Then, during sophomore year, Friedberg's mother – who'd also struggled with lifelong weight issues – had bariatric surgery, and Friedberg was inspired. "I watched her transform in front of me," Friedberg recalls. "So when I moved to San Francisco for graduate school, I knew I wanted to start over. I wanted a fresh outlook and started looking into bariatric surgery at age 21."
A year later, in April 2011, Friedberg underwent bariatric surgery at UCSF.
Have you always been overweight?
All through elementary school, I was very active. I did gymnastics every day and I danced three times a week. I went to summer camp and had lots of time to play outside. As I got older, I started to slow down, and that's when the pounds started to pile on.
What challenges did you face as a severely overweight teenager?
I was teased a lot. I grew up in a beach town and I didn't look like everyone else. I was bigger, not slender and tan. It was tough knowing that no matter how hard I tried to be like everyone else and fit in, I was in such a different boat than they were.
How much did you weigh at your heaviest and when was that?
At my heaviest, I was 275 pounds. That was right around the time of my surgery. I felt like there was no hope. It was really sad for someone my age (I was 22 at the time) to think that there would never be a way out, that no one would like me the way I was, and that I couldn't be happy again.
How much do you weigh now?
I am currently 190 pounds and still losing. It's a battle every day, but the better I feel, the easier the battle.
Some research has found that overeating is a genetic addiction. Do you agree?
When I was growing up, my whole family was big. It wasn't a single person teaching me bad ways, or a single person buying the food for the family. My mom never bought us sugary snacks. I never had Lucky Charms or Twinkies as a kid. Both of my parents cooked meals, and I often ate school lunches. While I agree that fat is a family affair, I also believe that being fat has something to do with genetics.
My dad had two heart attacks before he turned 50. That prompted him to lose weight and exercise every day. My brother and I probably weighed the same at our heaviest (he's an inch or two taller), but he found that he loves to run and has lost 70 pounds doing so.
I don't see my family very often because we're so spread out, but now when we are together, instead of going out for big restaurant meals, we cook at home and go walk around the art museum or go bowling.
Did you and your mother try to lose weight together?
In my youth, I tried every diet I could think of. Some of them I did with my mom, and others I tried on my own. I thought one of them had to work and some of them did for a little while. But even when I stuck to them, they started failing me, and that was a really depressing thing.
Nothing helped me, and I felt like I was slipping away from the person that everyone knew me as. These were all things I internalized. I didn't need the entire school knowing my business, but at the same time, I just wished someone would notice how much I was struggling. Though health class taught us the basics of nutrition, there was no one I could talk to about the things I was going through.
What advice would you give to other severely overweight young adults?
My mom used to tell me that no matter how many different diets I was on or how many days I went to the gym, I would only lose the weight when I was completely ready. I give that advice to people my age who aren't sure about their future. I've been there, even if I don't look like it as much anymore. It's a long road to walk when you get out of breath so easily.