By Burcu Arik
"I always felt ashamed whenever I looked in the mirror, but everything started when my five-year-old daughter joked at my being overweight and first called me ‘fat’.
"That day I really looked in the mirror for the first time and hated what I saw."
So says 39-year-old Istanbulite Aysel Filiz Guler whose inspiring and life-saving weight loss success story could encourage others to start a journey like hers.
She is just one of thousands of Turkish people -- and millions worldwide -- who have experienced the physical and emotional impact of obesity.
Guler, having had enough of being overweight, went from 104 to 61 kilograms in 15 months, an epic journey.
She had always struggled with her weight, beginning from age 15 but a desire to become a healthy mother was her driving force, she says.
"The kids can sometimes be brutally honest. My daughter's honesty made me concerned about my own weight," Guler tells Anadolu Agency.
Guler says that she never thought that she was obese "but then I had to face the ugly truth that adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over are considered obese -- and mine was 35."
According to Professor Nazif Bagriacik, president of the Turkish Association for the Study of Obesity, obesity is becoming a severe health problem worldwide and in Turkey.
"Turkey is the 21st country in Europe in obesity rates and one of the leading countries having the most increasing prevalence of obesity in the beginning of our century," Prof. Bagriacik tells Anadolu Agency.
Bagriacik says that the prevalence of obesity is 12-15 percent in Turkish children between 7-14-years-old, 27-28 percent in adult males and 32-35 percent in adult females in Turkey.
"It is the third-biggest health problem affecting human society across the world," he says.
Over 30 percent of all adults of 19 years of age and above in Turkey are considered to be extremely overweight, a 2013 study conducted by the Turkish Health Ministry has shown.
Thirty-five percent of Turkish adults fell into the overweight category while 33 percent of them were ‘normal’ and two percent were ‘slim’ as BMI classifications.
Also, according to the World Health Organization that has recognized obesity as a disease since 1997, today more than 1.1 billion adults are overweight and over 300 million are obese.
A sedentary lifestyle and consuming fast food are the two most common causes of obesity, experts say.
Guler says she spends her days behind a desk as an accountant: "Actually, I had attempted many times to alter my appearance. I thought exercise would solve all the problems," she says.
"I had enrolled at a gym and kept going three or four weeks but then quit. I had even thought to have gastric bypass surgery at 2011 because I could not stop eating junk food or pastry," Guler says.
However, a recent U.K. study in 2015 has revealed that exercise is good but alone it is not enough to lose weight.
The physical activity is useful in diminishing the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other illnesses, but it does not promote weight loss alone, the study claims.
"I had to recognize that limiting foods which are high in fat or sugar with regular physical activity is key to long-term weight loss," Guler says.
Professor Emin Ersoy, president of the Turkish Association of Endoscopic and Laparoscopic Surgery in Istanbul, says that sugar and fast food are the most deadly factors that lead to obesity and a range of health problems, including different types of cancer, diabetes and heart diseases.
The country's health ministry reveals that fast food is becoming the most preferred nutrition style, especially among the children and adolescents in the last years in Turkey.
According to the ministry, fast food is a type of "an inadequate and unbalanced nutrition which has high energy, rich in unsaturated fatty acids and salt contents but poor in fiber, vitamin A and C and calcium contents".
In addition, Turkish people have traditional calorific foods such as simit [Turkish bagel] and bread which is consumed at each meal. The ministry shows that 44 percent of the daily calorie intake of Turkish people is derived from bread only.
Guler says on her weight-loss journey, her dietitian suggested her to change her nutritional habits and adopt a more vegetarian diet or vegetable-rich diet which diminishes the risk of obesity.
"In 15 months, I consumed milk, yogurt, meat, fresh fruits and vegetables with regular physical exercise. I also tried to avoid temptations. I stopped buying junk foods as I knew if they were in my kitchen, I would eat them.”
A 2014 study of around 2,900 British adults over four years revealed that the people who are exposed to 'weight discrimination' gain more weight than those who are not.
According to Prof. Bagriacik, the fight against obesity should be continuous and resolute: "The public, schools and families must be warned via press and television," he adds.
The Turkish government has also initiated programs to address increasing obesity rates. In 2012, the ministry launched health and dietary plans as well as television and newspaper advertisements to tackle obesity.
The ministry also distributed pedometers via family doctors to encouraged people to walk regularly and record how far they walk.
According to Guler, to be able to rely on a good support network of friends and family is vital in weight loss challenge.
"Shaming obese people does not solve any problem, on the contrary, it makes the matter worse. Because being encouraged is another key," Guler adds.