ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.
Author’s Note: The following transformation story is being told by Jules herself. No better way to see the impact of someone’s story than through his or her own eyes. Enjoy this month’s OCR Transformation brought to you by Jules Smith!
My name is Jules Smith and I was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport is in Northeast Louisiana about three hours from Dallas (to give you a generalization). Although we have a great deal of traffic coming and going to the major cities around… this is actually quite a small city. Most everyone knows everyone, has gone to school with, or knows someone you know.
I had a more normal childhood than most. Saying this because I know that there are kids who are born in more difficult situations than I. The problem I faced most was the wanting to be accepted and understood. I tried hard to fit in growing up despite being made fun of because I was the biggest kid in class. One of my problems that spurred from this was noticing the way other people would look at me. This was very uncomfortable and unnerving.
Little did I know that the way people looked at me when I was younger would still haunt me later in life. As I grew up I reached a point where I stopped trying to be understood and stopped caring. By the time I reached high school, my over all care for anyone or anything was gone. I started rebelling and making youthful teenage decisions. I’m sure if you’re thinking it right now, I probably experienced it.
I struggled in high school everyday and stepped through the entire five years (yes, I did say five not four). My poor choices were not just in the foods I ate, the negligence towards my school work, but also in the company I kept. Everything stemmed from one place, this one circumstance I faced and had no control over… my body. I was angry all the time because I was not like my friends and other girls. If other girls were playing sports and on diets, they had the body results to show for it. Not me. I loved sports too, but I hated the way my body felt playing sports. It’s not the pain from sore muscles that bothered me, but the way my body felt as my weight shifted while playing them. This had to be the most disgusting feeling in the world to me. Not to mention the way my skin rubbed together in the humidity and heat down here. I was a walking dermatologist text book. So naturally I didn’t like wearing short sleeve shirts, or even gym shorts at school. I remember how as a child every time I was called fat, ugly, pathetic, loser, sloth, disgusting slob, POS… I would go straight for the things that made me into this. I ate my weight in feelings. Granted most of the time I was being called these things was because I was mean. I was mean because I was unhappy and I was unhappy because I was overweight. The only time I was at peace was when I was creating art. “I AM MY OWN VICIOUS CYCLE!”
WORLD UPSIDE DOWN
Youthful teenage decisions we all face, yes we all face them in some sort of slightly altered manner, lead up to a moment in my life that would be one that changed me forever. Not just change in one sense, but in many more ways than I would ever expect. After my first year in college, struggling with acceptance still, I came home for the summer and with no ambition or want to proceed in anything in life. Not even a month later, I found myself with what I call a party favor. I WAS PREGNANT!
There was no father, I was not financially stable, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t even have a car. Worst part was having to break my parents heart by telling them I had failed my life again. These were the thoughts I had going through my mind when I found out. However, 9 months later with loving support from my entire family… I realized I was not alone.
My whole family… aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandfather all helped me. My mother was a saint and taught me step by step and day by day how to be a mother. A year later we were celebrating my daughter Ariella’s first birthday. What a year it had been. It had ups and downs. There were days where I would fight with my mother to be a mother. There were days where I would consistently praise my mother for being a mother. It is very difficult being a new mom, not only being a new mom but a young mom at that. My daughter was a joy, she was never problem. I knew one thing with her and that she was a blessing. I have always known this. Not because she didn’t cry for 10 months. She cried when she needed something but as soon as her needs were met, she was always satisfied. Always smiling and always happy. We even used a program much like the baby Einstein’s, “Your Baby Can Read”, and she would read the flash cards and respond to the by point to a nose or clapping her hands. She loved attending church with my parents. Her favorite part was attending the children’s church and seeing all of the other kids.
At around 10 months old, she started getting sick. I think over the next three months I took her to see about 7 or so different doctors. I even took her to her pediatrician several times. It was a couple weeks after her first birthday, I took her back to her pediatrician demanding an X-ray on her abdomen. She had a huge bulge protruding from her stomach. That day was the last time I napped with my daughter. From that doctor, we were sent to another, then another, before she was admitted into the hospital. The next day going against medical advise, I left with nothing but the clothes on my back for St. Judes in Memphis, Tennessee.
