Walking Toward Change



Julie Bartels has a half-hour for lunch, but she’s not wasting a single minute.

Speeding along the winding trail that circles the 30-acre site of the Terry Redlin Museum in Watertown, SD, she can make it all the way around twice and still have time to grab a quick salad at a nearby store.

“You say elevator. I say stairs,” she says, pointing to the saying written on the bright pink t-shirt she wears. “That’s the way I live my life now.”

Less than two years ago, the walk would have been almost impossible for the 32-year-old woman. Her weight had passed the 300-pound mark and she often didn’t want to leave the house or even get out of bed some mornings.

No time for health

The busy mom of four kids, ages six to 17, rarely had time to think about herself. And she preferred not to.

“I was the kind of person who wanted to stay in the shadows – the tired, sad, depressed kind of mom,” she says as she walks. “I didn’t want anyone else to even see me because I knew I didn’t look very good.”

Julie had struggled with her weight since she was a high school senior. She was 19 when had her first child and never really lost the weight she gained. Over the years, she was a “drive-through queen,” who rarely had time to exercise or cook the kind of meals that she knew she ought to eat.

For years, Julie had also struggled with depression and anxiety and nothing seemed to help. An emotional eater, she had plenty of issues that led to a total loss of control with food.

Motivation for change

Her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in February 2009. In her last days, she made Julie promise that she would do something to lose the weight. She began to think about weight loss surgery.

“I knew that I had to do something to be able to be around for my family,” Julie said. “Everyone needed me, but I began to realize that it was important to me. I needed me too.”

In July 2010, her doctor referred her for weight loss surgery. After consulting with bariatric surgeon Dr. Curtis Peery, she opted for laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, also known as Lap-Band® surgery.

The procedure involves the surgeon placing an adjustable silicone band around the upper or top part of the stomach, sectioning the stomach into two portions – one small and one larger. The band is then adjusted by accessing a port underneath the skin of the abdomen allowing for customizable restriction.

Lap-Band® surgery, which is one of least invasive gastric surgery methods, and helps most patients feel full on a smaller portion, which in turn helps them eat less. Combined with a healthy diet and exercise, in addition to follow up for adjustments, the Lap-Band® acts as a tool to aid weight loss.

Julie knew that the surgery was a powerful tool to help her change her eating habits. She eats only small portions and tries to pick food that will be good fuel for her body.

“I don’t need to eat to feel good, but I know I need to eat to look good,” Julie said. “If something is good for me and happens to taste really good, it’s just an added bonus.”

Two days after her surgery, Julie started exercising. She knew that it would take far more than just eating differently to change her body and her life. She went from walking just minutes a day to working to fit in exercise every way she can.

A better life

The work has paid off. She’s dropped over 100 pounds, now weighing around 190 pounds. Her anxiety and depression issues went away. She has found she has all the energy she needs to be a fun, active mother to her four children.

Today, she loves to shop for clothes – particularly exercise gear. She takes every opportunity to get out and move, even coaching a soccer team of seven-year-old boys.

“I have no trouble keeping up with them. They can’t keep up with me,” she says, sassily snapping her fingers.

Julie feels better than she ever has before. Weight loss surgery and a commitment to exercise have made her happier and healthier than ever.

“You need to search your heart and think about how long it’s been since you’ve taken care of yourself,” Julie said. “This is not a selfish choice, but one that will give you the energy you need to be there for your family in the years to come.”

Posted Date: May 2012

Walking Toward Change

At over 300 pounds, Julie Bartels used to stay in the shadows, crippled with anxiety that kept her from being a fun, active mom. Learn how this Watertown woman paired weight loss surgery and a commitment to exercise to transform her life.