By the time Vanessa McDaniels finished her bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston, the former high school soccer star had gained almost two hundred pounds.

“I started gaining weight when I went away to school and my activity level changed,” she said. “For most girls, they call it ‘gaining the Freshman fifteen.’ But for me, it was more like fifty or sixty pounds.”

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Although Vanessa attributes the unusual weight gain to several factors, there was one thing specifically the really helped her pack on the pounds.

“A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder that makes it easy to put on weight,” McDaniels said. “Back in my college days, I just felt tired a lot of the time and craved sweet foods. It wasn’t until I really started investigating my symptoms that I figured out a lot of what I was going through was hormonal.”

In addition to her medical issue, Vanessa also attributes the weight gain to making bad choices with food and eating to comfort herself.

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“I’ve always been really family oriented,” she said. “When I was away at the University of Houston, I didn’t get a chance to go home a lot and see my sisters. That made it hard and I know now that’s when I became an emotional eater.”

During her sophmore year, Vanessa lost her best friend in a tragic car accident.

“For me, that was when the eating really got out of control,” she said. “One day, my friend that I did everything with was just gone. She was killed instantly when a drunk driver swerved into oncoming traffic and hit her car. She was only twenty-two.”

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For Vanessa, things continued to spiral out of control and her self-destructive eating habits got worse and worse…