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Salute to Success~ November 2013

        This month, I want to introduce you all to Juli.  Here is Juli's story in her own words...
        "Hello! My name is Juli. :) I've lost more than 200 pounds, and I can tell you that it is almost like having a whole new life!!
        I was a normal weight through college. At 21, I got married, had a baby and was divorced all within a year. My life took a downward spiral due to abuse, emotional eating and depression. I began eating to deal with loneliness, depression, and inability to deal with my emotions in a healthy manner. Bad choices built upon bad choices. By the time I was 30, I weighed 350 pounds.
        In 2003, I met my present husband. I felt loved, accepted and happy. My life was better! I started trying to lose weight. I lost 80 pounds. But then an unplanned late pregnancy brought both happiness and health problems at the same time. Gestational diabetes made me ill the entire 9 months. I had to take 2 insulin shots a day, and even then my blood sugar was too high. After the birth of my son, my blood sugar leveled out, but I gained back all of the weight I lost.
         In 2005, I met Richard Simmons at a Women's Expo in Charlotte, NC. He gave me the best advice I have ever received. He told me to never give up, to believe in myself and to always do my best. Every day. At the time, my weight was so high that I had given up on myself. I wasn't ready to take his advice.
         In 2007, I had a cancer scare. I learned there was an 80 % chance I had uterine cancer. The surgeon said that my condition was directly related to my morbid obesity. At that time, I was above 400 pounds.
         Even that wasn't enough to make me change my life though. By 2010, I was told that not only did I had Type 2 diabetes, but I also had severe kidney and liver problems. All because of my weight. I was at my highest weight at that point. 425 pounds. The doctors told me that something had to be done immediately, or I would be dead within a few months. My organs were beginning to fail. I was given a choice. Have surgery to stop my out of control diabetes and other health problems, or die. Lose weight -- or die.  I could either change the way I was living my life, or morbid obesity would kill me.  I chose to live.
        In the months before my surgery, I started walking. At first, I put a chair in my yard. I walked from that chair, down my driveway to the road and back to my chair. It was only a few feet, but by the time I finished, I would be in tears because of the pain. I would walk those few steps and sit down over and over each day. Then I moved to walking up to the corner and back to my house. Then it was around the block.  
         I remembered Richard's advice, and I was ready to take it! Every day I did my best! I gave 100%, even if it was only walking a few steps down my driveway. I gained strength, motivation and a firm belief in myself.
         Just before I had gastric bypass in December 2010, I was filmed for a British weight loss show. Basically I was used as an example of someone who had let their weight get so out of control that it was too late. When a television crew flies thousands of miles to film you because you are an example of morbid obesity at it's worst, it is truly a humbling and humiliating experience. But, I used that experience to fuel my desire to change my life, rather than seeing it as negative. If my story causes just one person to change their lives, then all the embarrassment of being on international television at my highest weight in my underwear is so TOTALLY worth it!
          I lost 60 pounds before my RNY surgery in December 2010. The surgery put my diabetes into remission and I felt healthier than I had in years. It wasn't long before my liver function and kidneys improved as well. I do not recommend RNY surgery unless it is completely and without a doubt the LAST resort. It is dangerous and life-threatening. For me, it was surgery or death. The moment I woke up in recovery, I was up and walking -- and I haven't stopped since. For me, this was not a Magic cure for my obesity, but a beginning to a lot of hard work.
          Three years later, I have lost more than 200 pounds. My blood sugar is normal. My liver and kidney function is normal.  I have gone from barely being able to walk, to being able to walk for many miles with no pain or problems. This year, I even took up running. I ran my first 5K in October.
         I've gone from being someone who was facing death, to a very strong, confident and fit person!!
         It is possible. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE!!! Changing habits and coming back from morbid obesity is HARD WORK. It requires discipline, dedication, self-motivation and FAITH.
         When I crossed the 5K finish line after running those 3 miles, I felt like I had just completed my own personal Olympics. For me, I was just as elated as those athletes who stand proudly to receive a gold medal.  All those hours at the gym, all those miles at the track, all the walking, running, aerobics, weightlifting -- it all culminated in me crossing that finish line. I can't even explain the joy I felt! That was just my first race -- I plan to run many more!!
         I was 420 pounds. I was told I was dying. I was told it was TOO LATE for me.
         None of that was true. I faced immense obstacles -- horrible health issues.  And I powered my way through it.
         Through those months where I was struggling to even walk a few steps and the pain was nearly more than I could bear, I could hear Richard's voice in my head saying "Never give up, believe in yourself and every day do your best!''  He was 100% correct. Those words kept me going when it would have been easier to quit. When I was in tears because my hips and knees were so painful I could hardly stand it, those words kept coming back to me and it kept me going.  I owe Richard Simmons my life.  The day I finished that race, I came home and immediately sent an email to tell him THANK YOU. All those years ago when he took a few moments out of his day to give heartfelt advice to a woman who wasn't ready to listen means more to me than I can even explain.   That simple advice changed my life.
Never give up. Believe in yourself. Always do your best. 
        It's so true. Even if your best is only a few steps -- do the best you can every day. Over time, that will change your life. I guarantee it!! The fact that I am alive today attests to that.
         I still have 50 pounds to lose, but I know I will get to my goal weight! Every week I get stronger and healthier.
         Be proud of your accomplishments!! Every milestone is important -- relish them!! I remember the first time I made it all the way through WipeOut in Sweatin to the Oldies 1....I remember when I walked my first mile....I remember when I was able to run a mile. Be proud of each change that you make in your life, even small ones!! Believe in yourself!!
          I wish all of you the best of luck. Always listen to Richard. His simple advice is spot on!
          And again, THANK YOU Richard!! Love you!"  
          Thank you so much for sharing your story with my readers Juli!  I know you will inspire many people...and help them remember that it is never too late to start taking care of yourself!