Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Julie Lost 130 Pounds

I invited Julie to have dinner with me on Monday night. We were joined by my friend, Steph, whom I wrote about briefly in my chapter on South Africa (I would be happy to interview her, too, if readers are interested---just let me know). We talked to Julie about her journey to drop 130 pounds. Here is her candid interview, almost in its entirety. I only cut out the parts where we went off track. Julie is honest about the things she grapples with and still in awe of the changes in her life. Enjoy.

Cami: So when did you reach your goal exactly? Julie: I had my surgery in July of 2008. So by the next July I believe I was very close to goal. Cami: And you lost a total of about 130 pounds. Julie: Right. Cami: And so, Julie, you mentioned the surgery. What would you want people to know about the surgery you had? What did it take for you to come to the decision to do that? Julie: I used to think that I would never resort to surgery---that I should be strong enough, have enough will power to diet it all away, but after 49 years of struggling with my weight… and it literally was 49 years… I’d been heavy all of my life. I finally decided that surgery was a valid option. And then I had to worry about if I would ever be normal after I had the surgery. So would I only be able to eat little tiny portions, and would people look at me and wonder why I was eating that way? It was a struggle to figure it out, but I finally decided it was worth it---trying to find a balance between weight loss and health. Cami: What kind of surgery did you have? Julie: I had a proximal gastric bypass. So they made my stomach smaller and bypassed part of my intestines, so that the food enters lower than it normally does. “Proximal” means that they bypassed a fairly short section, whereas they can also do “medial” which bypasses more or “distal” which bypasses a whole lot more. And the more you bypass, the less you absorb of the food you eat. I do have some malabsorption that can be a factor in my diet from now on. I got the shortest distance bypassed. Cami: And how do you make up for that malabsorption? Julie: My doctor has me take protein supplements three times a day. That’s what he believes I need. And I take heavy duty vitamins and minerals, which I stick to fairly religiously. Cami: And you told me once what the statistics were of people who have success with the surgery verses those who don’t make adequate life-style changes. Do you remember what they are? Julie: I worked with a nutritionist, which my doctor didn’t insist on, but she said that fewer than 20 percent of people reach their goal weight even after the surgery. So it was exceptional for me to go down as low as I did. Cami: So, you know, I’ve watched you through this process, and I know that you didn’t just have a surgery. I know you worked extremely hard. What did you change in terms of your lifestyle? Julie: When I decided to have the surgery, I knew I was going to have to change my life dramatically. A box of crackers could not make dinner anymore. It wouldn’t do it. Slimfast and candy wouldn’t do it anymore. So I knew I would have to change a lot. At first, I had to devote myself to my instructions---making myself drink the protein even when I didn’t feel like it. Then when I worked with the nutritionist to find foods I liked that could make smaller but nutritious meals, I began eating regularly. Now I have given up most of the calorie rich foods I used to love, but I don’t miss them terribly. Cami: What do you think your caloric intake was when you first started losing weight? Julie: When I first started, my caloric intake was probably 900 to 1200 calories a day. I was doing three protein drinks a day plus small meals. And I’ve always exercised religiously. Cami: “Always” meaning your whole life, or “always” meaning once you made the commitment to lose the weight? Julie: Actually, my whole life I’ve walked and been fairly active, but once I started this, I was really committed to becoming fit. I started doing a walk video that I could do in my home right in front of my TV, and so I was expending those calories, which meant I had to keep up with the nutritional intake for that expenditure, too. Cami: When did you start running? Julie: I started running… well I’ve had multiple attempts at running in my life. I always wanted to run. I would run and then I would get hip pain or sinus pain or back pain and have to stop, and I’d be back to walking. So it was probably… Bellingham Fit