In 2013, a new mother was struggling with her post-pregnancy weight gain when she discovered her husband was having an affair and ridiculing her physical appearance. Three years later, she has dropped more than 100 pounds and is enjoying life as a single woman.
Houston native Betsy Ayala, 34, had always struggled with her body image, dealing with her anxiety by eating and rarely exercising.
"I was always the chubby kid ... I did get bullied in school and got picked on," Ayala told the Daily Mail. "I think for me eating was like self-medication."
During her college years, Ayala's weight leveled off at 210 pounds. In 2013, she gave birth to her daughter, Isabella. The pregnancy resulted further weight gain, with her clocking in at 262 pounds. It marked a difficult time in her marriage to a man she had been with since she was 17 years old.
"After I had my daughter I was the heaviest I had ever been," Ayala recalled. "My 14-year relationship was very strained and I was in a very severe postpartum depression and anxiety."
Resolving to adopt a healthier lifestyle, the new mother began to swap out sugary snacks for healthy shakes and lost the weight she had gained during pregnancy. Four months after giving birth to Isabella, she had slimmed down to her college-era weight.
It was then that Ayala discovered her husband had been having an affair with one of his co-workers.
"I started in September and was doing OK until two days after Christmas, when I found out my husband was cheating on me ... I had been with him since I was 17 and pretty much devoted my life to our relationship and him," Ayala said.
Adding further insult to the betrayal, Ayala discovered her husband's online correspondence with his lover, where he mocked her for her weight.
"I found out through some messages I read on his Facebook where they were calling me a cow and a fat f*** and just trashing me and my whole world fell apart," Ayala said.
In March 2014, she resolved to get in the best shape of her life, beginning with dance and Zumba classes and building up to hitting the gym six days a week.
By Christmas 2016, three years after discovering husband's cruel messages, Ayala has divorced him and slimmed down to 159 pounds.
"Now I honestly feel that what he did was a blessing because otherwise I would have been the way I was forever," Ayala said. The single mother added that she now has an amicable relationship with her ex-husband.
"It took me a while to get to that place of forgiveness but what he did was about him and not me," Ayala concluded.
In December 2014, a study published in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that roughly one-third of new mothers who began their pregnancies at a normal weight were at risk of becoming overweight within a year after giving birth, reports HealthDay News.
The study found that 75 percent of women were heavier a year after childbirth than they were before the pregnancy. One of the study's researchers, Dr. Timothy Hickman of Houston Methodist Hospital, noted that excessive weight gain is avoidable for new mothers.
"You're not predestined to have this happen," Hickman said. "Anyone is at risk for [excessive] pregnancy weight gain if you don't have a specific plan in place."
Dr. Hickman recommended that prospective mothers can avoid obesity after childbirth by "getting in the best possible shape before conceiving and developing a plan to lose the weight afterward."