She means that literally. Though the former size 28 could now pluck 8s and even the occasional 6 off boutique racks, her epidermis hadn't gotten with the program. "I had skin hanging from underneath my armpits; my breasts were hangy and ugly," she says. "I would lie in the bathtub and my stomach would float to the top of the water." With the help of a bodysuit, she could fit into the sexy outfits she had dreamed about, but she cringed at how some of them looked. "I avoided sleeveless clothes and anything that would show my stomach," she says. "I felt grossed out by my own body."
So on Jan. 31, 2002, Wilson took her lifelong battle with the bulge one step further. In an eight-hour operation performed in the Beverly Hills office of plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Zax, she had the skin on her tummy tucked (leaving her lighter by 7 lbs.), her belly button repositioned, breasts lifted and minor liposuction on her torso and hips. Zax also cut away half a pound of skin from under each armpit. Approximate cost: $20,000 (none of which insurance covered). "When I woke up, I couldn't believe it," says Wilson, whose husband, mother Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford, 54, and sister Wendy, 32, spent the eight hours in Zax's waiting room and were there when Wilson awoke. "I've never looked down and not had a belly in my entire life! It felt incredible."
Deciding to go ahead with the procedure, which up to 20 percent of gastric bypass patients ultimately opt for, wasn't easy. Wilson knew it would be beneficial medically -- the overhanging skin on her stomach, says Dr. Alan Wittgrove, who performed her bypass surgery, "was giving her a rash." But unlike the first operation, which she underwent because obesity was threatening her health, "this was elective," she says. "I was cutting my body open, and I was doing it because I wanted to! I was terrified."