Loving the skin you're in: Rochelle talks about freeing herself from her own prison
Today, it seems we are constantly surrounded by sex, skin, and the body goals we feel we will never meet. As a mother, seeing women with perfect figures while we’re trying to tone down our “fupa” can be overwhelming. Trying to shed the pounds the “natural” way is already a strain for someone trying to lose 20-30lbs. but imagine trying to lose 100-150lbs. Imagine trying to get back to a healthier, happier you with people judging you because of the process you decided to take. Meet Rochelle Monique, a mother of twins, plus-sized model, and body loving advocate who decided to take the surgical route to free herself from the body she felt trapped in. Check out her interview below where we discussed her journey, advice, and challenges she faced as a plus-sized model who decided to undergo weight-loss surgery:
- You were a plus-sized model prior to undergoing surgery. What made you decide that you wanted to lose weight? I wanted to be healthy. It got to the point where it was hard for me to walk and breathe, life became a chore. I would try different diets, lose 50lbs. but then stop and the weight would come back. In addition, because I kept gaining weight I was too big to be a plus-sized model.
- What was the process like going through with bariatric surgery? Undergoing bariatric surgery is a rather extensive process. You must go to an initial consultation where they go over the different surgery options available. You must meet certain requirements as well if you want your health insurance to help cover it. Your body mass index (BMI) must be over thirty-five percent and/or you must have a medical symptom attributed to your excessive weight, i.e. diabetes or sleep apnea. After your consultation, you than must go to nutrition classes for six months. The classes will teach you how to eat, as well as how to take care of your body pre-and post-surgery. You also must do a psychiatric evaluation to make sure you can mentally handle such a change.
- Why did you decide on the vertical sleeve (VSG)? I decided on the sleeve because it seemed the safest to me. When I went to my consultation it was explained that the gastric bypass required my intestines to be re-routed and the band could slip. The sleeve seemed quick and safe. Also, with the gastric bypass surgery you lose weight too quick, i.e. extra skin.
- What was the transition like for you, mentally going from being able to eat whatever to controlled portions? It was not easy, not at all. It makes me so angry when people say, “you took the easy way out” it was super hard because I had to learn what I liked all over again. I had this new stomach that was super small but I was not accustomed to eating smaller portions. I was always vomiting from things that I always used to eat and now couldn’t. It was a major journey and process, I had to shift the way I though about food because even though I couldn’t eat more, in my mind I wanted more.
- Many people are under the assumption that if you want to undergo surgery or get fit, as a bigger woman it is because you have low self-esteem. What are your thoughts? It is not true. Getting surgery does not equate to “I do not love myself”. I was always saying, “love yourself and love your curves”. So, when I decided to make a drastic change it was looked at as if I suddenly didn’t love myself. I can understand that I received so much criticism because I was such a plus-size advocate. However, deciding to make a life change didn’t take away from my stance on being plus-sized and the love I have for myself.
- What was the biggest struggle you had to overcome? Finding out what Rochelle wanted out of life. Finding out what made me happy and not worrying about what people thought or said. As the person I used to be, I was on a constant search of acceptance. I was so worried about what someone said, I needed to feel like I was a part of something. Now I know what I want and I do not care what anyone says about me. Self-love is a journey and you must dig deep. Even though I lost the weight, it was the journey of getting to know myself that healed me. I had to realize what I wanted out of life and what I wanted for myself. Finding yourself and realizing what you want is what frees you mentally and physically. You must look at yourself and determine what you want out of life, that’s the key. Your appearance isn’t what is making you a prisoner it is your mentality. Understanding that and learning how to overcome your own negative thoughts is the biggest challenge.
- What was the motivation behind your YouTube series “Losing Me”? My motivation was that I felt like I wanted to inspire and show people that “you’re not alone and you can do it too”. With my series, I was always open and honest about what I was going through and how I felt. “I feel like people stare at me and I feel like a monster” that was truly how I felt. I wanted people to see that this process was real life for me and it was hard. I felt that surgery had this bad stigma associated with it, i.e. “it’s the easy way out”. But it’s not easy, it takes a lot of determination and will to stick to such a drastic lifestyle change. I wanted women to see not only that it was not easy but also that they had to be prepared to go through the entire process to see results. The surgery is just the first step.
- Did undergoing surgery put any strains on motherhood? It was tough as a mother but my children were older so they were super supportive and helpful. It took a lot of will power for me because my kids were still eating cookies and cakes. I had to still be a mom and take them places, feed them, and buy them snacks. I had to find a balance between finding what worked for me and getting them adjusted to eating different. I’m the cook at my house, so less rice for me meant less rice for them too.
- Any dieting or healthy eating tips? I offer coaching on eating healthy as a lifestyle, I don’t believe in diets (CLICK HERE to check out Rochelle’s coaching options). People go on strict diets and it makes them feel restricted and unhappy so they are not consistent. Eating healthy and right is a lifestyle, for example I love eating low-carb or Keto. You should find something that works for you and your life and/or schedule and incorporate it so that you are excited about eating.
- Does fashion have room for heavyset women? I think that the culture is shifting and that it is opening an avenue for accepting more plus-sized modeling. A lot of people are celebrating their body and the industry is shifting to accept plus-size women and incorporate them into fashion.
- Any last advice to women who may be considering surgery as an option for starting their weight-loss journey? Yes, I say I am an advocate for it but do your research. Make sure you have tried everything else. I see a lot of men and women doing it as a quick fix and that is where the stigma comes from. This is only a tool to get you started and you must follow the rules to see results. Make sure you are ready for the lifestyle and that it is really what you want to do. I have seen so many people get surgery and gain weight again because they were not determined to stick to the lifestyle. This is not a “I can eat whatever I want but smaller portions” surgery, it is life altering so be ready for it.