Rosie Mercado opens up about her life-changing weight loss, walking down the aisle with her first love and a motivational new book.

Rosie Mercado's life wasn't always so, well, rose-colored. When she reached a weight of 410 pounds in 2014 and was told by an airplane employee she had to purchase a second seat to fit on the plane, she hit a low point. The incident embarrassed her and even made her cry, she tells People en Español, but it was a wake up call: “I think it was a way of God telling me: ‘You need to take control of your life.'” And she did! She dropped to 300 pounds by dieting and exercising in just over a year and then decided to get the gastric sleeve surgery. “It's not an easy walk. Surgery is just a tool. It's not guaranteed success,” she said. “Success comes from the discipline — it forces you to wake up and pay attention to what you're eating. It's a lifestyle.”

Today, the Mexican-American TV host, plus model and motivational speaker, 38, is loving her curves at a size 12/14 and enjoys her energy and confidence. But getting here was a struggle. After her dramatic weight loss, she also needed surgery to get rid of excess skin and a tummy tuck to reconstruct her abdomen. Taking on runways and posing in front of cameras also brought criticism and public shaming, she says. Many people told her she was crazy for pursuing a modeling career, but she kept knocking on new doors when others slammed in her face. “When you have a dream, you have to be willing to make sacrifices,” she says.

Her latest dream come true? In February, she walked down the aisle with her first love, Gilberto Flores. “We're so blessed that after parting ways 22 years ago, that destiny brought us together again,” Mercado says. The newlyweds — who fell in love as teens and went their separate ways — reunited again after each getting divorced and having three kids each from previous relationships, according to Mercado. It was Gilberto's sister, a friend of Rosie's, who acted as matchmaker and brought them together again decades after they first fell in love. Her man was by her side, holding her hand, as she dazzled on the red carpet of People en Español's 25 Most Powerful Women luncheon in Miami in March, where she was honored.

Back in September 2018, her charisma and talent landed her a role as cohost on the CBS show Face the Truth, coproduced by Dr. Phil McGraw. “I've put all my effort to continue growing,” she says of working with organizations like Dress for Success, which helps homeless women get back into the workforce by providing professional clothing and supports women who were victims of physical abuse in Tijuana, Mexico. “For me the most important thing is women: helping them grow, going them strength so they know they can do it, that there is no obstacle in life that they can't overcome.”

Mercado has been busy. She's building a new home with Flores and blending their family of six kids, while also writing a book to be published in the fall. “It's a memoir and inspiration book,” she says of her debut as an author. She writes about her weight-loss journey and surviving physical abuse, among other topics. “I can talk about who I am, about what it was like to be a single mom, my failures, the lessons that each failure brought to my life,” she adds. “I tell my story and I hope I can help people with that.”

The stunning plus-size model knows that — as she shared in a motivational Instagram post showing her “before” and “after” photos of her transformation after losing over 200 pounds — “attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice,” and she chose wisely.

Rosie Mercado - Poderosas - April 2019