Ashleigh Bing is the opposite. The Maryland-based photographer is loud and proud about her extensive — and admittedly expensive — cosmetic surgery, which included a tummy tuck, liposuction, and a breast lift.
The procedures were a treat to herself. After years of frustration with yo-yo dieting, the now 37-year-old opted for a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, or VSG, a procedure, during which surgeons reduce the size of the stomach.
The surgery jump-started her weight-loss journey. Within a year, she lost — and has kept off — 100 pounds. A big part of her success has come from maintaining a consistent workout routine. After losing the weight, she decided she deserved to look as good as she felt.
Bing said her cosmetic procedures helped her find balance, and she wants others struggling with their weight to see what’s possible, so she shares extremely candid before-and-after photos of her work with her nearly 12,000 Instagram followers.
Bing discussed her weight-loss and plastic-surgery journey with Insider and said the high price tag — about $28,000 total — was worth the joy she felt seeing her new body reflect the hard work she put in.
“That was kind of my gift to myself to say, ‘Hey, you did it. You’ve been doing it. Now you get to be in the body that you wanna be in,” she said.
Weight-loss surgery helped Bing jump-start her weight loss
Bing said she has struggled with her weight since elementary school. She recalled being picked on at school and even attended a ”fat camp” in the fifth grade.
The primary challenge for Bing wasn’t losing weight but maintaining it. She experienced a yo-yo effect of losing weight after months of intense diet and exercise, only to gain even more back once she returned to her old lifestyle.
In college, for example, she lost 60 pounds — only to gain 100 pounds in her senior year after experiencing mental-health issues related to a family emergency.
In 2017, when she reached her heaviest weight of 256 pounds, Bing began having trouble performing simple tasks such as tying her shoes, and she could no longer sit next to other people on airplanes without her hips touching them. She knew she needed to try something more drastic to keep the weight off and decided to explore surgical options.
Weight-loss surgeries work by decreasing the size of patients’ stomachs, which in turn reduces their appetites. Patients who undergo VSG, the procedure Bing had, eat less food and see a reduction in the “hunger hormone,” according to Penn Medicine.
A new approach to diet and exercise finally got Bing long-lasting results
Post-surgery, Bing said had to put her “health before anything else,” which meant prioritizing exercise over friends, hobbies, and sometimes her job.
“Whether that was work, whether that was seeing friends, whether that was watching TV, whatever it was, it had to come after my workouts,” she said.
As soon as she healed from surgery, Bing decided she would commit to exercising five days a week for a year straight. She went to the gym every morning and started running outside. She hired a personal trainer to help with strength training and building muscle.
Bing also changed her diet significantly by prioritizing protein — usually in the form of lean meat or dairy — and said that drinking lots of water helped her to feel full without taking in excess calories. Protein is more satiating than simple carbs, and the body uses more energy to break it down, which burns more calories.
The results were almost immediate, she said. Before surgery, Bing said weeks of exercise and dieting would often result in moderate changes on the scale, leaving her discouraged and wanting to quit. But people who get weight-loss surgery usually see a drastic reduction in fat in the months following the procedure, which helped Bing feel encouraged that her lifestyle changes were visibly leading to results.
“Once I did get the weight-loss surgery, I saw the scale go down every single day,” she said. “It motivated me to just do a little bit more every day, like 1% more every day to get to that goal of a hundred pounds.”
She still drinks soda and hasn’t cut out any favorite foods, but she makes sure to eat them in moderation and alongside fruits and veggies “to balance that out instead of just always eating the things that you want to eat.”
Losing weight meant changing her social life
Reaching her goal of losing 100 pounds in a year didn’t come without sacrifice; Bing’s social life took a massive hit. The photographer said at one point she stopped going out to eat with friends, because “it was painful almost to sit around and watch people eat.”
But the free time allowed Bing to find new hobbies. She became a “plant mom” and joined a running club where she’s made new friends to work out with.
“To make a friend that is focused on an active lifestyle has helped me tremendously to maintain the weight loss,” she said. “Because now when we go out, we’re going in with the idea that tomorrow we have to run, so we’re not going to stay out too late and eat too much or drink too much.”
Bing rewarded her hard work with cosmetic surgery
Like many people who lose significant weight, Bing had loose skin from when her body was larger. Though the skin wasn’t harming her health, Bing opted to get cosmetic surgery as a way to reward herself for her hard work.
“I wanted to have a tighter body, considering all of the working out that I had been doing with my trainer and all the running, and all of the biking, and all of everything,” she said. “I wanted my body to reflect those things.”
At the end of March, Bing received an extended tummy tuck, liposuction to her hips and lower back, and a breast lift. The extensive procedures left her bedridden, unable to walk on her own or use the bathroom without help for a week. In a video on Instagram, Bing is in visible pain after surgery and needs the help of two nurses to get into her car.
But the pain didn’t last longer than a couple of weeks. Bing said she hasn’t experienced complications and, a few months post-operation, has minimal scarring.
Bing does not regret the costly procedures and said she wishes she got cosmetic surgery sooner. She acknowledged that many people don’t talk about their post-weight-loss plastic surgery, but Bing wants to break the stigma. She posts about her journey on Instagram to show others how losing weight requires near-constant commitment, but it’s possible.
“I’m trying to do is inspire somebody else to do what they wanna do, but they just sometimes have to see it done,” she said.