Lauren Manzo is a new woman, all slimmed down and more confident than ever -- and she's thrilled about her new figure. And while fans are seeing her struggle with her weight on Real Housewives of New Jersey this season, remember that what you're seeing now is footage from last summer when Lauren was struggling with dieting, and while she managed to drop 14 pounds with the Perricone Diet, ultimately she decided to enlist Dr. Amit Trivedi of Advanced Laparoscopic Associates to take hold of her life and get her weight in check.
Lauren tells us that the reaction from fans and viewers has been double-sided. While there's been an outpouring of support, some of those fans turned when they found out she had surgery -- even the fans who were rooting her on and dieting with her as she tried to shed the pounds. "As soon as I came out with the Lap-Band story, everyone took that away from me. They were like 'You were my inspiration, now you suck.'"
Still, that's not getting Lauren down, because not everyone's reacting negatively. "I have the people telling me that they respect me for going through it and doing what I wanted to do to make myself happy. As long as my family and boyfriend are happy, then I'm happy with my decision."
One major factor towards the decision to get the surgery aside from her health was that Lauren's weight was affecting her personality and daily interactions with her loved ones, and not in a good way. "I was mean," she tells us. "I was terrible before I lost my weight," saying she'd snap at family and especially at her boyfriend Vito. But after the surgery, she got her confidence back thanks in part to Vito's support. "He was amazing the whole time. He'll be like 'honey, little bites, little bites.' He's really supportive. His father actually has the Lap-Band, so he can relate that way."
And those small bites -- because the amount her stomach can hold is much smaller -- are tough to get used to, Lauren says.
"The hardest thing for me is that I can't eat and drink at the same time. Vito used to say that whenever we'd eat something I'd just eat the food and not take a sip of my drink. He'd be like 'That's the weirdest thing,' but after my meal I'd down an entire bottle of water. But now I have to wait 30 minutes to an hour to drink anything. And it's hard when there's a full meal in front of you and you can only have 4 or 5 forkfuls. I wake up in the morning and I can't eat because I'm swollen from sleeping. I have to be careful that I don't throw up all the time because it's easy to throw up with the band, and if I do throw up, the band can slip. I freak out whenever I have a stomach ache worried that the band might have slipped and I have a nervous breakdown because I'm worried I might die when I get a stomach ache."
With Vito on her side, one of the most touching moments Lauren has faced was from her brothers -- Chris in particular. While the Manzo boys are huge fans of sarcasm and love to tease everyone in their family, Lauren tells us: "Christopher said something really sweet to my mom when I first got it: I ended up being right on the brink of severely obese and morbidly obese for my height and weight according to my doctor ... and when my mom told Christopher that, he got really quiet and said 'Mom, that makes me really sad because I don't want her to feel like she's fat. She's not, she's beautiful.' When my mom told me that, I wanted to cry. As much as we tease each other -- I tease them all the time too -- he got really upset.
Now that she's had the surgery and keeps up an intense 2-hour-a-day schedule at the gym, Lauren is looking -- and more importantly, feeling -- better than ever.
"I was on the beach with Greg the other day, and I had a bathing suit on, and I just felt good. I used to be on the beach sweating, and this time I felt pretty ... I had on really short-shorts, a white tee shirt, and I felt comfortable. It's nice for the first time to be on the beach and be comfortable."