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!

oh, honey, honey!

Recently, I've been studying honey. I became interested in honey when reading the biblical story of Samson. Samson defeats a lion, then later returns to find honey there— retrieving the sweet reward even among the bees.

I've learned a lot about honey that I never knew before, honey is one of the most amazing foods I have ever seen. It's a natural preservative. It's good for just about everything, including, believe it or not, stabilizing your blood sugar, weight loss, and even promotes sleep. Athletes use honey for strength and energy.

Honey contains Vitamins such as A and C. These nutrients are good for vision, skin, and bones. Honey is considered an antioxidant, fights cell damage and even cancer. It helps maintain healthy teeth by strengthening enamel. It is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-fungal.

Honey can be helpful with stablizing your blood sugar (when eaten in small amounts). It's a treatment for certain eye conditions, a cough suppressant, improves sleep, increases your body's immune system. It reduces cholesterol, helps curb your appetite and promotes fertility. It helps heal wounds and dry skin. You name it, and honey cures just about everything. 

I find that honey is a tasty addition to my afternoon snack of meat and cheese. When purchasing honey, look for the darker colored varieties. Raw honey, which means its unheated, is best because it still contains its natural nutrients. 

Honey is digested slower than can sugar so it doesn't spike your blood sugar, causing it to crash, however make sure you only eat honey in small amounts, especially if you are diabetic. I start my day with a teaspoon of honey at breakfast and find it especially helpful at bedtime for promoting sleep and stabilizing blood sugar overnight. When your blood sugar is steady, it reduces cortisone levels which in turn reduce stress. A teaspoons throughout the day is good for you. Taste several kinds:  Orange Blossom, Tupelo, or a local wildflower variety.

Spiritually speaking, honey is symbolic of God's Word. In it's natural state, with nothing added or taken away, honey is just like the Word of God - it's eternal. A little honey every day is just like "tasting" God's Word everyday—it's healing, it keeps you spiritually strong and promotes good health.

In the story of Samson, he experienced supernatural strength. Led by God's Spirit, he was empowered to overcome the adversaries that stood in his way and the end result was sweet and rewarding. I encourage you to discover more about the benefits of honey both physically and spiritually.  Enjoy! 

Yes, you can. You have many more miles to go!  

Taste and see that the Lord is good... Psalm 34:8

How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!     Psalm 119:103

nibbling away at success

The first year my husband and I were married, we planted a garden. We had both worked along side our parents as children, and were no stranger to family farming. But this experience was far more than either of us bargained for. We began to realize, we really didn't have a clue how much work there was to be done to bring forth a harvest in an abandoned field. 

We worked hard on our garden. It was quite a large undertaking for the two of us. We claimed our ground, too much ground, actually. We rented a tiller, cut through huge weeds to clear out space in an untended field. Everyday after work, we would work in our garden. With very little rain that year, we transported water in our trash cans, for a mile in the trunk of our small red Vega, because we didn't have a water source.

Then, after all that work, the bugs and critters ate more of our crop than we did. We did harvest mounds of cucumbers and squash. So much in fact, we couldn't give it away fast enough. I guess even animals, insects and root rot don't like squash. 

Looking back, I was reminded that successful weight loss is like growing a garden.

In the beginning of my weight loss surgery journey in early 2006, the Lord was also planting some "seeds" in my life. I came across a scripture in the Book of Isaiah. Although, at the time I was preparing for my physical weight loss journey, I had a lot more "inner" work to do than I knew or ever dreamed there was to do. As I read this passage from I began to see and experience it's implications. At the time, this verse became significant to me in a spiritual sense, but little did I know how much promise it held to keep me growing forward emotionally in the years ahead.    

"This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit." Isaiah 37:30

The First Year

During this time in history, the Israelites were returning to their homeland from a place of captivity. I would guess that the land was probably not tended in their absence. It would take about three years for a vineyard to produce fruit. There was work to be done.

This verse in Isaiah 37:30 tells us that the first year they got a little bit of a break. The existing vines would produce enough to sustain them.

Just like the first year after weight loss surgery, weight loss does seem to progress "by itself"—compliance with diet and exercise and things go fairly effortlessly. But then, comes the second and third years.

The Years Ahead

The second year you seem to be sailing along on the heels of your success, just as the verse implies, whatever comes, even though you may have to put forth a little more effort, you hardly seem to notice—you're still in the honeymoon stage of weight loss, everything is just fine. Then as you come to the end of the weight loss phase, things become harder. Something seems to be nibbling away at our hard earned success. Not only does weight loss seem to require more "work", so does compliance. Sowing is easy compared to tending and reaping.  

