She was bullied about her weight but now she's a star on Instagram

Tanya Rybakova was born in Russia and from the very beginning, faced a life full of challenge: something wasn't right as she developed and when her parents took her to be diagnosed, they were told that she had polio.

They worked hard to be strong but they were terrified that she would never have a normal life. It was a terrible time for the family. A conclusive diagnosis took longer, however, and when they went back for the final results, the doctors said something almost more shocking: Tanya was fine! The initial diagnosis had been false. She was simply somewhat weak.

Her parents were relieved but still shaken. They felt the need to take extra good care of their little girl, especially with respect to food. They desperately wanted her to grow and develop fully, so now they thought that she should want for nothing.

As she recalled, in the first years they fed her "meat, whole milk, a lot of baked goods — everything to make sure I would gain weight. When I got to school, I was already pretty sturdy."

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By the time Tanya was 14 she weighed a staggering 229 pounds and had attracted plenty of mean-spirited attention from other kids. "Fatty, tubby, blubber guts, cow — I heard that stuff every day. Not just behind my back, they said it to my face," remembered Tanya, thinking back to her school days.

The cruel words gnawed away at her self-confidence and to comfort herself she did the only thing she knew: eat. She described that period like this: "To soothe the pain of all the nasty jokes I just ate more cake and other sweets. I definitely wanted to be confident but it was a vicious circle."

Tanya would escape into a fantasy world, dreaming about the day she would meet someone who wouldn't notice her physical condition but would see inside and love her for who she really was. Slowly though, she realized that "I couldn't even love myself. I couldn't stand my own appearance in the mirror."

She tried again and again to lose weight, without success. Every diet started well but only worked short-term. In the end, she always gained more weight. She was also always tired and too out-of-shape to get exercise. Today she says, "When you're over 200 pounds, it's really onerous even to go jogging."

As with many obese people, Tanya's complexion deteriorated, her hair and nails became brittle, and she felt worse after trying out every new diet fad. Now the point was clear: she couldn't go on like this. So, when she started college, she decided on a completely new method of losing weight.

This was her approach: "I decided to develop my own nutrition system. I would eat a certain amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, exactly according to how active I had been that day."

She read more and more about dieting and nutrition, started getting more exercise, and went everywhere she could by foot. In just ten months, she lost 55 pounds. And that was only the beginning.

The people who had once called her "fat cow" didn't even recognize her now. She had done something no one thought was possible.

After four disciplined but highly-motivated years, Tanya had lost an incredible 110 pounds. She lost so much body mass that she had to undergo a skin removal surgery.

At 5'4" she weighs just 116 pounds today. She believes strongly in encouraging others as well: "Change is possible and I'm not only talking about losing weight. You can change the way you see the world, you can develop self-confidence, and change the attitude you have in encountering others. It's not easy — neither losing weight nor changing your attitude, but it's worth it."

Tanya is now 29 years old and has over 200,000 Instagram fans, who regularly ask her for advice and nutrition tips. For everyone who's struggling with themselves and their weight, Tanya has three simply suggestions:

1. Think about why you want to lose weight

You won't be motivated if you don't have a goal. Just losing weight isn't enough. Look for more concrete motivations: your health, a personal challenge, self-improvement.

2. Forget about magic diets

They simply aren't fine-tuned enough for your body, your life, and above all for a healthy diet. They only help briefly. A balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, on the other hand, make a difference long-term.

3. Believe in yourself

If you don't believe in yourself, you won't get anywhere. But when you do, and you have a clear goal in mind, just about anything is possible.

That last sentence is especially resonant: when you believe in yourself, nearly anything is possible. Tanya is beautiful proof of this theory! Hats off to that much courage, discipline, and will of iron. You can really see how much healthier and happier she is today.

Just imagine: what could you do with a little Tanya-style commitment...?

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