She lost an amazing 87kg to transform her life and ensure she could be around for her young son's future.
And now Jo Bowden is comfortable in her own skin.
Bowden, 31, had 7.1kg of excess skin removed from around her abdomen in a six-hour body lift operation.
The procedure, performed by two surgeons, involved extra skin being firstly removed from her back, continuing around the front and having her belly button repositioned, followed by liposuction to create contours around the waist.
Bowden was "rapt" when she saw the dramatic results, after bandages were removed.
"I still can't believe the difference."
She felt "like I've finished with that [old] Jo, and I'm on to my new life ... I [have] a new core".
Bowden was surprised at the weight of the skin and delighted to be rid of the restrictive mass which had been "heavy, but not just in the body, in the mind".
"There was always an anchor, literally."
From 174.3kg in March last year, she was now 83kg. She was looking forward to getting back in the gym and preparing for her debut boxing match.
She had also been conscious of the appearance of the excess skin.
"I had to hold my body a different way so no one saw ... I had to make sure everything was tucked [in] and that my T-shirt was low."
The extra skin had been a consequence of her dropping half her weight within 12 months.
The single mum's determination to shed the kilos had been reinforced when her son Ashar, 6, suffered a 45-minute seizure in June last year. She realised just how much she needed to be there for him.
Struggling with a food addiction since childhood, at her heaviest Bowden feared she would die of a heart attack in her sleep.
Turning her life around, she started eating healthy and exercising.
After unsuccessfully applying for public health funding to have her excess skin removed, she had been fundraising when a Samaritan from her community at Mangawhai, north of Auckland, gave her $40,000 for her surgery.
Bowden had the body lift operation at St Marks Road Surgical Centre, Remuera, on Monday last week. She was back home after two nights at the centre and had "healed really fast" - even visiting her gym for her first outing to show fellow members her new look.
"I feel normal ... I can't wait to do a burpee and a pull-up."
She was aiming to start on the treadmill in a fortnight, and resume training with light weights in six weeks.
Bowden was grateful to the medical team for their expertise and care, and to her sponsor - who was "chuffed" with the surgery's success.
The incisions had been strategically located so scarring was as imperceptible as possible, and the lift had reduced sagging of skin in her legs. Bowden had planned to have excess skin removed from her limbs at a later date, but with her arms also filling out with muscle from weight training, she no longer intended to.
Bowden's surgeon, Dr Zachary Moaveni, estimated about 20-40 of the procedures were performed each year in New Zealand. Full recovery took several weeks to around three months.
He was "absolutely delighted" with how Bowden had done.
"Firstly, she was in really good physical health both from a cardiovascular fitness point of view, and ... general health ... The other very important part is just her incredible positivity and resilience."
Bowden said: "I'm fully happy with how I look. As soon as I came out [following surgery], I looked at my belly and that [had been] my anchor, my mental drain. And now I'm really happy."