"We need to find better words, and be more loving toward people, especially when we know they are struggling."


Five years ago, Jacqueline Adan got a serious wake-up call after getting stuck in a turnstile at Disneyland because of her size. At the time, she weighed 510 pounds and knew something had to change. Today, she's completely turned her life around, losing 350 pounds and becoming an advocate for body positivity and self-love. (Related: Jacqueline Adan Wants You to Know That Losing Weight Won't Magically Make You Happy)

Along the way, the 30-year-old has dealt with her fair share of body-shaming from strangers. Some have even reached out to her recently, accusing her of gaining weight. "After [my last skin removal] surgery, I have been really swollen…like really swollen," Jacqueline shared in a recent blog post. "I have been receiving so many comments from people I did not know telling me how I was gaining weight, telling me to watch what I was eating and that hopefully, I can work out again soon because they could notice I was getting 'fat' again. This was hard for me to hear and read. I felt my clothes not fitting, I felt puffy and my whole body felt numb and cold. All of these things made me know something else was going on."

That's why Jacqueline decided to have some preliminary blood work done and pay her doctor a visit to make absolutely sure that there wasn't some underlying cause for her swelling. "She pretty much told me that, after looking at my labs, I was just gaining weight and that I should really watch what I am eating and exercise more," she wrote. "After leaving her office, I completely broke down. I think I cried for about an hour." (Did you know that the shame associated with obesity makes the health risk worse?)

Given the fact that Jacqueline has spent the past five years of her life dedicated to losing weight, it's easy to see how she could be frustrated with professionals who say even more weight loss is the only solution to her problems.

"It really hurt to have someone who knows me and knows all that I have been through with not only losing 350 pounds but how much I am working on loving myself, taking care of myself, and trying to live my best life possible," Jacqueline tells Shape. "It really made me feel like I was over 500 pounds again when doctors all tried to blame everything on my weight. I felt ashamed and embarrassed and started questioning myself and my own body again and not feeling like I was good enough. I thought...maybe I really am gaining weight. Mentally, I felt myself spiral backward. It was tough to hear that. All my hard work and commitment to bettering not only my physical health but mental health, and it felt like it all got washed away for a second when I was told that I just need to lose more weight." (Related: Why Body-Shaming Is Such a Big Problem and What You Can Do to Stop It)

Jacqueline admits that had the situation been handled differently, she wouldn't have felt that way. "I would have preferred her to tell me that it is going to be okay and we will figure out why my body is so swollen," she says. "I would have wished she empathized with me and saw just how nervous and frustrated I really was with the changes happening with my body. Even if she thought I really was gaining weight, I feel like it would have been so much better to say it in a more compassionate way." (Related: I Was Fat-Shamed By My Doctor and Now I'm Hesitant to Go Back)

While Jacqueline could have given up after the horrible experience at the doctor's office, she instead decided to use the experience as a reminder to practice self-love.

"I think with this whole situation of being swollen and hearing not only others but my doctor still putting me down and shaming my body and telling me to lose weight, is a good reminder of why it is so important to remember to focus on yourself and love yourself," she wrote. "When you deal with people like this, because there are unfortunately people like this out there, you need to be strong enough to take their opinions and criticisms." (Related: Sarah Potenza's Personal Essay On Self-Love Is Important)

Jacqueline says she wishes that both social media users and health care professionals would think twice before saying things that could cause a struggling person to backtrack on their progress or feel ashamed.

"Talking about someone's weight is a very sensitive topic, no matter if it is talking about someone who needs to lose weight or even gain weight," she says. "I feel doctors especially need to be more understanding of how their words really can affect someone."

And back on her blog, Jacqueline wrote "whether it be obesity, body image issues, or people not loving and caring for themselves they are still people and still need love and respect and maybe a little help. We need to find better words, and be more loving toward people, especially when we know they are struggling." (Related: Katie Willcox Wants You to Know That You're So Much More Than What You See In the Mirror)

For those who've been in similar situations, Jacqueline says to remember to stay positive and to treat yourself with kindness and respect. "Everybody has moments of self-doubt and times that they struggle with their self-image," she says. "When you keep practicing self-love and positive self-talk, the easier it is to bounce back from these moments of struggle. I will not stop fighting for my overall health and happiness and I know I will figure out what is going on with my body. So, never stop fighting, never stop doing what is best for you. It is the most important thing you can do."