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Over the last five years, UK native Amy Murphy (@splattard) has worked tirelessly to transform her body and mind. Just a few years ago, Murphy weighed over 430 lbs. Today, she's lost over 270 lbs, thanks to weight loss surgery, diet and exercise. We caught up with Murphy to learn about her inspiring story and to understand how this physical change impacted her sizeable tattoo collection.

What inspired you to start losing weight and what was life like when you were at your heaviest?

I had been married for a while and all my friends around me were getting married and having kids. Having kids just didn’t seem like an option because it would have been unfair on them and also dangerous at that weight. I was perfectly healthy, great blood pressure and heart rate, no risk of diabetes. I was just very large. Additionally, I was bullied pretty much daily. Every time I left the house, there would be a comment or a look or a laugh in my direction. It made me quite secluded. Only my online friends or those closest to me would really see what I was like personality wise, because I hated drawing any attention to myself in public as it was one more reason to tease me about my weight.

How did you go about losing the weight?

After years of yo-yo dieting, I was a large child, obese teenager and morbidly obese 20-something year old, I decided I needed help long term. I lost weight, 6 stone /84 lbs, for my wedding but it was through starving myself on chicken salads daily. I was always crawling up the walls hungry. When my wedding happened, I relaxed on the strict eating, but still continued going to the gym. But just out-ate everything I exercised and the weight soon piled on. It wasn’t that I ate bad stuff, I just ate too much.

So after a very bad bout of bullying I decided enough was enough and that was the last time I’d be like this. I had weight loss surgery (Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy a.k.a VSG) which cuts out 70-80% of your stomach and leaves you with a banana pouch. I relearned how to eat for nutrition and not to just fill a unending space.

I went back to walking three weeks post op, and was cleared for the gym eight weeks post-op—and I haven’t stopped since. I make Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian and Indian meals form scratch. I learned to cook all my meals for nutrition and taste to fuel me for my workouts. I went to the gym four to five days a week, doing 15-25 minutes on the cross trainer and then up to an hour lifting weights. I took up running after I’d lost about 150lbs (I was about 280lbs at this point), did the Couchto5k app and fell in love with running. I took up badminton last year and I now keep my week busy with three to four gym sessions, two to three two hour badminton sessions and two to three runs a week.

What was the biggest challenge along the way?

My biggest challenge was juggling a 9-to-5 job, going to college in the evening and finding time to go to the gym and meal prep. Half the days of the week, I would start at 6am and not finish until 11pm. I managed it though, but it was damn hard.

How did the weight loss and surgeries that followed impact your tattoos?

Honestly, I think it was a combination of luck and great planning. I didn’t get the inside of the top of my arms tattooed, just the outsides and the forearms. As those areas were the least “wobbly," paired with lifting weights in the gym and a great tattooist (@scott_owen_tattoo)—I think I managed to dodge a bullet. Also I think it helped that my pieces were all monsters or animals so they don’t look too bad skewed.

After my arm-skin removal surgery, I was really worried I’d lose a bit of my Kitsune tail on my upper arm, as my surgeon did initially mark off quite a bit. But in the end, he managed to keep 99% of my tattoos intact. He just cut off a little bit of my Koi Karp’s tail and managed to join it up, so I’d doesn’t look like anything was missing.

How do you plan to continue your tattoo collection now that you’ve had your surgeries?

I’ve already filled up my lower legs. I won’t be getting tattoos on my thighs, as there is just too much skin there and I don’t want to get that sorted as that is a hard skin removal surgery to recover from. However, once my arm lift scars are given the go-ahead (I’ve got to wait about nine months to a year post-surgery) I will get the rest of my sleeve colored in and tattooed over. I’ve got some jelly fish planned for my right arm, it’s looking a bit bare.

What does your diet look like today and how does it differ from before your weight loss?

It hasn’t varied too much. I definitely eat more for taste than to just shove anything in my gob. I’m quite picky with food now. If something doesn’t taste nice, I won’t eat it for the sake of eating. I can’t also stand foods that are too greasy or too sweet, as they actually makes me pretty ill. I still eat a lot of Asian cuisine, however I usually can’t eat much rice as it fills me up too quick. Also I went vegan last year and I never thought that would happen, as I loved meat and cheese too much. But after my weight loss surgery, I was slowly unable to digest meat as comfortably as I did and in the end, I was just eating chicken and fish. And I became pretty lactose intolerant with less cheese consumption, so I decided to try Veganuary. It got on well with my body and my needs, so I stayed.

What do you love doing now that you didn’t/couldn’t do five years ago?

I love that I can just get up and go. I go out for runs, hikes and love traveling. I go out with friends and I'm not afraid to show my personality anymore. I’m very outgoing and I love showing the geeky, silly and funny sides. I rarely say no to any activities because I just love celebrating what I can do with my body. Trampoline park? HELL YES.

What advice would you give to your former self?

People’s true colors will show throw once you are no longer hiding yourself to please them. Don’t hang on to friendships that are toxic just because you have a past. Don’t let the scale determine how much effort you put in that week, you know what you’ve eaten and how hard you've worked out. Don’t get upset because you’ve not lost what you wanted, it’s likely you are retaining water or haven’t had a poo. Keep consistent, keep pushing and have fun.