When plus-size model Rosie Mercado weighed 410 pounds, she couldn’t go to the movies with her three kids. “I couldn’t fit in certain cars,” the 36-year-old tells Us Weekly. “I felt that I wasn’t worthy of love.”

Growing up, the 5-foot-9 brunette was mercilessly teased by her classmates. “People would say things like ‘There goes that fat bitch,’ or ‘Why doesn’t she just lose weight?’" Mercado reveals. “Kids in high school can be so mean.” But adults can be just as cruel. 

In June 2011, when Mercado  — who at the time had 70-inch hips — was catching a red-eye from Las Vegas to New York, a flight attendant announced that she would need to purchase another seat. “He said, ‘you’re not gonna fit,’” Mercado recalls. “He said it in front of everyone. Some people were like, ‘What an A—hole,’ other people started laughing.’” The L.A. native says she began crying: “Then I went and I paid and I had five hours to think about everything.”

The single mom of Isabella, 15, Valentino, 9, and Alex, 8, calls the humiliating experience a wake-up call— one that changed her life forever. Indeed, since 2011, the brunette beauty has shed 240 pounds off her 5-foot-9 frame. “My first 100 pounds I did by myself by running, walking and Zumba,” Mercado tells Us. The next 140 pounds came off with the help of a gastric sleeve along with a low carb and low dairy diet and six-day-a-week workouts. “I walk 15,000 steps every single day,” she raves. 

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A photo posted by ROSIE | MERCADO (@rosiemercado) on

The first time Mercado — then a size 34 — went to the gym, “I was like, ‘My ass is shaking on the treadmill! Everybody’s looking at me!’’” she reveals. “You see all these fit people and it’s just an intimidating setting. Then I just started building my confidence. I said, ‘Screw this! I can’t live my life by what other people think. I just need to go to the gym.’”

Now 170 pounds and a size 14, “People treat me differently because I am a different person,” says Mercado. “People see my happiness.” 

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