Kelley Gunter author of You Have Such a Pretty Face, had the BPD/DS duodenal switch surgery in 2002 and subsequently dropped 243 pounds from her pre-surgery weight of 391 pounds. Kelley later had plastic surgery after massive weight loss to remove the excess skin and fat that remained. And her transformation was stunning. One could in fact say that Kelley Gunter is a modern day Cinderella Story. And she tells all in her book!
A total body transformation from bariatric surgery and plastic surgery sound like a sure path to a happy life. However, despite the incredible physical changes following these surgeries, Kelley Gunter says happiness continued to elude her.
As I gaze at Kelley’s beautiful photos, I am gobsmacked that such an incredible transformation did not leave her delirious with joy. And I wondered, what would it take to make this woman happy? After all, Cinderella is supposed to live happily ever after.
So I reached out to Kelley Gunter on Facebook to get some answers. And Kelley graciously sent her memoir to me, You Have Such a Pretty Face, in preparation for this interview. What I learned is that it was not until Kelley, a social worker who spent her career helping others through painful circumstances, turned inward and healed all of the hurts deep within that she finally came to a place of self love, acceptance and, yes… happiness.
Recently, I chatted with Kelley Gunter about her memoir, You Have Such a Pretty Face.
Kelley Gunter Interview
Like a Phoenix Rises from the Ashes
Kelley, tell me three words that describe how you felt about yourself when you weighed nearly 400 pounds, and three that describe how you felt after your transformation from weight loss and plastic surgery, and three that describe how you feel about yourself today.
Kelley Gunter: Three words that described me before I had lost my weight: Worthless Disgusting Sad
Three words that described me after: Hopeful Searching Better
Three words that describe me now: Happy Peaceful Real
You were lost, so-to-speak, after your plastic surgery. Please tell me what that was like.
Kelley Gunter: Following my skin removal I had moments of believing I was happy or at the very least, on my way to finally being truly happy, but after the stitches were gone and the incisions were healed, I was still left with the unsettled feeling that I wasn’t enough. I hid this quite well from everyone else, and even, to some degree, from myself I suppose. It’s an incredibly difficult path to navigate when no matter how you look, what you have obtained, or who loves you, internally you cannot silence the thoughts that you are not and will not ever be enough. It was devastating to feel that way. It was a pain that was intense and constant because on the outside it looked like I had the world at my feet, but in private I suffered alone, in silence.
Why not just leave your emotional baggage in the past rather than carry it with you?
Kelley Gunter: Emotional baggage is like tape, it sticks around. I became very adept at hiding my baggage and making it seem as though I had it all together. Everyone thought I looked good, so I had to present as if I felt really good as well. But I didn’t. I really couldn’t have felt much worse. I thought losing weight and looking the way I wanted to look would magically transform all of the pain I had deep in my soul. I thought the physical transformation would be the magic eraser for all of the pain I had endured in my lifetime. The thing is I didn’t even realize the depth of my grief and the unresolved trauma that was still waiting to be worked through. Grief and pain lurk like fog on a rainy night, never clearing, never dissipating, they wait and they wait almost as if they whisper, “you will pass through me.” No matter how I physically looked, what activities I did, or all of the places I went, the problem was, I always took my biggest problem with me…. ME.
So you are in this emotional-mental hellfire, and like a phoenix you rise from the ashes. Where did you even begin to awaken from that state of confusion and what steps did you take to heal? How long was that process?
Kelley Gunter: As I continued to run from my inner pain, I couldn’t use food anymore as comfort so I started using other things to make me forget that terrifying fog that was lurking, demanding that I acknowledge it’s presence in my life. I would shop, date the wrong men, gamble, any and everything that somehow temporarily made me feel somewhat worthy and kept me occupied and numb to what I was feeling. Eventually all of those self-destructive behaviors caught up with me and I lost everything and everybody. THAT is when God allowed my own behaviors to bring about the complete devastation of my world and actually saved my life and set me down a path of healing. Alone and abandoned by everyone, I journeyed to Sedona, Arizona to the Institute of Wholeness where my healing journey began. That was two years ago.
