Physically, I'm half the woman I used to be, but as a result of my journey with gastric bypass surgery I've gained a lot. I'm Julia, and this blog is about the miles I've traveled in transforming my body, soul, and spirit while shedding more than 160 of the 300-plus pounds I carried before surgery. 

I'll share my personal experiences of restoring my health and changing my lifestyle, and I'll offer spiritual encouragement, social and emotional tools, nutritious recipes, health information, and more.

I've had a few challenges along the way, but through all the struggles I've grown stronger and regained my health and my life. I had my surgery on Easter Monday, 2006, which I call my personal resurrection day. Because of my transformation, I now look forward to many more "miles to go", and I invite you to travel with me on the road to a happier, healthier lifestyle....yes you can...I just did!

let's talk juice 


I live in a small town in eastern North Carolina, that's growing by leaps and bounds. Just last week a Tropicla Smoothie opened just down the road. Of course, we had to go check out the smoothies and sandwiches. 

The menu looked yummy and healthy, but beware, all that juice could spell trouble. This time I played it safe with a sandwich. I also asked for a nutritional menu to check my options for a smoothie visit.

Why the caution? Let's talk about drinking fruit juice after weight loss surgery.

We all know that there are health benefits to eating fruit: as well as disease-fighting antioxidants. Oranges prevent inflammation. Lemons can help with kidney stones as well as help with camps and fluid retention. Grapes can boost brain function. Prunes helps with digestion and regularity. Cranberry juice is good for urinary tract health.

But drinking juice is another matter, especially after gastric bypass surgery.  

Juice contains natural sugars, but even whole fruit juice, with no sugar added, is still a concentrated source of sugar and calories. This can cause problems for weight loss surgery patients including those watching their weight or blood sugar levels.  

Fruit juice contains high levels natural sugar, but it can also contain additional sugar. Juice lacks the fiber found in whole fruit, which means we not only miss getting the health benefits of fiber, but sugar, (natural or added) rapidly raises blood sugar levels.

The lack of fiber speeds up the entry of sugar in the bloodstream. Gastric bypass surgery also speeds up the process of undigested sugar "dumping" into the bloodstream— it's a double whammy.

Most gastric bypass patients have found that consuming over 10 grams of sugar at a time can cause problems such as rapidly rising blood sugar levels, causing dumping syndrome, producing abdominal cramps and causing severe diarrhea.

Let's look at the sugar contents of fruit juice: 

  • One 8-oz cup of orange juice contains 21g of sugar.
  • One 8-oz cup of cranberry juice has 30 grams of sugar.
  • One 8-oz cup of grape juice has 37 grams of sugar.
  • One 8-oz cup apple juice: 27grams of sugar. 

Compared to whole fruit, one medium orange has 12 grams of sugar. 

Only 40 percent of bariatric surgeons allow their patients to drink juice after gastric bypass procedures. The remaining 60 percent of surgeons instruct patients to dilute fruit juices 50/50 with water or to avoid juice altogether.

At our local Tropical Smoothie cafe, I decided the best option is to go small, really small, like kid size. Something like strawberry or banana has less sugar. I could even add a little peanut butter, for a little protein. Even though the peanut butter has more fat grams, it also slows down the rate of absorbtion of the sugar. One good rule of thumb is to make sure I don't consume sugar without first eating a protein loaded meal. Even then I wouldn't suggest comsuming the entire thing at one sitting.  

  • One US cup = 8 fluid ounces.
  • One UK cup = 10 fluid ounces

dump it

As weight-loss surgery patients, we all know about dumping and we want to avoid it at all cost. But here is one "dump" you will want to have—and that's a "brain dump".

Ever notice how much emotional and mental energy can be spent on unmanaged clutter or uncompleted tasks? Unidentified boundaries or unresolved relational issues can drain our energy and clutter our mind and emotions. These are called energy drainers.

But there is a way to let go of unwanted brain clutter—have a brain dump. A brain dump is when you identify your energy drainers then empty all the clutter from your mind by writing it down and organizing your thoughts.

Once you have pinpointed all your energy drainers, you can begin to set new boundaries, make needed changes, and free your mind of clutter.

Here's how:

restore and reenergize

Sitting down with a piece of paper, or a computer and write down all your thoughts, things that need to be done or remembered, or anything that is on your mind. Writing these down, places them on a do-able list instead of juggling them around in your head. This frees you mentally and also physically. 

Below is a list of some common energy drainers, plus a few of my own.  I'm sure you can add some more of your own.

• Clutter at work or home 
• Not enough sleep
• Constant worry
• Taking on too much responsibility
• Over committing or over scheduled your calendar
• Little time for hobbies or things you enjoy
• Lack of exercise
• Poor food choices
• Incomplete projects
• Failure to address issues or challenges, such as unresolved relational issues
• Allowing issues to build up
• Failure to set clear boundaries
• Not allowing yourself to say “NO”
• Unorganized house or work space
• Failure to clearly communicate your needs
• Stress at work
• Keeping a "mental" to-do list
• A home environment that does not reflect who you are

I challenge you to think about your own energy drainers and ask yourself two questions: “What would be possible if I no longer was tolerating these drains in my life” AND “What am I currently doing to address my energy drainers?”