began their running program in April or May of 2009, and that’s when I started running in earnest. Cami: And you were training for… what was your goal? Julie: The Bellingham Bay Marathon of 2009. Cami: And that race was in October of that year. Julie: Yes. So I knew I had wanted to do that. In the year 2000 my family all got together at a cabin at my sister-in-law’s place and we all talked about our goals for the next 10 years, from 2000 to 2010. And I told everyone I wanted to run the marathon. I was between 190 to 230---I don’t know what I was at the time. I know they all thought I was totally crazy. Cami: Did they laugh at you? Julie: No. They didn’t laugh. My family is very supportive, but I’m sure they were kind of going, “Sure. Right.” So it was very cool to have done that in my time frame. By 2010 I had done my first marathon. Steph: That’s so great. Cami: Congratulations. I know your family was very proud of you. I got to see that. Julie: My family is always supportive, but when I ran my 20-mile training run, my mother told my younger brother I was running 20 miles that day, and he said, “Oh mom, you must be mistaken. You didn’t hear her right. She’s running two miles.” And so he was blown away when he saw me running the marathon, and he was actually in tears watching me – which is pretty amazing, ‘cuz he’s a lovely guy but you wouldn’t think of your brother crying because you’re running. Cami: Nowadays how often are you working out? Julie: I work out at least five or six days a week, mostly six. At least 45 minutes of cardio each time, and weight lifting two days a week. Cami: You told me the other day while we were running that you had an epiphany. What was your epiphany? Julie: My epiphany was that now I am at the weight I should be at. I don’t really know how much I weigh because I have all this extra skin. So the scale shows 130, which I’m OK with. One-twenty-five has always been my ultimate goal weight, and I actually think if you took off all this skin I’d be below that. But it finally clicked that I wasn’t trying to lose weight anymore! I don’t have to have a calorie deficit. For so long, I’ve been trying to exercise off whatever I ate, and I realized I don’t have to do that now. I just have to work out for my health and I’ll maintain. Cami: What does that epiphany mean for you now as you go forward? Julie: It helps me ease up on myself. I tend to be quite hard on myself in the way I treat myself. And it’s like, you know, it’s OK to take days off and it’s OK to eat something extra. I don’t have to pay for it with extra exercise like I did before when I was still losing. I don’t have to be perfect. Cami: You said that you were always heavy, always overweight, but your family isn’t---at least not your siblings and your parents. What do you think contributed to your weight gain in the first place? Julie: Well, food is an issue in my family. Everyone works on it. My mom is very controlled, and my sisters think a lot about it. So it is an issue. I had a health thing when I was a baby where I was told I couldn’t keep food down. I was quite underweight for a seven-month-old until I had surgery that fixed the problem. They finally figured it out. I personally think that period of starvation, or less intake, affected me. From then on I ate. And it was a lot of sneak eating because somehow I always knew I wasn’t supposed to be eating as much as I was wanting to because the family valued being thin. But I still always wanted to eat. So I would sneak eat a lot when I was little, which caused my weight gain, but I think the early surgery had something to do with it. I was basically malnourished for the first few months of my life. Cami: Do you think that perfectionism you mentioned contributed to your weight at all? Julie: Totally! All or nothing thinking is a major, major roadblock, like in thinking, “Okay, I blew the diet totally, so I can go ahead and eat what I want.” Or if I’m not being good than it doesn’t count, but now I’ve been able to moderate that so I don’t have to do all or nothing. I’m still struggling with, “Okay I ate a little extra or I’m going to go out to dinner, so maybe I should do a little extra workout.” But I’m working on it. Cami: Talk about your struggle with changing your body image even though you’ve lost 130 pounds. Julie: It’s hard because when I get a glimpse of myself, I know that it’s me, but I still see myself as bigger. I’m not as big as I used to be in my brain, but when I look down I see extra skin, and I think it’s a roll of fat. Intellectually I know