She’s half the woman she used to be

Tiara Jenkins has lost 215 pounds: “I’m not afraid to actually go out in public anymore.”

Tiara Jenkins remembers the day her life began to change. It was in February 2017 when she stepped on the scale and watched as it hit 445 pounds.

“It was like a lightbulb went on. I knew I had to do something.”

What she did was lose 215 pounds, the first 50 on her own and the rest with help from gastric bypass surgery at IU Health Bariatric & Medical Weight Loss Clinic, under the care of Dr. Ambar Banerjee.

Previous Coverage

  • Taking steps to better health – July 13, 2017
  • Weighing Down: She’s On Her Way – July 26, 2017
  • Weight Loss – New Lease On Life – January 29, 2018

We have shared portions of Jenkins’ story before but thought it was time for an update.

The 27-year-old Indianapolis resident says she has 10 more pounds to lose off her 6-foot frame to reach her goal weight of 220. When that happens, it will be the first time she’s been out of the obese range since she was about 5 years old, she said.

“I was always the obese kid. Food was a big comfort to me. It was a go-to for my entire family, and I was just brought up on eating whatever, whenever.”

She compared her family’s eating habits to that of the mythical Hobbits. “We would have two breakfasts, a lunch, another lunch and then a dinner.”

It’s no wonder her weight ballooned over the years. As it went up, her confidence plummeted.

“I always wanted to kind of lock myself away from everyone, but now it’s like I actually want to go out and do things.”

She traded her all-black wardrobe for brighter colors and patterns. She colored her hair. She even got a tattoo after losing 200 pounds. It says: “She became her hero.”

“I didn’t have much of a style before; now I love shopping. I’m not afraid to actually go out in public anymore.”

Jenkins, who works as an assistant manager at a shoe store and practices photography on the side, said her life has changed dramatically.

“That’s one thing I wasn’t prepared for. I’m definitely more outgoing, more confident. I just have my life back. I know that sounds really cliché, but I do, I have a life back.”

She hopes to eventually get a college degree in business so she can make photography her career.

Jenkins went to see Dr. Banerjee, assistant professor of surgery at IU Health North Hospital, in January, for her one-year follow-up. He is pleased with her progress.

“She continues to do well and remains committed toward her health by following dietary and lifestyle changes, which are keys to success after this surgery,” he said. “She is indeed an amazing success story and an inspiration for all patients who are currently dealing with obesity and its associated morbidities.”

Jenkins continues to give and get support from fellow bariatric patients on Facebook and in person at group meetings. She works out five times a week, and she does meal prep for the week in advance so she always has something ready to go when she’s hungry.

“It’s a whole new world,” she said. “You have to eat a certain way, and you didn’t believe that after surgery a cheese stick would fill you up, but it did. It’s been a whole mind game ever since.”

Now she just has to distinguish between “head hunger” and actual hunger before she reaches for a snack.

As her relationship with food has changed, so has her relationship with her family.

“Our relationship is good; it’s actually a lot better, mostly because I’m not an angry person anymore. That’s one of the things I’ve come to see is I was really angry before.”

Now, she’s looking ahead to new adventures. She’s looking ahead to her new life.

-– By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist