015 Jim Blackburn Interview

by reeger on December 31, 2013


MoAndIB4andAfterOn April 5, 2010, Jim Blackburn followed through with one of the biggest decisions of his life, he underwent Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB). During this episode 15, Jim reflects back on his life-long history with obesity, the circumstances leading up to his peak weight of 420 pounds at age 45, his decision making process that lead him to have RYGB, and the journey since that day in April, 2010. Jim’s journey has not only seen him lose weight down to his current healthy weight of 200 pounds but also lose the diseases that plagued him before surgery, and as Jim will describe, become an avid runner in the process. He has completed numerous running races and continues to increase his distance and fitness levels suchtt that he is training for his first full marathon in New Orleans this February 2014 and plans to be ready to compete in a full triathlon by next season.

As Jim tells it, “the road was bumpy and it took a lot of hard work and support from family, friends, and the doctors and staff of Emory Bariatric Center.” But as you will hear in this interview, it has all been, and continues to be, worth it.

Early Years: Jim’s story begins as an obese child who experienced health issues related to his obesity as well the emotional traumas of bullying. As he grew into a teenager he found a love of sports, especially football. While playing football he “grew into” his body and the bullying stopped. As an athlete in high school he was eating the large portions of high calorie foods he had come to know and love as a child growing up in the South. Eating this way was ok as a high school athlete. However, when he stopped playing football in college he saw his weight begin to increase, especially given the fact that his food choices remained high calorie and his portions remained large.

Gain, Lose, Regain: As the years went by and his weight continued to increase he did try many different diets. He did have success with the diets he tried but each time he lost weight he would subsequently regain weight, plus additional weight. He sort-of had a “wake-up” call that his weight was a looming health issue when he had to have an echocardiogram to evaluate his heart because of concerns that he may have suffered heart damage from the use of weight loss medication. However, this did not scare him enough yet to lose weight, he kept cycling through different diets with varying degrees of success but always with weight regain when the diet was done.

His weight during his adult life fluctuated considerably. Between the ages of 17-19 he weighed 275-280 pounds. Between the ages of 20-21 he lost weight down to 205 pounds through focused dedication to an exercise program at the YMCA. Around the ages of 23-24 his exercise regime “went to the wayside” as he got married and his priorities changed. During this time his weight increased to 250-260 pounds. His first marriage did not last. In his late 20’s he married his current wife, they had children, his life got busier, he was a “stress eater,” and consequently he saw a steady increase of his base weight. At age 35 his weight was up to 300 pounds. He remembers hitting 300 pounds and feeling devastated by this weight but it was not yet enough to get his attention to make significant and lasting changes. Between the ages of 35-45 he tried different diets as noted above but each time he lost weight he would regain in 20-30 pound jumps all the way up to 400 pounds+. At the peak of his weight he could no longer be weighed on traditional scales so he is not sure what was his heaviest weight but the last time he weighed himself at an airport baggage scale he weighed 420 pounds.

Medical Diagnoses: During his weight gaining years he was also gaining medical diagnoses associated with obesity: significant sleep apnea, hypertension, chronic joint pain, and looming type 2 diabetes.

The Decision to have RYGB: Jim relates that his knowledge and exposure to the process of having WLS – the risks and the benefits – came though his experience of being the support person for his sister and his brother-in-law both of whom had RYGB. During the process of being their support person he was also in conversation with his niece who was considering RYGB. He and his niece made a deal that if she had RYGB, Jim would too. One year after being the support person for his sister and brother-in-law, on April 5, 2010, Jim had RYGB as well. Jim relates that although he made a deal with his niece to have the surgery, his decision was ultimately a very personal one: He wanted to live a long and healthy life and he wanted to be around for his wife, children, and future grandchildren.

