LIVING

'The Beth Project' Proves Losing 155 Pounds Can Look Pretty Great

05/07/2015 03:01 EDT | Updated 05/07/2015 05:59 EDT

This week's Lost It feature is a special edition, focusing on the photography project executed by Toronto photographer Blake Morrow and his friend and subject, Elizabeth "Beth" Beard. The project, entitled "The Beth Project", took place over two years, after Beth decided to get gastric bypass surgery. "Both Beth and I have a dislike of the sad, badly-lit before photos and perfectly retouched, well-lit after pics," Morrow tells HuffPost Canada.

Morrow created portraits "that celebrated Beth’s outgoing and optimistic character, showing the joy she has regardless of her size," he says. The result is a series that that show Beth's sense of fun and joy, through charming pop culture references. The exhibit being featured at Vistek Downtown as part of The Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival in Toronto for this month of May.

the beth project

Who: Elizabeth Beard

Occupation: Photographer and webstore employee

City: Toronto, but originally from the Yukon

Age: 43

By The Numbers: Originally 330 pounds, now ​185 ("but then I'm just at the start of biking season — in full swing I'm down to 170")​, for a total weight loss of 155 pounds

The Weight Gain: ​I was heavier as a child. I'm actually a smaller size now than I was in high school. ​When I look at very early class photos from when I was a child, I notice that I was taller than other kids. I often wonder if the oft-repeated, "you're a big girl," stuck in my head​. I would say the weight gain really started about grade four and just always progressed up from there.

There were always attempts at dieting, especially when I started junior high, but nothing seemed to be successful. And I wasn't inactive. I grew up in the Yukon and would cross-country ski and go skating in the winter when I was younger, but my output just never exceeded my intake, I guess.

Final Straw: Ah, preparing to turn 40. Doesn't that do it for everyone, that landmark of sorts?

My health was actually pretty good. My blood pressure was low and I had not developed Type 2 Diabetes. My pulse rate was even normal but I found moving more difficult and wanted to be able to pursue new interests.

I took a long hard look at what I was doing to myself and how far I had let myself go. I researched [gastric bypass] surgery and looked at all the pros and cons before approaching my ​doctor. For me, it was the best and most concrete way to make a real change in my life.

beth project 2

The Plan of Attack: The surgery was the first step. I went to an initial information session in March of 2012, went to a second session in April and then in May received notice that someone had dropped out of the program and that I could be fast tracked if I was ready. Once the evaluations were completed, you meet with a surgeon, a nurse, and a social worker. The surgery was set for August of the same year.

I read everything I could about the procedure itself and what life becomes afterwards and went in with a full grasp of what it would entail.

I'd read that having high protein in your diet can help in aiding with faster healing times, and so I introduced protein shakes for breakfast about four months before my surgery. Once you have the surgery, everything changes; it has to. Portions are drastically reduced, but so are sugars and high fat foods. Because the surgery actually re-directs your digestive track, you have to be very conscious of what and how much you are putting in your body at any time. Even now, I'm very aware of my portions and try to keep them between 3/4 and 1 cup.

beth project 3

Once I'd made the decision that this would be my new life, everything fell into place. There was one time, early on, that I made a very bad choice, eating a triple creme brie at a wine and cheese tasting. It was way too high in fat for my new system, and my new body's reaction was enough that it's never been something I've ever risked to revisit.

Story Continues Below. Check out more of our inspiring weight loss stories:

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The Exercise Factor: ​I'm not really a fan of the gym, but I love being active. I started to cycle commute ​every day. My route between home and work alone totals just over 14 km. On top of that, I started roller skating about a year and a half ago and have joined a roller derby team. Currently I'm skating with the GTA Rollergirls Derby Debutants team.

Plus I have a yoga video that I try to do regularly at home. If I'm not on my bike, then I try to walk.

beth project 4

The Food Element: I'm definitely protein-focused still. I’m a fan of non-fat Greek yogurt for a quick source of protein, and I try to keep a protein/calorie gauge when making choices — one gram of protein for every 10 calories. After surgery, you should really maintain a daily intake of 60 to 70 grams of protein.

I try to avoid foods that are really high in fat or sugar, but then those are things that we should all try to avoid or have only in moderation.

It’s been a complete lifestyle change, so I’ve never looked at it like a diet. It's the permanence of the change that was important for me. It was going to cause a full life change and could not be undone. It was neither a quick fix nor something that I would yo-yo off of.

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The Current Day-to-Day: Statistically, my "ideal" weight is listed as 145 lbs. I think I put a goal of 165 lbs in my head, so that I could say that I'd literally become half the woman I was. My body seems to have plateaued between 170 to 185, which suits me fine. A little extra padding is helpful on the track.

I think it's been pretty easy to maintain because I always looked at it as a complete lifestyle change. I don’t diet, I try to keep my lifestyle on a pretty even keel.

beth project 5

Making the decision to change my life for me has been a very empowering journey.

My advice to others looking into this would be to understand what the root cause is. I remember, even as a child that the problem for me was not eating bad food, it was actually often just eating too much of the good food. Forcing myself where portion control is paramount has helped me accomplish what I needed to do. You have to go into anything with both eyes open, though, and you can't linger over what you used to be able to do, because that was the old you and if you want to be a new person, then you have to go about it in new ways.​

Do you have a weight loss story to share? Send us an email at CanadaLiving@huffingtonpost.com to be featured on our Lost It series.