Here's how to un-clutter your life in three easy steps: 

1) evaluate your energy and identify energy drainers
2) establish a do-able plan 
3) eliminate energy drainers - one at a time.

Yes, we can, we have many more miles to go!

small steps to long-term success

Lots of people write me asking about weight regain. Either they have gained weight or they have a fear of gaining back weight. This fear is common. But it doesn't need to rule us—regain is something that we need to understand and allow ourselves to put into perspective. Here are the facts:

  1. A certain percentage of regain is expected after weight loss.
  2. Re-gain may occur because our weight dropped lower than we were able (or willing) to maintain.
  3. As we grow older, we experience a lower metabolic rate and/or reduced activity levels.
  4. We experience a gradual departure from our healthier choices.

So whether we are just fearful of gaining back or have found a few pounds from surgery, let's get down to discovering how we can set our minds on healthier mindsets toward weight, establish realisitic mindsets on weight lose as well as weight gain, and how return to healthier lifestyle choices.

I lost the majority of my weight in 18 months after surgery, but it took several years before I actually found a weight that I was conformable maintaining. I jokingly say that when I reached my lowest weight, eleven years ago, I only stayed there for 30 minutes, because I wasn't able to maintain it long enough to make any difference. I bounced back a few pounds right away.

A few years later, I had some plastic surgery done, they removed about 10 pounds of skin. Slowly over a few years until I began to gain those 10 pounds back. The initial exuberance I experienced losing weight, being 138 pounds and wearing a size 4 or 6—although wonderfully exciting—was not realistic for me to maintain in the long run.

I've had to accept that my lowest number on the scale was not a bench-mark for my success. At my lowest I lost 30 pounds more than the goal weight my surgeon had set for me, and I gained back that 10 percent—which is an average re-gain. With that said, I have maintained my health and improved quality of life during my 11 year journey. I call that success.

Over the years, there are been many changes. I've changed. My lifestyle has changed. I'm 11 years older than I was when I had surgery, so over time, my weight has changed and so have my weight loss goals. I think 138 pounds was unrealistic and an emotion goal in the first place. I no longer need to be that weight emotionally. 

Maintaining weight loss is about adapting to a new lifestyle. We have had a lifetime of losing weight, but we are not as experienced in keeping it off. That's not to say we won't ever gain weight—it's just part of the process. Once I reached a weight I could maintain, and despite fighting severe hypoglycemia, I managed to keep my weight in the "maintaining category" for several years.

With that said, the last 4 years of my life have been exceptionally and emotionally stressful—involving moving three times, dealing with the loss of my mother, as well as learning how to control my low blood sugar levels. I have gotten off track with my eating several times. Even though my surgeon says I'm within 10 pounds of his goal weight, I am uncomfortable with additional pounds. 

From time to time,  I have had to make a commitment to get back to the basics and lose a few pounds.

I have needed to re-new my bariatric lifestyle habits. I even joined Weight Watchers. For me, joining Weight Watchers, helped me re-establish my boundaries, find accountability, and encouragement to return to a disciplined lifestyle. 

Weight loss surgery isn't the "quick fix" or the "end all, be all". It's about having boundaries in place to lose weight and keep it off. Old habits and weight can come back. Weight loss surgery not about making temporary changes until you get the weight off and go back to the old way of eating.

It still demands constant attention to healthier choices and when we realize that we are no longer making those healthier food choices we must find the courage to turn back to the right path.

Health is not about numbers on the scale. The bottom line is about making healthier lifestyle choices. Whatever that looks like for you. It just involves getting back to the basics—making a plan, committing to the plan and working the plan until you reach your goal.

Weight loss after surgery—doable.

Weight re-gain after surgery—probable. 

Losing the re-gained weight again—absolutely. 

Yes, we can. We have many more miles to go!

the fish school moment

It finally happened, the moment I had been waiting for over a year, maybe two! That “ah ha” moment when you realize the thought you just had was a breakthrough to success. It’s like finding that missing piece of the 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle. The one that is so much like all the rest that you thought you would never find it. After all, you have tried every piece, more than once. Then, suddenly, there it is. The one that fits. You are relieved and inspired. You can continue with the puzzle with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.

That is how I felt the moment my mind became united with my new body. It was November 2008—two and a half years after I had weight loss surgery.

I had to start believing it was real. Really believing it. I realized that the thought that I was really believing was something I had told myself repeatedly over and over again for years. The belief that I was hopelessly overweight, things were never going to change and that I was always going to be.  Forever doomed to be overweight and unhealthy. That is when the light came on. That was the “disconnect” that kept my mind from seeing my true size as it really was. The belief that I would never change simply was not true. Not anymore. I had changed. I am different. 

