How This Plus Size Model Lost 240 Pounds After Embarrassing Airplane Incident

| Before & After

Rosie Mercado weighed 410 pounds when a flight attendant told her she needed to buy a second seat in order to fit on the plane.

That served as the moment the plus-size model and mom of three knew she needed to make a change.

rosie mercado
(Photo: Photo via PEOPLE/Oscar Picazo)

And change she did! With the help of a life coach, personal trainer and nutritionist, she dropped 100 pounds within a year. But that's when things got tough. After Mercado reached 300 pounds, her weight started to fluctuate, and she even put on weight, going back up to 320.

Can it be done? YES! Will it take time, patience, action and discipline? YES! You get to choose how you want to feel, look and live! Whatever makes you happy it is your choice, take responsibility and don't create excuses! I chose to make a change and this is MY happiness and I I am not apologizing for my lifestyle! I loved me then but I love me more now, yes I said it I love me more now.....because of the freedom I have and new discoveries in my life! We are allowed to change when we want to and or stay the same. IT IS A PERSONAL CHOICE FOR EACH OF US!!! For myself, it's about constant change and growth, becoming better and staying true to my authentic self! Regardless if it's criticized and or celebrated, this is for me!!! Never be afraid to go after what makes you happy! Happy people will love you and unhappy people will judge you! YOU CAN INSPIRE PEOPLE BUT YOU CAN NOT CHANGE THEM! You can only change yourself! #noregrets #happy #love #life #driven #action

A photo posted by ROSIE | MERCADO (@rosiemercado) on Jan 27, 2016 at 8:59pm PST

"As soon as I hit 320, I was like, no I cannot go back to being 410," Mercado, 36, told PEOPLE. "I was going back and forth with my weight, and I saw a documentary on the [gastric] sleeve. I said, 'You know what I’m going to do this. It’s the next part of my journey.'"

The decision to get the gastric sleeve surgery led to losing 140 more pounds — but with it, extreme amounts of discipline. Mercado said after the surgery, she had to completely eliminate soda, dessert, pasta and rice from her diet, or else she felt extremely ill.

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"Anything that bloats just completely went away," she says. "You start really educating yourself on eating healthy, eating lean and eating really small portions. [...] "You have to deal with being low-calorie, and deal with the adjustment to your body as you’re dropping weight. "You learn what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not allowed to do. If you do what you’re not allowed to do, you’re going to feel like crap."

And while surgery is a helpful tool, it's just that — a tool. "It’s not guaranteed success. Success comes from the discipline – it forces you to wake up and pay attention to what you’re eating. It’s a lifestyle."

After losing over 200 pounds, Mercado faced the inevitable problem of extra skin — over 20 pounds of it. With it came rashes, pain, and general discomfort.

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And just like the gastric sleeve, the tummy tuck to remove the extra skin wasn't an easy surgery. "That has been by far the most painful journey of my entire life," 36-year-old Mercado said. "It was burning, aching, tubes coming everywhere."

"I would do it all over again because I am able to wear clothes that I was never able to wear, I can run and I don’t feel the pulling of my skin, I’m not dealing with the skin rashes."

Today, Mercado exercises six days a week — split between three days of boot camp classes and three days of running and walking. She eats a diet full of lean protein, veggies and fish, and avoids sugar.

"I’ve already gotten slammed for losing weight," says Mercado. "Everybody says, ‘You’re no longer plus size.’ If you compare size 12/14 to a size 36, I don’t look plus size, but I’m still plus size, I still have curves. At the end of the day, it’s your body and [you should do what] makes you feel better."

Did you undergo a similar weight loss story? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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