As weight loss surgery patients, we have all faced the statement, "Oh, you took the easy way out". Yeah, right!  Any one who has experienced bariatric surgery first-hand knows differently. Easy. The relatives, husbands, wives, close friends, sisters, brothers, sons, or daughters, even trained health care professional and physicians—they all work along side. They are a great support team, indispensable, but they are just that—support. They keep us strong and steady. They help us stand when we need a helping hand. But they don't, and can't, do the work for us. They see the results of our efforts, but it's another matter to go through the emotional and mental experiences of the weight loss journey. In order to accomplish long-term weight loss success, there is an inner work that has to be accomplished to bring forth lasting fruit—a work that only we can do.

Have you ever planted a garden? Just like weight loss surgery, I was somewhat prepared for the physical work, but I wasn't prepared for the emotional work. Just like the Israelites, spiritually, I had to been held in the captivity of obesity and I need to be set free. Just like planting a garden, the fruit of freedom is like the fruit we harvest from the ground, it doesn't just come up by scattering a few seeds here and there. We must prepare the soil, water, prune and tend the field. Sometimes the weeding seems endless. Then there are those pesky critters to contend with.

If you have ever planted a garden or even a small tomato plant or a blueberry bush, you know that every seed you plant or plant you set doesn't come to fruition. Nor does the garden just grow and produce healthy fruit on it's own. I'm certain there were things that stole your harvest and it took some effort to find what was nibbling at your success.

Just like our first garden experience, I found out quickly that planting and watering the garden was the easy part. Dealing with unlying causes of not producing fruit was the key to success. Gardening under the tutelage of my parents was different, I didn't have to worry about the success of the garden I just helped water, weed and harvest.

Just like weight loss surgery, there is work involved. The first year goes easy, but long-term success comes with lots of hard work, for years to come. Weight loss success requires emotional, mental and spiritual work.

Richard and I had no idea what was eating our tomatoes, nibbling on bean stalks, digging up the roots, or stealing our harvest. Just like life after surgery, finding the root causes of what ails us, things hidden from sight, hidden hurts, deep down where no one else sees is what we really need to focus on. Some have long roots that have entwined themselves around our heart so tightly that they have choked out our self-esteem and self-worth. Some plants grow just fine on the ground, but others need to be guided upward or even sheltered, and protected.

Just like growing a garden, the promise of success comes with diligent work. In the end the victory is as sweet and delicious as fresh as hand-picked fruit. It's the difference between a store bought tomato and a fresh summer variety picked straight from the vine. The fruit of your labor is so much more rewarding than "grocery store" shopping.   

So it is with permanent weight loss. There is a lot of work to be done to be successful, but so worth it. Just as the rewards to planting come with great rewards, so does the "emotional" weeding we do for weight loss success. The end result provides us with health not just for us, but also to those around us. Easy...no, but the reward is a harvest of long-term success.

Yes, you can. You have many more miles to go!

the importance of 30 

In the beginning of my journey as a bariatric surgery patient, I was encouraged to stay within a 30-30-30 guideline.

The 30-30-30 guideline is meant to keep you within the boundaries of weight loss success. Let's review the basics and find out why it's important. 

30 before, 30 during, 30 after.

  1. Stop drinking 30 minutes before your meal.
  2. Slowdown: Mealtime should be about 30 minutes: during that 30 minutes, chew your food 30 times (or until the consistency of applesauce) and don't drink any liquids during your meal.
  3. Don't drink for 30 minutes after your meal. 

So why is it so important to follow this guideline? There are several reasons:

30 Minutes Before:  Proper Nutrition and Good Health

Weight loss surgery is not just about outward appearances—or getting into smaller size clothes, it is a medical procedure meant to improve health. But this procedure also carries risk as well as increased responsibility for health and nutrition.

During the day, you should be sipping water constantly—hydration is a must. However, it is important to stop drinking 30 minutes before you start eating. Our new stomach pouch restricts calories, but that also means restrictive nutrition. It is important to eat a healthy diet. Not drinking before meals will allow your stomach to empty of water—permitting you to eat enough food to fulfill your nutritional requirements and prevent malnutrition. 

30 Minutes During—Chewing Each Bite 30 Times:  Avoid complications, Dumping, and Hunger.

Slow down and chew more. Your new stomach "pouch" is much smaller than your former stomach, therefore, it does not have the same amount of digestive acids as it did before. The outlet to your new stomach has been changed also. Therefore, food leaves the stomach differently. In order for food to remain safely inside the stomach until it can slowly exit is important. Your mouth must do more work in the pre-digestion process. Chewing your food approximately 30 times (or until the consistency of applesauce) before swallowing will help things go a lot smoother.