They had already accepted her before my plans of travel had even been made. I never realized that this blessing bestowed upon me would ever have a one in a million disease. A cancer so rare that there are only two cases in the United States per year and that only one would end up at St. Judes. Theres my “Million Dollar Baby”. I arrived on a Saturday and she was admitted into the ICU that Monday. Two and a half weeks later, she passed away from a second one in a million disease that forms due to more intakes than the body has outtakes. Kidneys had shut down and dialysis wasn’t working. The body had to release the toxins the only way left, through the skin. That’s my “Two Million Dollar Baby”. My blessing, dying in my arms. All the nurses would call me such a humble person. I had no idea what they meant. This was one of the first times in my life that people called me anything that wasn’t negative.
I didn’t know how far this word humble would come to play in my life. After that my will to try and get healthy for her, to find her a father, give her the family she was supposed to have..was gone. I remember, its been six years since her passing for those reading this article, people at that time would bring over trays and trays full of food. Dishes, casseroles, and SWEETS!!! My mother, was always good about telling me when I was over doing it on eating. Normally, I would stop but the day of the funeral, I came home after being around friends all night and went straight to the kitchen. I did what I always knew how to do best. I looked at all this food sitting out and started with that one brownie. When my mother saw me that night she reminded me as always, that I was over doing it, I just remember turning to her and saying, “Mom, I just lost my daughter, now please let me eat my feelings in peace.” She did and I did.
The impact of losing her on me was so much more weight than the 250lbs of fat I carried on my skeletal system. First off is the everyday routine. I mean I should say “what everyday routine?” now. I went from waking up to a baby needing to be changed and fed a bottle. To “whats the point of waking up?”. I think for the first week or two all I did was eat and cry. I didn’t even know what to say for the longest. Someone had given me a book at the funeral, “Surviving The Loss Of a Loved One.” I thought it cliche, trivial, demeaning to my situation. I read that book not longer after. That book helped me to find a routine. You see… that book was about the impact that a wife and husband had to endure after loosing their child. It was not at all what I perceived it to be. Just like those stares I got growing up, I would become more than what they all perceived me to be. This was the first time in my life I began to stop judging everyone and everything around me. Before I got half way through the book, I remember asking my mom, what is my everyday routine? In the book this family had other children, this was their everyday routine. My mom replied to me, “Wake up, shower, brush your teeth, brush hair, and get dressed.” There are days where I still wake up lost and confused even now. I wake up, shower, brush my teeth, brush my hair, and I get dressed. I got that down, then decided I might as well go back to work. It could have possibly been too soon but I needed to be doing something aside from looking at her face in pictures trying to understand why my blessing would be taken from me. Why would God, bless me then take from me. Work was all I had left.
Going back to work, stocking merchandise seemed like the only other plausible answer. After a couple of weeks, I was pulled aside and was told to make a decision, either I needed to pull myself together for the job or I needed to resign. Working that day, I thought and debated plenty in my head. The reason I had that job was for her. To get discounts on children clothes and house hold items, I would need to start my family. I don’t have a family anymore, the one person I thought would never leave me, is gone. She’s not coming back. So I resigned and decided to go back to school. After all I have the time now to focus on my studies instead of worrying about my daughter and her needs.
I have a different outlook on life now, maybe it will be a better experience going back to college. Maybe I would mentor troubled kids. That year was even harder than I thought it would be. Although it was tough being away from my family, I needed to rediscover who I was. All I discovered was more trials and more food. Now I started facing real health concerns. I was not able to eat certain foods without getting very sick. I had no idea what was going on. I went to a couple different doctors before one discovered I had gallstones the size of lemons and the only option was to remove my gallbladder. They did laparoscopically.
My mom sat with me the whole time (this was beginning of that spring semester of 2011). Not long after, her and my father began talking to me about this surgery they wanted me to have to help me with my weight. They had mentioned it numerous times before when my daughter was alive, but I lived in fear and worry then. I was afraid of something happening in surgery and leaving my child without a mother too. I didn’t realize that I was already facing these issues being obese. When they mentioned it would be preformed the same way my gallbladder was removed, I said to myself, what else do I have to lose at the point. Aside from the obvious (my daughter), I was about to lose over 100lbs and an entire person all together. I decided to have a gastric bypass. Meaning, I had made the decision to have my stomach stapled down to keep my from eating.
