COVID-19 Information Center: get the latest on vaccines, testing, screening, visitor policy and post-COVID support >>
Julie Sparks can tell you the exact day things changed for her: Jan. 11, 2021. She was at her doctor’s office and reviewing all the medicines she was taking when she asked for help.
Her blood pressure and cholesterol were high. She was a diabetic with an A1C of 13%. (A1C measures your average blood sugar level over the past 2-3 months; a normal AIC level is below 5.7%).
She was on various medications to manage her health conditions.
“I need to do something about this,” Sparks recalls telling her physician.
At the time the Lombard woman weighed 272 pounds and the world was nearing the end of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. She had survived thyroid cancer and watched as COVID-19 nearly claimed her mother’s life.
“None of that did anything to truly make me want to change,” she says.
But at that Jan. 11 doctor visit, as she was rattling off the list of medications she was taking, something clicked.
“I knew I needed to do something so that I can diminish my risk … so that I could start living and not just be on the sidelines of life,” she says.
She went home that day with a referral to see Omar Shamsi, M.D., a weight loss physician with Endeavor Health® Weight Management at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
Pictured above: Julie Sparks "before" photo
At her April appointment, Sparks discussed her weight loss options and determined to give herself six months before deciding if she would undergo weight loss surgery.
She began meeting with a dietitian twice a month to learn about nutrition and make changes to adopt a healthy diet. She focused on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy carbs and low-fat dairy.
By August, she had lost enough weight that she no longer qualified for the surgery.
On Dec. 17, Sparks entered “ONEderland,” weighing 199.6 pounds. By her 48th birthday in late February, she had lost 80 pounds.
Today, her A1C is less than 6% and she no longer takes insulin or medication for diabetes. Her blood pressure medication has been cut in half.
How did she do it?
She moved every day. She started by getting in 10,000 steps a day. Working from home, Sparks made sure to get up between tasks and get in a few steps around the house.
“I walked in place … in my bare feet,” she says. “I didn’t even get fancy gym shoes.”
Eventually she started walking outdoors and today, she says, she “craves” movement.
“I just crave the ability to move and clear my head,” she says.
Sparks also made herself accountable for what she ate. If she ate it, she wrote it down. She practiced mindfulness and stopped eating when she was full. She found healthy alternatives to some of her favorites and dumped sugary drinks and snacks. That’s not to say she doesn’t allow herself a treat now and then, but she does so in moderation.
“Food is a tool to sustain life,” she says, adding that when viewed in that way it helps take the emotion out of eating.>
Sparks also looked at weight loss a bit differently.
“It’s a weight release for me,” she says. “I released the negative connotations with the food I was eating — the emotional eating, the apathy; I released that and released the pounds.”
Her weight release has come with a multitude of non-scale wins.
For example, Sparks finds that she sleeps better and has more energy. Her clothing size has gone from a size 3X to an XL and she can easily shop at her favorite stores. She doesn’t shy away from taking pictures and she no longer has to pull her seat belt all the way out before buckling herself in.
“I would always be uncomfortable in the car,” she says. “Now I can comfortably reach the pedals of the car and have a healthy room between myself and the steering wheel.”
Though she had to make the changes in her life, Sparks says she could not have done any of it without the help of her medical team. They were there to help encourage, educate and guide her along the way to adopting a healthier lifestyle.
“They literally saved my life,” she says. “It’s been such a metamorphosis. I have a hope for a healthier, longer, better future.”
For others wanting to release the weight, Sparks offers compassionate encouragement to take ownership of your health and ask for help.
“Take the fear out of it and make the choice,” she says. “There are tangible things you can do every single day to heal yourself and get yourself to a better spot.”
You can learn more about Julie Sparks and her weight loss journey on Instagram at @julieinonederland.
Endeavor Health® Weight Management at Edward-Elmhurst Health offers both surgical and non-surgical options to help you achieve permanent weight loss and the healthy, active life you were meant to live.
If you have reached this screen, your current device or browser is unable to access the full Edward-Elmhurst Health Web site.
To see the full site, please upgrade your browser to the most recent version of Safari, Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. If you cannot upgrade your browser, you can remain on this site.