As a plus-size kid, Kayla Lavende lived vicariously through Barbie.
Her parents would gift her a doll every week as a reward for dealing with her rapid weight gain.
WATCH VIDEO ABOVE: Kayla shares her weight loss journey
Despite tipping the scales at 155 kilos at her heaviest, she never let her size XXXXL stop her from dressing like her favorite doll.
But she knew she needed to get on top of her weight once and for all after a “mortifying” experience where she was unable to strap herself into her seat on a plane.
And so the now-37-year-old, from Sydney but now lives in Las Vegas, slimmed down to a small size after losing an astonishing 92 kilos and up to eleven dress sizes following gastric sleeve surgery.
“I have yo-yo dieted my whole life – but I made the choice to change my lifestyle forever after a very uncomfortable plane ride where I needed two seats and a seatbelt extender,” she tells 7Life.
Her parents tried everything imaginable to help Kayla after they noticed her rapid weight gain as a child.
“I was always at the doctors, dietitians, nutritionists… trying to figure out why I was so overweight at such a young age,” she says.
“So as a reward for having to deal with all that, my parents bought me a Barbie every single week because I just loved her and everything about her style.
Growing up as a plus-size kid, I had to wear plus-size ladies clothes so I lived vicariously through Barbie – Kayla Lavende
“Growing up as a plus-size kid in the 90s, I had to wear plus-size ladies’ clothes – there were not many fun options so I live vicariously through Barbie. She inspired me to start getting creative and making my own outfits.
“I love that Barbie says ‘you can be anything’ – so I thought, I can be anything too.”
As an adult, Kayla – who wore sizes 26 to 28 clothes – found herself starving throughout the day before bingeing on unhealthy foods before bedtime.
“I worked long hours and would go without eating during the day,” she tells 7Life.
“It wasn’t until late at night when I would get home from work I would be starving and I would indulge in either fast food or pasta and go right to sleep.”
‘I love that Barbie says ‘you can be anything’ – so I thought, I can be anything too’ – Kayla Lavende
Her turning point came in 2018 when she turned to gastric sleeve surgery where she had 80 per cent of her stomach removed.
“After the surgery, I felt excited and like a brand new woman with the fresh start that I needed. I had a lot of mental clarity,” she says.
“But I knew that was not the be-all and end-all. I knew I had to change my whole lifestyle. Obviously because of the surgery, my portions were a lot smaller however I learned all about nutrition and what my body needed versus what I wanted.”
She learned how to fuel her body with healthy, nutritious foods.
“I eliminated carbs, sugar and processed foods. I incorporated higher protein foods and meal prepped,” she said.
“I also started working out every day. First off it started with walking then progress to jogging now I start every morning with a jog. I have also started incorporating weight training.”
Following surgery, it took her two years to lose 92 kilos. She later had the excess skin removed around her skin.
Kayla’s healthy day on a plate
Breakfast: Protein shake every morning
Morning snack: Raw unsalted almonds
Lunch: Season ground turkey breast or chicken
Afternoon snack: Nuts or a protein bar
Dinner: Usually the same as lunch
Kayla says she now follows a healthier diet – and she no longer treats herself to her “guilty pleasures”.
“My favorite thing to do is freeze my protein shake and eat it like ice cream,” she explains.
“If I am craving sweets I will have a protein cookie or protein chocolate bar – never the usual sugar filled chocolates.”
Her quick and effective exercise routine is “running for one minute then walking for one minute”.
“Repeat this for 20 to 30 minutes – this definitely gets your heart rate up and moving and you will be sweating in no time. I do this every day and weight training three times a week,” she says.
Reflecting back at old pictures, Kayla says she feels “proud” of herself.
“I’m so proud of the girl in the ‘before’ pictures because she is who has got me to where I am today,” she says.
As for her fashion, Kayla – who now wears sizes six to eight – still gets her inspiration from her favorite childhood doll.
“I’ve always stayed true to my style – going from a Barbie size 4XL to a size small – while transforming my body,” she tells 7Life.
“Barbie influenced me to start jazzing up my own outfits. From jazzing up my own outfits, I started to make my own outfits. I never let my size hold me back from dressing bright, vibrant and colourful.
“Fast forward to when I became an adult, I moved to Las Vegas where I started working as a costume designer. Honestly, I have Barbie to thank for it all.”
‘Honestly, I have Barbie to thank for it all’ – Kayla Lavende
For anyone struggling to lose weight, Kayla says she “highly recommends looking into weight loss surgery”.
“It is not an easy fix – you still have to put the work in,” she says.
“I would also say to anybody on a weight loss journey that consistency is key and don’t focus on a number on the scale, focus on being consistent.”