I still continued being angry for a long time. Even after the surgery I can remember my mom cooking for the family and being so angry at how good the food smelled, this was during the first month of my recovery when I was only allowed to have water, broth, and juice. I swear I didn’t think General Sao’s chicken could ever make me so upset from just the smell. I think I stayed in that anger phase for almost the entire next year. I was so angry that everyone around me could eat and I couldn’t. I even wrote across my mirror a new motto, “I eat to live, I do not live to eat.” This still holds fast to today. I retaught myself portion control, because at this point, it was no longer an option choice for me, but a life or death choice. I followed my recovery diet to a T and lost 125lbs. I no longer eat certain things either because it. I thought I would miss beef. I really don’t.
After a couple months into recovery I became a nanny. I needed to do something, work, anything, to get out of the house and keep my mind off of the FOOD I could no longer have. My grandfather always says a busy mind is a healthy mind. This holds truth for me in so many ways. When I transitioned into being a nanny, it had been a little over a year since the loss of my daughter. I had time to think. So much time to think. I wasn’t able to keep my mind busy during that first year. Some days were better than others. Some days all I could do was think about that everyday routine and think about what I would be doing if she was still with me. One of the things I came to have a realization on was, even if I were to have another child in my life, they would not be her. Nothing will replace her. I always had a void in my heart due to this as well. Not having a child to focus my love on was part of this void. When I became a nanny, I found that void being filled. It was replaced and she’s always in my heart but the emptiness I had inside me after her death was being filled. Like planting new seeds in an old pot. These children, even though they were all boys and not babies, put seeds of faith back into my heart. Where I would once cry, I now began to laugh. I now was laughing so hard I cried. I started hoping again.
By the time, I reached my goal weight, I was new again. I lost that 100 lbs of hurt, I lost that anger, I stopped being so mean all the time. I started giving. I gave these children what I always wanted to give to my daughter. I gave them a care taker who was happy, fun, and was for once in her life excited to play games outside! I wanted to run. I wanted to do more than I had ever wanted to before. I WANTED TO LIVE! I wanted to give to those in need. I wanted to make laugh those who cried. I wanted to inspire those who’ve lost hope. Because coming from place where I had no faith and no hope, I saw come to pass the blessing I felt promised in my heart for so long. I knew there was something inside me when I was younger, but I wasn’t able to have the faith I needed to see it through. Promising myself after she passed away, that there’s a reason for this. Even if I spent everyday of my life after determined to create a reason why in that day. She Died So I Could Live.
Not long after I felt the urge to go back to school once again. Taking courses strictly for my own knowledge. I took weight training thinking it would help me gain the definition I was now seeking. I started searching everything online from workouts, programs, to even athletes. I wanted to become more. I have such a strong desire to become great now, it can be scary to those who’ve never met me. I always felt held back because of my weight that I feel now, there is nothing holding me back from anything I want to achieve. This digging lead me to Spartan Races. I wanted to be a Spartan. They were tough and over came challenges. I knew enough about the races to get me started or so I thought. Weight training was causing me to plateau. I was keep up with average standards but I wanted to be above average. I took yoga next. This will help me tighten up this loose skin and give me that muscle definition I am seeking. Lets face it although I can fit into a bikini, I still didn’t look good in one. I was also nervous about training my core without instruction. I was told to be very careful after my surgery not to pull a staple or I would internally bleed out so to speak. How am I ever going to be strong enough to climb a rope or jump a huge wall?!
I had no initial formal fitness training. Before sports were a way to try to fit in and make friends. Now it’s about the will to thrive. BUT HOW?!!!! Then I found out about Joe De Sena and soon discovered his book, Spartan Up. Reading that gave me what I had been looking for. Theres no correct way to train for a Spartan Race. But the next best thing that could help would be Crossfit. It wasn’t long after finishing my yoga course, did I find that we have close to seven Crossfit gyms in the area. Now which one and how do I choose. I choose one that a friend of mine was going to at the time. I went in to check it out and a couple months later, I became a member of Crossfit SBC. This has been the best decision I have made for my life since deciding to have the gastric bypass. When I started my journey, I wanted to be thin. When I became thin, I wanted to be defined and strong. My goal when I started, was to loose the weight and after a year, the weight was gone and I had a new goal. I wanted to be strong and I wanted to be a Spartan.
