Hi all- Today you are going to get to know another one of my favorite rockstars- Julie!

You’ll find her healthy story is different from Lauren’s, but that’s one of the best things about this series- you get to see MANY kinds of healthy lifestyles from a bunch of incredible folks.  I hope you’ll enjoy this one, Julie’s someone I know from the wonderful world of the theat-ah so maybe you’ll get a little drama :).

Exercising Blanche Dubois
By Julie Griffith

God bless old people who have no filters.


I was in Cleveland, Mississippi for Christmas holidays, sitting on a pew with my huge, extended family for the Christmas Eve service. My grandmother’s boyfriend, who is probably pushing 90 or more, turned to me and said in the most harmless, good-natured voice, “You sure have gained some weight since the last time I saw you!”

I’ve been living in New York long enough that my first instinct was to slug him right there in front of God.

However, I was born in Mississippi, and those influences tend to prevail in moments of stress.  I smiled at him and said sweetly, “No, I think I am the same size as the last time I saw you.”

What a huge lie.

That ended that conversation, but it didn’t end the reality of what he was noticing and what I was denying.

Over Christmas, I ate some damn good food. My family isn’t a sporty family. We come together for delicious meals, fine arts and entertainment. We are the epitome of a foodie family.  We’re also relatively intelligent people, so I’ve never lacked confidence, even in my physical appearance.

However, confidence can be a huge road block if you are in serious denial about your health.

I came back to New York after Christmas with all of this on my mind. It had been building up for quite some time, so one day while at my favorite Astoria diner with my two best friends, I bluntly stated, “I did a fundraising video for work, but I can’t use any of the footage of myself because I look so fat.”

Both of their eyes popped. This wasn’t something we had ever talked about seriously. It’s what people think but just don’t say. My filter was gone for the next hour. However, it began a painfully honest conversation about the reality of our health.

It was hands down one of the best, most important conversations I’ve ever had. It sparked something in all of us, and we each, in our own way, began tackling the task of losing excess weight and furthermore, working toward maintaining a healthy weight.

I joined a gym a week later, began working with a personal trainer in order to learn how to exercise properly, and signed up for a 5K in July. I took all soda and alcohol out of my diet for the first couple of months and immediately lost about 12 pounds.

The first few weeks with the trainer sucked. It was hard. I could barely do a sit-up without losing my breath. Running gave me anxiety. I had no endurance whatsoever. Lifting weights made me want to cry. But I was still doing it because there was this beautiful man standing beside me and counting for me until I finished all of the reps.Yes, sugar is the devil.  And I love it.  Dr. Pepper and Sweet Tea, baby. However, with up to 300 calories a pop, I was basically drinking the equivalent of what I should just be eating for lunch. I think getting educated about the food I put in my body made it easier for me to give up the bad stuff.  Happily, I’m not a picky eater, and there are a myriad of ways to prepare a healthy meal that still tastes good.  You just have to do your research.

My shoes were crap and had no support, and I ended up fracturing the top of my tibia. I could barely walk, which is more than inconvenient in New York City when you don’t own a car.Then I hit my first roadblock.

What a great excuse it gave me to quit.  I could have, right then and there, and no one would have been shocked.

However, the honesty of that conversation at the diner stuck with me, and it didn’t leave me any room to go backward. Call it will-power, call it determination. Whatever it is, it kicked in.

I slowly got back into exercising as my leg healed. Week by week, I started to feel significant changes happening in my body.  I could do all the sit-up reps without dying. I could lift weights without my arms giving out. I could run for more than a half-mile.

Seven months in and I am happy to report that I completed the 5K without stopping and in under 30 minutes.  I’ve signed up for my first 10K in September.  I’ve lost almost 40 pounds, taking me from borderline obese to the top of normal weight for my height. I have introduced alcohol back into my diet, but this time, in moderation. The sugar drinks are gone though.  I’m looking and feeling healthy.  My goal is to lose another 15 pounds, because really, once you start and you see the difference, you want to go all the way.

So advice from a Southern Belle/Hard Ass New Yorker?

You need to make yourself accountable and make other people in your orbit aware of what you’re doing so they can reinforce your goals when you are feeling sluggish or lazy.

Also, you need to figure out what works for you, your schedule and your lifestyle.  It’s your body, your time, and your money.  It is fun to work out with friends, but you also have to do what’s best for you.

I really recommend sitting down with people you love and trust and hashing it out if you feel you are in a health rut. A good, honest conversation can be the beginning of a whole new life for you.

The most important thing that I can tell you about what I’ve learned from my journey is that you have to be honest about your own reality. You basically have to kick your inner-Blanche Dubois to the curb.


About the Author Aubrie Fennecken

Aubrie Fennecken is the Chief Alchemist at Opportunity Kitchen | work + wellness strategist | nonprofit fundraising expert | providing productivity and self-care support for mission-driven humans

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