Stacey Morris recently popped into a Saratoga Springs boutique and slipped on a size 8 mini skirt.
It was a mind-altering experience.
"I was like, ‘Don't get freaked out. This is who you are now. It's OK,' " Morris said to herself.
Having always imagined herself as the 345-pound woman she used to be, it took Morris a moment to mentally adjust to the trim reflection in the mirror.
Losing 180 pounds will do that to you.
When the freelance writer and former Post-Star employee was first featured in a story 17 months ago, Morris already had dropped 101 pounds over the previous 10 months and recently completed her first marathon, exceeding her goal by three miles.
Morris had been involved in a love-hate relationship with the scale and dieting for most of her life, losing and gaining back 100 pounds two previous times. She said much of her weight issues stemmed from childhood bullying, generalized discrimination against heavy people and her own "pulsating self-hatred."
With each pound that piled back on, Morris' self esteem eroded a bit more.
A little more than two years ago, however, Morris finally freed herself from the chains of dieting, believing the diet industry is a "money-making, corrupt scheme designed to keep people trapped," and went to work on her psyche where the root of her troubles took hold.
She became involved in yoga and meditation and stripped away the emotional "debris" that was toxic to her life.
Hers has been a gradual, ongoing process of self-realization.
Morris said she is now in tune to the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger and analyzes those times when she wants to eat for comfort. She will indulge her emotional needs once in a while, but mindfully and in small amounts.
"Three years ago I was eating in a trance. The ironic thing is all that food I ate, I really didn't enjoy it because I did it with complete unawareness," she said.
She has adopted a gluten-free way of life and enjoys every bite.
Morris's journey through weight loss has become well publicized: the Times Union highlighted her story, she has been the subject of a health profile on WNYT-TV NewsChannel 13, she co-hosts a Thursday evening radio show and she writes a blog.
In addition, a videographer made a YouTube montage of her odyssey that has resonated with an online audience.
"I've had complete strangers write to me and say, ‘I cried after seeing that video and I have some hope now.' That's what really inspires me. Because of the physical change, people are looking to me for the answers," she said.
Morris has redesigned her website to reflect not only her work as a freelance journalist but also her role as a "Recovering American." She wants to provide hope and direction for others struggling to work through their weight issues.
She recently began working with a Niskayuna couple as part of her new business of going into homes and teaching people how to cook more nutritiously.
At 5 feet 8 inches, Morris now weighs 165 pounds and has increased her muscle mass from regular weight lifting and exercise. She thinks she might lose another 20 pounds, but she's letting her body be her guide.
Although she only weighs herself once a month, Morris said because of her "addictive" personality and history with food, she needs to maintain constant vigilance over her reasons for eating.
"I feel like I have mastery as long as I agree to remain in this place of awareness. If I sit back and go into a bit of denial about who I am, I could backslide. I'm not going there right now," she said.
One of the greatest affirmations for Morris came recently when she flew to Texas and "loved" it. No longer did she have to deal with the worry and embarrassment of whether she would fit into the airline seat or what the person sitting next to her would think.
Morris is savoring the "new normal."
"Hope and change is possible," she said.