I can slide into places I didn’t used to be able to be, and I can move more easily, but if I don’t think about it, I still get surprised when I see myself. My last driver’s license picture, I’m thinking, “That doesn’t even look like me.” I reminded myself of my teenage nephew---angular. I’m still trying to figure out who I am. Cami: I remember when we were flying together to go to the marathon in Las Vegas. You were saying, “Look at me! I fit in this seat.” Julie: There are things that you take for granted as a thin person that you can’t do as a heavy person. And I always did my best to go and do, but you’re limited. You can’t touch your toes because your belly hits your thighs. You run into yourself. Or you travel and you fill up the seat. Now I don’t have to think, “Will the chair hold me?” I still marvel every time I can do something. Steph: Have you noticed a difference in the way other people look at or perceive you? Julie: Yeah. That was one of the really difficult things, because intellectually I know that people should value me the way I am, and I’m the same person fat or thin. But, especially with men I think, “If you don’t like me fat, why would you like me thin?” But people do treat me differently. There is in some ways more respect especially with people who knew me heavy. It’s interesting because being heavy gives you power in some ways; it gives you anonymity but also power of being present because people can’t run you over. When you’re littler, though, it’s harder because you can do more, but people kind of respect you more. Steph: That’s kind of sad. Julie: It really is. There are heavy people who are wonderful people. Steph: Like you, for years, right? Julie: That’s exactly right. I’m still me. I’ve done more things now, and I feel more powerful, but there is a power in being heavy, too. I was afraid of being smaller. Cami: Like would you be allowed to take up space in the world? Is that what it was about? Julie: It was actually more about security for me. You know, no one could grab me and carry me off when I weighed 260 pounds. At my weight now, someone could pick me up if they wanted to. I had to say, “OK, I can handle things. I’m a grown up and it’s okay to have that vulnerability.” Steph: Do you feel a difference in respect from people who knew you and from those who didn’t know you? Julie: There is a huge segment of the population that thinks heavy people are just slobs who don’t deserve respect. I was always a strong person who wouldn’t let people run over me, but yes the respect thing is weird. Cami: I know you’ve told me that you’re sometimes hesitant to tell people you had the surgery, as if you get fewer points for having lost this weight helped by a surgery instead of doing it all the conventional way. What would you say to people who are trying to make a decision about how they’re going to go about changing their life in terms of weight loss? Julie: Some people think the surgery is a bit of a cop out, and I used to think that, too. But you still have to totally change. And thank God the surgery did something for me the first six months to a year; I really didn’t care about food for the first time in forty-nine years. I didn’t wake up thinking about the food I wanted to eat that day or about the food I couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t eat. So it helped for me, but I still needed to make the good choices about eating the right things, taking my protein, exercising, drinking my fluids. It was hard work either way. Cami: What would you say to others who have struggled with their weight their whole lives and haven’t ever been able to achieve their goals? What kind of encouragement would you offer them? Julie: Number one is you have to do it for the right reasons. You have to do it to be healthy and to be able to move and to do. I was tired of my body holding me back. In deciding how you’re going to lose the weight you have to weigh out the benefits of a method with the consequences. I learned that… there’s a saying that “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” Most heavy people have heard that. And I’d heard it but never believed it. When you have a hundred pounds to lose by denying yourself, it takes forever. You have to get to the point where you believe that it is true. I feel so wonderful being able to move and to do. It was not worth eating a whole box of crackers. I can eat normally. Cami: Thanks Julie. Steph: Thanks for letting me a part of this. Julie: Thank you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