Realizing that Pretty Comes in Every Size
So share with me, as a woman who was unhappy with herself at 391 pounds and unhappy with herself at 148 pounds, what do you mean by “pretty comes in every size?”
Kelley Gunter: When I say “pretty comes in every size,” I speak of a truth that escaped me for many years. “Pretty” is a verb. To me, pretty no longer has anything to do with how you look or what size of clothing you wear, pretty is about your soul. Pretty is how you treat people. A blind person can see that type of pretty. Anyone can be physically attractive, but to be pretty you have to be beautiful on the inside and that kind of pretty comes in every single size.
What is the most important life lesson you have learned on your journey?
Kelley Gunter: My most important lesson that I have learned is that my relationship with God is the most powerful connection I will ever have in my life. Even when I was 391 pounds, I had faith in God and prayed for a different life. I had hope in God that he would show me the way. When I cried, I know God saw those tears. In my darkest moments of this journey, God was there. He never left me. It is quite easy to be faithful and praise God when things are going well, but when the world has deserted you and you’ve lost everything and don’t know how you will buy food, God is still there, opening every door you need, if you let him. I learned to truly trust him, even with tears streaming down my face and thoughts of “I don’t understand…” racing through my mind.
What’s next for you?
Kelley Gunter: I’m currently working on my second memoir, The Homecoming Queen of Crazy Town. In 2018 I plan to continue to promote You Have Such a Pretty Face and hopefully reach as many people who are hurting the way I once did and let them know that there is hope that life can be better for them than it is right now. I am waiting for God to open all the doors he wants me to walk and quite possibly, run through. In the interim, I will keep spreading the word that every dream that is in someone’s heart is there for a reason. Even if you live long, life is short, so pursue those dreams with all you have.
You Have Such a Pretty Face
Why did you choose to reveal the most intimate details of your life in, You Have Such a Pretty Face?
Kelley Gunter: I shared the most intimate details of my life in You Have Such a Pretty Face because I wanted the book to be genuine and I wanted readers to know that I was speaking the truth. Initially when I wrote the book, I didn’t include the repeated trauma I had suffered in my lifetime, but I literally couldn’t sleep for almost a week. I would toss and turn at night and one night about 3 am, I just got out of bed and went to the laptop and started sharing the truth of my pain and there was a lot of it. I had additions to several chapters. After all of those additions, I could finally sleep. I believe you can’t touch or reach people with half the story, and I wanted to give my readers hope and the knowledge that they absolutely do not have to live in shame about any of their pain or what they have experienced.
If readers take only one thing away from your story, what do you hope it will be?
Kelley Gunter: I hope that readers will come away realizing that they do not need to live in shame for any reason. We are all more than anything that’s ever been done to us, more than any mistakes we have made, more than how we physically appear, and more than anything anyone else thinks about us. We should always strive to be our best while realizing that we must embrace our imperfections — I believe that is where true beauty resides. Learning to love ourselves is one of the most life changing paths we will ever walk.
Thank you, Kelly Gunter, for telling your story… for telling my story… for telling every woman’s story who has ever struggled with obesity, weight loss, and self love. It is very moving, how many hearts you have opened in such a short amount of time. May G-d continue to bless you and guide you to the people who need your message of hope and overcoming.
And as I consider Kelley Gunter’s life story, she is not like Cinderella after all. Whereas Cinderella waited on the handsome Prince to come along and save her from her life, our heroine Kelley Gunter grabbed life by the horns and saved herself.
“Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you — all of the expectations, all of the beliefs, and becoming who you really are.” — Rachel Naomi Ramen
Get Kelley Gunter ‘Stuff’
You can buy Kelley Gunter’s memoir You Have Such a Pretty Face online on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Also check out Kelley’s book, water bottles, and t-shirts on her website and at the new Celebrate Vitamins store in Cleveland, OH. Follow Kelly on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and YouTube to stay abreast of her latest happenings.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life