Conversation With Jamie Weil: Paying it Forward, 85-pounds Lighter

Today I chat with Jamie Weil, a Cottonwood writer who has an amazing success story; actually a couple of success stories.

I’ll let her explain.  

Q: Jamie, welcome to anewscafe, where readers can start reading some of your featured blog posts soon on the home page.

Your name might be familiar to many north staters because of your writing, but more and more you’re recognized for your personal health feat. Can you expound?

Thank you, Doni. I love what you’ve created at anewscafe and am honored to be here. My story is that while drafting my first novel (I ate pounds of peanut butter M&Ms), and moving across the state, I found myself in size 22 pants at 235 pounds. After being inspired by a friend who dropped 40 pounds in three months, I decided to give it a shot. It worked immediately (down 15 pounds in Week 1) and I went on to drop 85 pounds in six months.

Q: Oh my gosh! As someone who’s dieted most of my adult life, I find that number absolutely astounding. Your before-and-after photos are riveting, of course. But what about the before-and-after of your life? You must have also had some pretty drastic life changes.

Yes, indeed. When I was heavy, I would gravitate toward all food-related events and away from anything that required a swim suit! Most of my extra-curricular activities were meals/drinks out with friends. If I planned a trip, restaurants were the first things I thought about.

Q: I can totally depressingly relate to everything you just said. That’s me. I cannot imagine an event that’s not centered around food. OK, enough about me. So how are you now, post the 85-pound loss?

Now, I look forward to going to the beach. I stick to an active lifestyle and always make my health a priority. If I’m going to a foodie/sittie conference, I always make it a priority to get to the gym each day, get my water in, get plenty of sleep and be very mindful of my health routine, before and after.

Q: I like the term – ‘foodie/sittie’ conference. Isn’t that the truth. Well, you’ve shared some interesting concepts. Jamie, but you’ve also succeeded in keeping the weight off for three years, which is statistically pretty impressive, since with most diets, people gain back what they lost, and then some. I can relate to that, too.

So, one of the things you do now is work as a health coach.

That’s right. Ralph Waldo Emersen said, ‘One of the greatest compensations on earth is that we can not serve others without serving ourselves.’ I’ve found this to be true in all areas, including weight loss. When people came to me and started asking what I was doing, I knew I could take my background in teaching, coaching and motivating others and transfer that to helping people do what I did.

In the past two and half years, I have helped more than 60 people drop more than 2,700 pounds and counting, including my oldest son who is now half his weight and in the best shape of his life.

Q:  You lost your weight through a specific program, which you also represent. But you also coach people who don’t wish to eat prepared foods, right?

Yes, the program I had such success on and coach from is called Take Shape for Life. It was created by a top critical care surgeon out of John Hopkins and is used by more than 20,000 medical professionals. One of its magic tools is a perfectly balanced meal replacement that takes the user out of craving mode. However, when people don’t want to use those for some reason, I get that.

Since I’ve had a number of people ask, and because TSFL is American-made and only sold in this country, I put together a program using the basics I had followed but using grocery store food. I have worked with clients locally, nationally and internationally. My goal is to work within their starting framework.

Q: Gee, you’re like a weight-loss ambassador, but I can see why. You’re such a dramatic illustration of someone who’s lost a lot of weight, and kept it off.  That leads me to my next question, which, really, was one of the main reasons I wanted to talk with you. You are featured in the May issue of ‘Health Magazine’. Congratulations! Now, tell us about it.

Sure! I love reading inspirational stories about how others have accomplished goals that at first appeared unattainable, especially when it comes to weight loss. There is such an empty hole when you feel your ideal weight is out of your reach, and when somebody else does it, a seed of hope is planted in that hole. When ‘Health Magazine’ chose me to share my transformational story, I was thrilled and honored. I did not know, though, that they would call right after the holidays when I had just taken five major vacations over four months, and want to do a photo shoot within five days!

