their Size issue.

Calbert, now 32, was largely sedentary, and eating all “comfort foods” — anything fried or covered in cheese — and in double portions.

“In my mid-twenties, I really started falling deeper into depression,” she says. “I wasn’t being respected and I wasn’t respecting myself. I was basically a functional alcoholic at that point. I could drink a fifth of liquor and still go to work the next day.”

Laura Calbert
Laura Calbert. Laura Calbert

That led to major health problems. Calbert was pre-diabetic, with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, but she didn’t bother taking any of the medications she was prescribed. “I literally didn’t care,” she says.

One day, at just 26 years old, Calbert was at home and started feeling a tightness in her chest, with her eyes blurring and going dark — a small heart attack. But she was so deeply depressed that she didn’t want to go to the hospital.

“My depression had gotten to the point where I didn’t care if I woke up the next day,” she says. “I was ready to die. I was just like, well, what am I living for? What am I here for?”

She eventually went to the hospital, where doctors told her that it was thankfully small, but that she needed to change her lifestyle, stop drinking and lose weight. But Calbert was not mentally ready to do it.

“For the next three years, I was still drinking, still not caring, just the same flat line that I was living before,” she says.

For more on Laura and five other women who changed their life to get healthy, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

Half Their Size

Her wakeup call didn’t come until 2016, when Calbert went into a convenience store to buy more alcohol. There, a little girl spotted Calbert and said to her dad, “Look Daddy, she’s fat.”

“That incident, it just hit my heart more than anything. It was the straw breaking the camel’s back,” Calbert says. “Something triggered in me that I had to do this. It was time to put Laura first.”

Newly motivated, Calbert decided to join a friend’s online weight loss program, which involved a high-protein meal plan, workout advice and a support group. It was a major change compared to her old lifestyle, and the weight started coming off quickly.

Laura Calbert
Laura Calbert. Kat Borchart

But it wasn’t easy. Though she was losing weight with her new meal plan and workout routine, Calbert’s mind was still stuck in its old ways. It took her two more years to ditch the self-loathing that had dominated her twenties.

“You have to really forgive yourself, let things go and move on, because it can affect what you’re doing now and hold you back,” she says. “Once I started loving myself, my self-esteem went up from there.”

Calbert, who lives in Conyers, Ga., has now lost 217 lbs. She does weight training and keeps track of her food by counting macros, and started working as a weight-loss coach.

“Now I have a new story,” she says.

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