She Lost More than 100 Pounds!

Many readers of my book have written me to ask about my running pal, Julie. Her story of losing half her bodyweight has touched a lot of people, and some of you have told me your own stories of dropping a significant amount of weight. I’m so proud of Julie for her commitment to herself and of those of you who have been on similar journeys! Julie has promised to give me an interview next week, which I’ll transcribe and post here for you, but until then, let me remind you how she and I met and how I watched out my window as she reached her goal.

Julie already lived in our neighborhood of townhomes when Bill and I bought our unit. She was a friendly woman who walked her little Cairn terrier past our window twice a day. Bill and I liked her right away because she was high energy and interested in others. She greeted every neighbor with the same bright smile and series of sincere questions about our well-being. A labor and delivery nurse by profession, Julie had the aura of one who cared.

Julie was also a large woman. In fact, it seemed to us, as we watched from our window (just so you know, the only window in the lower half of all our units looks directly onto the street at street level---we weren’t spying) that she was heavy against all odds. Julie walked at least an hour every day in addition to the hours she spent on her feet at the hospital.

As I mentioned in the book, I come from a family of people who struggle with obesity, but in my family people are pretty sedentary. Julie was anything but sedentary and yet she was still fighting more than a hundred extra pounds.

One day, my two little dogs went ballistic as Julie and Miss Ricki passed our window. Bill and I glanced up from what we were doing and noticed that Julie looked like she was losing weight. We commented to each other that she looked good and then went on our way. This happened from time to time over the next several months until one day when our dogs barked, Bill said to me, “Who is that woman walking Miss Ricki this morning?”

I said, “It’s Julie, I think.”

“She’s lost a lot of weight,” he said. I looked more closely at her from inside my cozy home and thought, Sure enough! I wonder how she’s done it?

Now all this time, we never talked to Julie. It isn’t because we are antisocial; it’s because Julie worked nights at the hospital, so when she walked passed our window, we were either in our rushed morning routine of getting ready for work or, during her evening walks, having dinner. But then one day, I happened to arrive home just as Julie was heading home from one of her later walks and we started to chat. She had, indeed, lost well over 100 pounds and, it turned out, she was training to run a marathon! So how did she do it? And why now?

Julie has told me that she was “heavy in a family of skinny people” her whole life. She’s told me (and I’m authorized to tell you) that she felt loved and accepted by her family and that she loved and accepted herself, but that she knew her weight was taking its toll on her joints and on her ability to move about the world. She’d given herself a target weight decades ago, but had never been able to get there.

Let me assure you that she’s at her target now, and she’s maintained it for several years at this point. I do a lot more than watch Julie from my window these days. I run with her a few times a week. I also talk to her almost every day as she heads off to the gym or to the pool. She is an inspiration to me, often showing more commitment to her health and goals than I can muster myself.

And that’s the end of what I’ll say about Julie. Next week I’ll be interviewing her and transcribing the interview so you can hear from her yourself. If you have questions you’d like me ask her, send ‘em on to me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

DLF on the Sunset Loop

I still can't get my brain to focus on much besides Japan. The images on the television, though I've seen them now a hundred times, still draw me in and invite me to stand, dumbfounded in the center of my living room. But I did pull myself away from the TV for a 10-mile run on Saturday morning, and it's worth writing about.

Bill and I woke up to torrential rain that day. The wind was blowing and the downpour was coming in sideways, as it does sometimes around here. The plan was to suit up and drive to Anacortes for the Sunset Loop Relay run. Most participants would be in teams of four, each taking one 2.5-mile loop before passing the baton to the next runner. Bill wanted to get about 17 miles in last weekend as part of his training for the Boston Marathon, so he planned to do the full 10 miles on his own. And since I've been feeling ready to ramp up beyond six miles in a single run (my foot isn't totally healed, but it's much improved), I decided to come along for the ride/run.

When we saw the weather, Bill balked. Nobody loves to run in the pouring rain, but we do it often enough that I was surprised how adamant he was about not setting foot on the trail if it didn't let up that morning. Anacortes is an hour from our house, so we decided to take a chance that the weather would shift before we got there and, guess what? It did.

Once we had arrived in Anacortes, there was not another rain drop!

Here's the thing about doing a race in which most of the other runners are taking turns: They run only a fraction of what you run. That seems obvious, of course, but when Bill predicted I would finish LAST, I realized he was right. Always at the back of the pack, there's only one other time I ever remember coming in last. It was a 30K at Birch Bay. In that run there were two people behind me the whole race but somewhere before the finish, they bailed out, so although I finished last, I wasn't last on the course. This race stood the chance of being my first DLF (Dead Last Finish) fair and square.

I wasn't vying for the honor of DLF, mind you, but I was prepared for the possibility. And sure enough, as soon as I did the first loop, I was pretty sure the course was going to take me longer than everyone else. Don't ask me how you can run in a circle and still be going UP hill the whole way, but we did. Actually, the course was gorgeous. There were views of the water at several points and the whole paved drive was accessorized with the beautiful red bark of Madrona trees. But the route consisted of long, winding ups with sharp, short downs, which made me feel as if I could barely catch my breath before climbing again.

I'm happy to report that my foot felt good and my legs were working well for me, so I ran the whole course until the last lap when I walked part of the biggest hill. Bill joined me for that final loop and I'll admit to accepting the Prague Push for one of biggies, too. I came over the finish line at 2:08:58 - not bad I felt, but still DLF!