Post-op: Jim’s early, middle, and late post-op experience were mostly uneventful. However, Jim also relates that he followed (and continues to follow) the guidelines very specifically, claiming “I was very regimented when it came to the guidelines” as they related to protein, hydration, vitamins, and nutrition does and don’t. He had to trial many different protein shakes to find the one that he liked and could physically tolerate. He very quickly lost a taste preference for the  heavy, fattening, calorie-laden foods he had grown up loving. As time has gone by he has developed tastes preferences for vegetables and healthier foods that he never craved before surgery. When asked if he mourned any foods that he can no longer eat, he states, “No,” the life he has gotten back in return far outweighs whatever foods he had to give up.

Goal Setting: Regarding fitness, Jim is currently training for his first marathon in February 2014. He got to this point by setting measurable goals after surgery. His first goal was being able to walk on a treadmill. His next goal was to run on a treadmill. Then he added weight circuit training to his exercise program. These goals were achieved in his first year after surgery. During his first year he lost 178lbs. Certainly this was considered successful weight loss, but he recounts he lost a lot of muscle mass and was often tired and felt sluggish. Considering how he felt and the amount of muscle mass he lost, his surgeon encouraged him to join a gym. The next day he joined the YMCA and he “never looked back.” Once he committed to a regular exercise program he started feeling a lot better. He was no longer tired. He gained muscle mass back. He was more alert during the day. Feeling better simply reinforced the habit of regular exercise.

His next goal, which he set during his 2nd year after RYGB, was to run the 10 kilometer Peachtree Road Race which is the largest 10k run in the world. In order to prepare for the Peachtree 10k, he ran numerous other races first including running many 5K and 10k races before lining up at the start line of the Peachtree 10k. From there he focused on increasing his distance runs to half marathons, then the marathon this February, and after that he will begin training for triathlons.

Is it luck? Is he lucky or does he make his luck? He believes mostly he makes his luck. He was given the tool of RYGB with a user manual (provided through his programs guidelines). He continues to follow the recommendations and will do so for the rest of his life, those are choices, not luck.

Self-image and Support: He keeps his before and after photos around him all the time as a reminder. He does not struggle with claiming the identity of his smaller sized self but he does not always have a realistic image of what his size actually is. This really becomes apparent when he goes to purchase new clothing. He will select clothing to try on that are much larger than his actual size. His wife has been very helpful in helping him recognize his true size verses his remembered larger size. He has also always been very open about his surgery from the start and has not had anything but positive support and encouragement. His wife has been his primary support person through the whole process and even though she did not have surgery she has intentionally lost weight with Jim along the way.

Priorities: Once he made the commitment to regular exercise, he made the time. In the beginning he would be at the gym at 5:00am because that was the time he had available. When he traveled he would check into a hotel and then find the gym. His schedule has changed over time but his dedication has not, even when life throws curve balls at him (as often happens). Day-to-day he uses a program called Training Peaks which helps him know what routine he is doing that day to help him build towards his long term goal.

Definition of Success: Jim defines success as each and every day using the gift and the tool of his RYGB surgery appropriately by following the rules and changing the way he lives his life. Doing this has allowed him to lose the weight, improve his marriage, be around for his grandchildren, and then reach out and help others who are walking a similar path.WeightTrack

If you have questions for Jim or would like to discuss a possible speaking engagement you can email him at jmbatlanta@gmail.com or find him at any one of the following social media avenues:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JmbAtlanta @JmbAtlanta #220poundsdown
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/channels/jmbatlanta
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jmbatlanta
Paper.li: http://paper.li/JmbAtlanta/1385157055 (Auto generated newspaper based on previous days social network activity.)
Documentary: https://vimeo.com/channels/jmbatlanta

Apps and Other Resources that Jim uses:

TrainingPeaks:  http://home.trainingpeaks.com/
BariAthletes: http://www.bariathletes.com/
Music/Workout App: http://lolofit.com/apps
Workout Clothes & Compression: http://www.fusionsportsusa.com/ Discount Code:JBlack30 (case sensitive).
Food Tracking:  http://www.livestrong.com/
Wireless/Sweat Proof Headphones: http://goo.gl/6ML5cI

In Peace and with Connection,

Reeger Cortell, FNP-C


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