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Cultivating Confidence

After losing 80 pounds, Julie Brothers is doing things she never dreamed possible thanks to "wantpower." But her most significant accomplishment is inspiring others to live their dreams.

Gina Conroy
Sarah Eliza Roberts
October 28, 2019

Julie Brothers never had a weight issue growing up until she was diagnosed with lupus at age 25. While steroids and medications contributed to her slow weight gain over the years, the foundation for poor health was established decades earlier. Although she and her family led an active lifestyle, food was used as a reward instead of a way to fuel her body.

“We had poor eating habits. I grew up eating fried foods and carb-laden side dishes with bread and dessert at every meal,” says Brothers, who admits her mom struggled with her weight her whole life. But her dad wasn’t obese. “He was tall and super thin.”

Over the years, Brothers continued to gain weight and become more unhealthy, her weight peaking at 224 pounds. But the motivation to lose weight still wasn’t there.

“Fear was my biggest liar and the constant feeling of defeat after years of trying,” says Brothers.  

Finally, in January 2018, with her BMI higher than it had ever been and her doctors pushing her to lose the weight, she couldn’t disregard her medical warning signs any longer. “I was prediabetic. My triglycerides and cholesterol were at an all-time high,” says Brothers. “I was a walking time bomb.”

Both her parents died before seeing their 57th birthday. It was only a matter of time before she joined them if she continued the obesogenic habits.

“My dad died of heart disease and my mom of cancer. I didn’t want that for my kid,” says Brothers. “I had a son who was going to be 16. I wanted him to have a mom and dad around as he aged. I want to see my grandkids grow up. My parents didn’t have that luxury.”

As an Owasso teacher, she knew she wasn’t being the role model she needed to be to her students, especially after being named Teacher of the Year in 2018. At a size 20, she was embarrassed and frustrated.

As an Owasso teacher, she knew she wasn’t being the role model she needed to be to her students, especially after being named Teacher of the Year in 2018. At a size 20, she was embarrassed and frustrated. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)
As an Owasso teacher, she knew she wasn’t being the role model she needed to be to her students, especially after being named Teacher of the Year in 2018. At a size 20, she was embarrassed and frustrated. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)

“I’m standing up in front of my kids teaching them how to be the best version of themselves when I’m not walking the walk,” says Brothers. “It caused me to do a lot of self-reflection.” 

But it wasn’t until she and her husband were packing for a cruise in March 2018 that something inside her shifted.

“I remember crying and coming into the living room where my husband was,” says Brothers. “He asked me what the matter was. I told him I couldn’t fit into any of my previous summer clothes.”

It was a real awakening moment for Brothers, who had to borrow clothes from a friend to go on the cruise.

“I couldn’t even wear my clothes to go on a trip,” says Brothers, who had to do some serious soul searching and “get it in gear.” What she discovered was in all of her attempts at weight loss, she was the missing ingredient. 

Although Brothers believed in herself, she failed to participate in her health actively. “I know moms all over can relate,” says Brothers. “I showed up for everyone in my life and was the most trustworthy and accountable person, but when it came to me, I kept sitting in the back row.”

Brothers recognized that losing her mom and dad in seven months spiraled her eating habits out of control. “I had to dig deep and look at what were the things that I’m doing to comfort myself whenever I’m having a moment,” says Brothers. “A lot of times, it would be food that my mom used to make me. I had to break away from addictive foods that controlled my life completely.”

Armed with renewed purpose, Brothers gave weight loss one more shot, but this attempt, unlike all the others, ended in what would be her biggest life success. 

When Brothers got back from her cruise, she connected with a friend in her search for a nutrition plan that would not deprive her of macronutrients but would teach her healthy habits to last a lifetime. “I knew I had to break away from addictive foods that controlled my life completely,” says Brothers. “I truly believe God placed me in a personal time-out and made me focus on myself.”

Brothers found a low glycemic nutrition plan that worked for her body. “I fueled my body instead of fed my face,” says Brothers. “I didn’t look for that next emotional out. I had freedom and flexibility to make the choices.”

After hitting her first goal of losing 20 pounds, she had the confidence that this was a plan for her. Brothers continued working her plan, and bit by bit, success showed up daily.  

“My outside was beginning to match my inside,” says Brothers. “Everything started aligning, and losing 80 pounds has been a life-changer for me. I’ve gone from a size 20 to a size 4-6, and I’m never going back. I’ve given away all the clothes that don’t fit and will continue using my newfound healthy habits.”

As the weight began to shed, the truth as to what was holding her back came into the light: fear of failure and how others saw her. “I had to adopt the mindset, ‘What you think about me is none of my business,’” Brothers says. “Living in that fear mindset was hijacking me.” 

One way Brothers continues to face fears in her own life is to look at what she’s afraid of, then implement new goals to conquer those fears. Climbing mountains and putting herself in situations she couldn’t finish has always been a fear for Brothers. When an opportunity to go mountain climbing presented itself to Brothers, she took it. “I signed up to climb Camelback Mountain in November because that fear is a liar,” says Brothers. “I don’t have to listen to those fears anymore.” 

To get herself ready for that goal, Brothers participates in a fitness boot camp, another fear.  Her fitness trainer, Melinda Young, is whipping her into shape to get ready for that mountain. 

“We allow our fears to take over our minds,” says Brothers. “Then, for some reason, something happens where we get to a point, and we let that fear run our lives. I tell my students, ‘When you see fear coming, tackle it upfront so you don’t end up being an adult with all these fears.’ Once we let fear take root, that fear can overshadow us and seeps into other areas of our lives. The next thing we know, we are afraid to live because we’re succumbing to all these fears.”

To say that conquering your fear or surrendering those things in life holding you back from success is a one-time event is a far cry from reality. You have to do it daily and commit. “Part-timing your health will give you part-time results,” says Brothers. 

There’s not a day that goes by that Brothers doesn’t pray before her feet hit the ground. “I pull deep from my God every day,” says Brothers. “I let him be the guide, and I live my life accordingly as the best I can. Does it mean it’s perfect? No. But I try every day. I pray for guidance and strength. I pray for God to take over and allow me to have control for that day.”

If you’re ready to conquer the fear, Brothers has some simple advice. First, educate yourself on proper nutrition, which is the critical component in your health. “Don’t settle for diets,” says Brothers. “Diets set you up for failure because they are about willpower. Move into the mindset of ‘wantpower,’ and your world will change.”  

Next, find a plan. “Don’t look for a plan that fits you because you are what’s doing the damage,” says Brothers. “Change yourself to fit a plan that includes all your macronutrients.”

Then, surround yourself with support, believe in yourself, and do the work.

“I had to break the chains that were keeping me down,” she says. “Once you cross through that barrier and tell yourself there are no excuses, you can do amazing things.”