If food is not chewed properly, it will be too large to exit, getting stuck, plugging up your stomach. This could result in pain, nausea, foaming, or vomiting. If the food does not dislodge quickly, severe complications could occur, requiring medical attention. Take it from me, no amount of drinking will dislodge food that is stuck at the stomach exit, and drinking will only make things worse. 

Again, because your stomach pouch is so small, filling up on water during the meal will keep you from eating enough food. Drinking fluids washes food from the pouch too soon and will also cause you to be hungry sooner, or over or under eat. This doesn't mean you can't have a few sips, but more than a few sips will get you into trouble. Believe me, it's painful to overfill your pouch and just a few sips could be enough to cause pain. Chewing well will eliminate the need for drinking.

Slowing down and not drinking while eating were probably the hardest habits to establish after I had surgery but soon it became a lifetime habit.  

30 Minutes After:  Avoid Overeating, Hunger and Dumping.

You should not return to drinking liquids until at least 30 minutes after a meal. This will allow your meal to leave your stomach. If your stomach empties too quickly, dumping could occur. Since your stomach will be empty, the temptation to snack on empty calorie or non-nutritional foods is greater.  

It sounds complicated, but it's really simple.These habits take time to perfect. Practicing them before surgery is highly recommended.

Yes, you can. You have many more miles to go!

the tips on me: forks down, please!

Feeling as though you are eating too much?

Are you eating too fast? 

Feeling too full after a meal?

One solution: slow down 

Mealtime after surgery, should be slow and easy. It's sometimes hard to break old habits, or easy to fall back into them, little by little. But one of the things, I have noticed lately is that if I remember to place my food, or my fork completely down for a few minutes, I eat less.

So, my tip for today: Put your fork down between bites. Rest. And Focus.

Even if you're eating hand-held foods, such as a sandwich or a taco, place your food back on your plate between bites and wait a few minutes before taking another bite. This will help you feel full gently and help prevent overeating. This will also give you time to feel your fullness level.

After weight loss surgery, it may only take one bite to make you feel like you have overeaten. Taking small breaks will give you time to concentrate on taking smaller bites. It will also allow you to feel whether you need to keep eating or stop. The key is to eat enough within healthy limits and not too much. Even after 12 years, I still have to remind myself to practice the basics. 

In the beginning, after surgery I needed more concentration at mealtime than before. If I got distracted by too much going on, noise or conversation, I noticed I didn't eat correctly or feel well after I ate. That's why practicing the basics of portion control and lifestyle change is important. Practice can begin even before surgery and keep practicing not and then for a lifetime! 

Yes, you can. You have many more miles to go!

go a little deeper

Before weight loss surgery we are required to face, what is for most of us, an extremely intimidating interview or evaluation with a psychiatrist. 

Why? Do they think we're crazy?

No...certainly not! Even though our sanity depends on a "little craziness" sometimes, it's doesn't mean there is anything to fear.

Obesity comes with it's share of years of being judged unfairly by others as undisciplined, with no self-control and maybe a little "crazy." But really, we're no different that the rest of the world. Our "crazies" just happen to be more obvious than some.  

By that I mean—we just happen to turn to food for comfort and to cover a life-time of hurts, stresses, heartaches, pain and low self-worth, it doesn't mean we're crazy or any different than any one else. 

It's really a starting point to help us identify life's stresses and how we can conquer them. Just as we have physical tests to help determine if we are ready physically, this evaluation is to determine our mental preparedness. 

Weight loss surgery is a lifestyle change, which requires determination to change. This surgery is as much about "mindset" as physical compliance.

These professionals are there to help us return to health, they understand underlying issues that turn us toward our addictions and can offer solution toward healing. Rarely do these interviews result in decline of surgery, it should be a tool to help us find our way to health.

It will be helpful to have a plan for dealing with stress before the interview. 

Asking yourself questions beforehand will help prepare you for the interview. 

  • Do I understand the lifetime commitment I are making to compliance with diet and exercise?
  • Am I  willing and ready to change my mind?
  • Do I have a plan to deal with stress?
  • Am I prepared with a plan to deal with addictive behaviors?
  • Do I have a plan that will hep me not to transfer these behaviors over to other vices?
  • Am I willing to get to the root of "what's eating me"?

You can probably tell by the questions that behavioral changes will be in order to be successful, however—changing our behavior doesn't fix the issue at the root. What we really need to to change our mind by discovering what makes us eat in the first place. Success takes a lifetime commitment, willingness to get to the root issues, as well as a mindset to change. You can read more about these important changes in my book, Out of Obesity and into the Promised Land, available on Amazon.

 This interview is for your benefit, you're going to make it through just fine...Yes, you can!