You don't get a prize for for being DLF, but you do get to know that you kept going longer than everyone else. Let's take pride in whatever we can. Life is short, why not?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Earthquake

A year ago, Bill and I were on pins and needles watching the earthquake devastation in Chile. We had tickets to fly through Santiago on our way to Punta Arenas. In the end, the Santiago airport opened; we arrived in Chile and saw the damage first hand. Very sad and disruptive for thousands of families!

Today, we’re watching horrifying pictures coming out of Japan, a country we have a lot of connection to and affection for. Bill spent his day fielding emails to and about his students as they attempted to make contact with their families and friends. I touched bases with most of my friends, too, and confirmed that they are OK. So far the news is that everyone we know is safe. The main issue for our friends in Tokyo has been that people could not get home from work yesterday. Everyone I’ve heard from has said that the trains in the city were not working and they therefore had to sleep at their offices. Most have made their way back home by now.

Once again, I’m grateful for those in my life who are safe and incredibly thankful for the kind and generous spirit that tragedy calls out of people. The Red Cross has some information about how they are helping with the disaster in Japan, as does World Vision, in case you are interested in donating to the rescue and recovery efforts.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

‘Bout this time of year, I’m dreaming about travel. It's almost time for Spring Break and Summer is around the corner. My friend, Carol, just left today for an eight day trip to India. It’s her first international trip, and when I heard that she had this opportunity, I was 95% happy for her and 5% jealous, as any good friend should be.

While she was preparing for her trip, she asked me if I had any packing advice. As it turns out, I do. Below is a re-post (with a couple of revisions) of my advice from The Spirited Woman site where I post weekly with travel ideas, advice and insight:

Packing 101:
I NEVER check a bag when I travel by air - no matter where I'm going or how long I'll be there.

There are several reasons for this. First of all, nowadays checking a bag costs extra on most airlines. And while I've heard of airlines charging even for carry-on luggage, most will still let you bring one small piece into the cabin. Second, I need to be free of encumbrances, and there's nothing that weighs me down more than a big ol' suitcase full of stuff I may or may not use. Third, and most personal, compact packing has become a little game my husband and I play.

On our last trip, to Anchorage, Alaska for the Humpy's Marathon, Bill and I were debarking the shuttle bus we rode to the airport and, as the driver was handing me my little suitcase, he said, "Wow, you must have nothing in here. How do you travel so light!" That's right, I won the lightest luggage contest on that trip - even with all my running gear in my bag. In fact, I usually win because Bill can't sleep without (and therefore has to pack) his favorite pillow. Yay for me.

So how does a woman pack everything she needs into a 22" X 14" X 9" case, especially if she cares about how she looks? Rick Steves, travel guru, has a terrific list of essentials that helped to get me started, but I have some additional tips to help you get everything you need on the plane with you:

**Pack only what you need for the climate you're going to. Take the chance that you'll have to purchase something on your trip. I've rarely had to do it.
**Plan to wash your clothes. You really need no more than two or three of anything (shirts, underwear, socks, etc.) if you bring the right items, even if you need to dress up on your trip.
**If you don't need them for work, forget all electronics except your e-book reader and your phone. Almost every hotel, hostel or motel will have a computer you can use to access email.
**Find a hair style that doesn't require heat. If you don't need your hairdryer and your other hair appliances, you reduce your need for space significantly.
**In terms of cosmetics, bring only one of each of the following: eye shadow, liner/pencil, foundation, lipstick, blush and mascara. Bring your favorites.
**Wear your heaviest clothing on the plane. Your running shoes and fleece jacket take up a lot of room in your bag, so put them on your body.
**If you travel often, invest in compact or mini-versions of everything you use on a daily bases. Items such as deodorant, alarm clock, purse, and journal, as well as many other things we use on a regular bases, can be purchased in smaller versions than we have in our homes.

A traveler wants to be able to focus on enjoying her experiences when she's gallivanting around the world. She doesn't need to spend her precious time worrying about how to lug heavy suitcases from place to place. Next time you take a trip, try packing LESS than you think you need and see what happens.