I started at 250 lbs and got down to 125 lbs. I started as a person miserable with herself. Now I am 155 lbs with muscles I never knew I had. I heard through out the last five years about how strong I am. Today though, I feel strong. I know I am physically stronger than I was when I started out. July 7th this year I will have been doing Crossfit for two years. I have now an entire Crossfit Family. They’re not just friends you work out with. These people, who I worked very hard day in and out for months to prove that I wanted to be in that gym, have become my family. They do not just encourage me in the gym but also in life. Crossfit while is very intimidating to people looking in, has taught me to be proud of the shell I live in. My gym has taught me to love my body for what it is. Crossfit taught me that while things may seem to be this way on this day, with hard work and consistency, it wont be the next day.
I say things in generalization, because I take what I learn in the gym and apply it to my everyday life. We all face events and unexpected occurrences in our life, yes everyone’s is different from each other’s, but the one thing that holds constant is our reaction towards these circumstances. When in the gym if you can’t get that last rep, you don’t cry about it and give up. Like life, when misfortunate events happen, you don’t cry and give up. You dust yourself off, pick that bar back up and you try again and try harder. My goal while it started as just to become thin, has changed so much. I wanted to be a Spartan so I started training like one. I always dreamed I would become a model and show those who doubted me what I was worth. I have been modeling since last fall. With that has come opportunity after opportunity. Even now, I still look and search for that motivation and inspiration.
I never stop seeking guidance and wisdom from mentors. Some of the things I like to do are listening to Podcasts, reading books, finding mentors, and above all asking questions. Podcasts have got to be the best. I like to listen before bed or in the car. Actually I started with Joe Rogan Experience, then found OCRMedia, and after reading Lewis Howes, The school Of Greatness, found him on podcasts. I also read a great deal of Joel Osteen, he’s a feel good preacher and he makes me feel good. He also part of that mindset I keep so that when I feel stressed or anxious, I can turn those negative feelings into positive ones. His books aren’t the only way to gain this type of mindset either. I have been expanding my spirituality as well. This journey while is about fitness, is also one about faith and hope.
I owe all my success to God and my parents. Without their constant support and guidance I would not have become the person I am today. They have always pushed me to do the right things. Make the right choices. Be the bigger person. All these morals and values they bestowed upon at a young age were what shaped me into a God fearing young woman. A woman who is grateful and not selfish. A woman who is loving and caring. A woman who is patient and kind. I find these qualities make me richer than any dollar ever could. I also want to say thank you to my mentor Andy Shaw. Starting as my fencing coach at 15 years old, has never given up on me and always been there for me as a coach, friend, but most of all a mentor. He saw the real me when I could not. I’d like to thank my teacher Darrell Chitty for believing in me as a student first but for also unleashing the model within me, that I always wanted to be. Last but of course not least, I just want to say thank you to my coaches, Angelina Moreno and Tyler Bray, you guys have stuck by me from the beginning of my Crossfit journey until now and I know I would not be where I am right now writing this article without you both. Y’all helped me to build that strength I wanted from the first day starting out with that 15 lb training bar. Having people like you all in my life aid me into becoming a stronger, faster, more inspiring athlete and model. I am so grateful to not just know you all but have you batting on my team.
CURRENT TRAINING PLAN
As far as an obstacle race, I have yet to sign up for my first one! I am so ready to be a Spartan, that I am willing to do it alone. I started to sign up last summer but couldn’t get my registration to go through on the website. I have been trying to get my gym to start a team but I haven’t gotten the feedback I am looking for. I know I will be doing plenty of penalty burpees and walking some of the race but to be called a Spartan is worth every burped.
On a usual basis I train at my Crossfit gym every Monday, Wednesday,and Friday 5:15am-7:00/7:30am. Tuesdays and Thursdays I was going at 7:00pm-8:30pm but now I’ll try to get in there during lunch from 11:00am-1:00pm. With my new job, trying to find a happy schedule is key for me. If I can’t make it to my Crossfit gym, I’ll go to a regular gym or try to run over to the high school stadium and do stairs. I have quite a few different things I like to do when I cannot make it to Crossfit. My previous weight at my biggest I think I was close to 270 lbs. They made me lose around 30 lbs before surgery and pre surgery I weighed in at 248 lbs. Now Im a solid 155 lbs. It will fluctuate between 145-160 lbs.
Where this started as a story about a fitness journey, and with careful thought upon many rewrites, I wanted to convey a certain point throughout my story. The message I wanted my readers to gain from this is one of hope and faith. Hope in something and have faith that it will come to pass. While we cannot control the circumstances we are faced with, one thing holds constant, that is our reaction towards these circumstances.