Q: Yikes! No pressure there! What was it like to be featured in ‘Health Magazine’?

Really interesting. I did PR and media in LA law firms many years ago and have freelanced articles, so I understand how media works. What I didn’t realize, though, was how many steps and how much budget is invested per article. For example, I dealt with three different editors (including a fact checker) for a total of three hours’ worth of conversations and countless emails. Then there was a photo shoot/ make up/ hair session which took an entire Sunday. They told me I should be a Creative Art Director because I came up with the track idea (no place green in Shasta County in February), but that was a lengthy brainstorming session. New Balance shipped outfits out for me to try. I had to ship them back, and they then returned one for me to keep. Just the process of it all was fascinating to watch. Very professional.

Q: Back to your weight loss, and your guidance, do you think you could help anyone to lose weight? Or maybe I should ask, who’s your ideal client?

I do think I could help anyone, but they have to be ready. I was at the point where I had tried everything and just didn’t feel I had it in me to try anymore. I had to get to the point where I was just fed up and wanted more than just to live for food. I had to get to where I ate to live, and where the real value of my life was not coming from my next meal. I was inspired that it worked for my friend and he coached me along so I didn’t feel so alone on the journey. I’m paying that forward. My ideal client is somebody like me–someone who is ready, puts their nose to the ground, gets it done, and realizes this is a lifestyle, not a diet. This experience has changed my life and I love watching others discover their best life is just about to start.

Q: I love the video your son produced about you. I couldn’t get over the comment you overheard in the grocery store about you. (The video link is posted below.)

Thank you. My son’s actually a college professor, but also a very talented film maker and we had fun making that. There were so many comments and looks when I was heavy, but that one really stung.

It was when I first moved here. It was so hot (I moved from a beach climate), nothing fit, and I had finally found this sun dress I thought I looked really cute. You know, slimming. When I went to ask the grocery clerk where something was, she said she’d ask her co-worker. Her co-worker answered and I heard her say really loudly, ‘That large lady walking down the aisle over there (by the ice cream!)’ Dark day.

Q: Seriously, that story makes me feel like crying. Gosh, it must be so strange now, to remember how you were treated when you were heavy, in contrast to your life now. I mean, it’s not fair that people judge others by their weight, but it’s a fact, at least in our culture, isn’t it?

Our culture really does see fat first. This is not true in all cultures, for sure, but it definitely is in ours. When people see a person that is way overweight, they think that person doesn’t have self-control or self-discipline (not always true) or that they have little self-respect.

Q: That last question has to do with the way others treat overweight people, or false assumptions made about them. But what about how fat impacts – health risks aside – the people who carry that extra weight?

There is the fact that when people are overweight or obese, they do not always connect with people around them. They avoid eye contact. They avoid reconnecting with old friends because they feel self-conscious. In retrospect, I used my weight as a defense mechanism that I no longer need.

Q: It occurs to me that what you’re saying gives literal meaning to the figure of speech about having “thick skin” – a prevention from feeling emotional pain. Interesting.

And now that you’re out of the defense mode, you’re doing things like appearing in a national magazine. Speaking of which, where can we find Health Magazine here in the north state?

‘Health Magazine’ is national and usually available in Rite Aid, Walgreens, Barnes & Noble–wherever national magazines are sold. It’s the May issue.

Q: OK, duly noted, I’m running out to buy mine now … the one with Jewel on the cover, I notice. Jamie, thank you for talking with us, and congratulations on your accomplishments … all of them! Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I am honored, Doni. It is my pleasure. Thank you for your kind words.

One last thing, and I’m speaking directly to your readers. Know that if I can do this (and I was CERTAIN I couldn’t), you can do this. Pull from deep inside you and give it another try. I just came back from a conference on public speaking where I heard one celebrity after another talk about how they almost quit, and then went on to try just one more time. That’s when they had their big break. There is no can’t. You CAN do this.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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