I had to  continue to tell myself the real truth to displace the lie that I believed about myself. Not easy, but that is what replacing those old mindsets with a renewed mind means. We become what we believe. I was believing a former truth, but that truth wasn't relative anymore. Success comes with changing our core beliefs. Those beliefs rule our actions. We must uncover the lies that we believe and replace them with new truth. 

Someone recently emailed me a story that communicates this thought very well, written by Simon T. Bailey. 

“I am reminded of a story about a large fish that was placed in the middle of an aquarium with minnows to feed on. The fish fed to his heart’s delight. Then, the researchers placed a glass partition in the tank, dividing it in two. After the pike had eaten all of the minnows on his side of the partition, he could see the other minnows through the glass but he couldn’t get to them. He thrashed, he bumped, he bashed his body against the glass partition, but to no avail. He finally formed a belief that it was impossible for him to get to those fish. He stopped trying! Then, the researchers moved the glass partition and allowed the minnows to swim all around him.

He could smell them. He could see them. He could feel them. But he believed that those fish were no longer available to him – that they were forever locked away from him – that it was impossible for him to win. So he starved to death in the middle of an aquarium full of food.”

Are you ready to unlock your full potential?  Yes…you can…you have many more miles to go!

More on how to replace old mindsets and habits and begin life anew, in my book, "Out of Obesity and into the Promised Land". 

Posted on Tuesday, August 22, 2017 at 11:00AM by Registered CommenterJulia Holloman in , | Comments Off

safe and friendly fast food options

You may have been told, as I was, that after weight loss surgery fast food is off limits. But, let's face it, sometimes in life, especially when traveling, we are faced with little or no choice BUT fast food. We can't always control our restaurant options, but we can learn to make the best decision possible under these circumstances.


  • Make the resolve long before your faced with dilemma, you want to make a practical decision based on wisdom not an emotional one in the heat of the moment. 
  • Sticking to the lean meats, whole foods, and avoiding fried items. There are some fast food establishments now that offer a wider variety of healthier choices. 
  • Make fast food fare an occasion and get back to your routine as soon as possible.

Here are a list of better choices when visiting fast food.

  • grilled chicken
  • grilled seafood
  • fruit
  • veggies and salads, (use low calorie dressings, lemon or carry your own)
  • chili 
  • soups, (watch out for the "creamy" varieties and choose options with protein and veggie ingredients)
  • lean deli meats such as turkey, ham and cheese, (avoid or limit bacon) 
  • roast beef 
  • taco meats and beans
  • hamburger
  • reduce the bread
  • avoid fried foods, sauces, condiments and gravys

Hamburger is at the bottom of the list for a reason. It's not that we can't eat them, but there are other choices that are better. If hamburger is my choice, I compensate by making a few adjustments. I take off the bread or eat a very small portion, (only about a 1/4 of the bun). Reduce the fat by leaving off the cheese and mayo and keep it moist by adding tomato, onion, pickles and lettuce. You can control your condiments by getting mayo and ketchup on the side or substitute mustard for mayo.  

I usually eat cheese with lean meats such as turkey, ham, or even roast beef, but usually not with hamburger. I find that hamburger offers more protein and will keep me fuller longer, but adding cheese or other fats such as bacon or mayo is taking the risk of dumping. Spending calories is a lot like spending money, where can you get the most for your buck.  

I probably eat at Moe's Southwestern Grill, or other Mexican fare, more than anywhere else when it's "fast food".  At Moe's I can get 1/2 taco meat and 1/2 chicken, add a little cheese and black beans. I usually choose the chips, (personal preference) which I can control the portion instead of rice, wraps or shells. Tortilla chips have 1.2 grams of carbs per chip. So if I eat 5 pieces that is 6 carbs and 31 calories verses a 6" flour wrap with 15 carbs and 95 calories.   

If your faced with fried food options, such as fried chicken, just remove the skin...I know, I know—that's the best part. This is where I have to do a little self—reminding myself of my goals and remembering what the consequences are for eating it...extra calories, greasy fat that goes directly to my thighs, additional hidden carbs that could drop my blood sugar, higher cholesterol, an unsettled tummy, a few hours of nausea, feeling like I swallowed a brick, severe stomach cramps and explosive diarrhea, thanks. Not so appetizing anymore!

One good idea is the familiarize yourself with our options. Dont be afraid to ask what information and make request for what your need. Most every restaurant has nutritional information on-line now or on site, so do your homework ahead of time and play it safe. For instance, I sometimes treat myself to the French Vanilla Iced Coffee at McDonalds—I order the small with half the syrup. It also comes in sugar-free!

We can't and won't always be 100% on-point with our food options, but the key is to make wise choices and get back on track as soon as possible. Once you establish good habits you don't have to "sweat" the once-in-a-while stuff. You're not going to become overweight with one indulgence, it's what becomes the routine that is important.