Undergoing lap band surgery in September 2011, 24-year-old Lauren Manzo has no regrets about sharing her weight loss struggle this season on Bravo's Real Housewives of New Jersey. In fact, it was Caroline Manzo's daughter's own decision to go public with her battle of the bulge.
"It's hard seeing yourself on TV. The camera doesn't add 10 pounds, it adds 800 pounds!" reasons Lauren, who had gone through years of yo-yo dieting and tried programs like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and LA Weight Loss to try to shed pounds. Tipping the scales at 185 pounds, the makeup store owner decided to undergo surgery -- and initially kept it a secret from RHONJ audiences.
"When I first got it, I didn't want to tell anybody. So many fans related to my struggle, I didn't want to feel like I was letting them down," Lauren tells Us. "I've gotten such a great response. It's worth it."
Lauren tells Us that her mother, Caroline, may have doled out tough love on TV -- calling her daughter "8 pounds of sausage in a 5-pound bag" -- but argues that her criticism motivated her, and didn't offend her. "If I my mom weren't so blunt with me, I wouldn't be as happy as I am today," Lauren says. "I know she didn't mean anything by it. She has always told me I am beautiful -- my father and brothers, too."
Intending to lose at least 35 more pounds, Lauren has not yet settled on a goal weight -- and is anxious to show off her bangin' new bod this summer at the beach.
"When I hit 120, I'll decide if I want to go to 115. I'm motivated," explains the reality star. "Hopefully, by the end of the summer, I'll be in a bikini. I've never worn a bikini in my life!"