Transformation Tuesday: Julia Hagge

Have you ever not recognized yourself in a photo?  Sometimes the curveballs that life throws us can lead to poor choices that spiral out of control.  Often this happens without even being aware of it!  This happened to Julia and she is here to share her inspiring story of how she used her competitive side to turn that all around!

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After years of infertility my husband and I were blessed to have 3 children within 3 years.  We had boy/girl twins in 2004 and a surprise son in 2006.  During pregnancy and nursing I carefully considered everything I ate and strove to provide the best nutritional beginning for my children. Shortly after the birth of my son I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. While I strove to provide the best nutrition for my children, I ate convenience food for myself in response to stress.  Over time my weight increased by fifty pounds and I sought to hide behind extra layers and baggy clothes.

A pivotal moment in my transformation came the day I said goodbye to my husband as he left for a deployment in Afghanistan.  After a tearful goodbye, I looked at the family picture just taken at the airport and gazed in shock at my image. I didn’t recognize the person consumed in multiple layers and spilling over her pants. It was at this moment I decided to take control of my choices and develop a healthier lifestyle. I wanted my husband to arrive back home to a fit and healthy wife.

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Capitalizing on my competitive nature I began with enrollment in my local YMCA’s Cinch and Inch competition. I was placed on a team with two women to compete against other teams to lose the most weight. We worked out together twice a week for eight weeks and received nutritional counseling. I was scared to run on the treadmill and stuck with the elliptical machine for cardio.  My team won the challenge and I won the top prize for most weight lost.

Once I lost thirty pounds I tentatively ventured over to the treadmill. It was not love at first sight. I found running to be hard and tedious, however, I liked the sense of accomplishment I felt after meeting goals set. My sister and I stumbled across the 2011 Wine and Dine Relay being offered by Disney and we registered as a team. Running part of a race seemed like a good segue into running at Disney.  She took the 1st leg and I agreed to run the longer 2nd part.  Once again my competitive nature kicked in and I focused on adding miles to my endurance and speed to my miles. I continued to drop pounds as I monitored what I ate and trained for the race.

It was during the Wine and Dine Relay that I became hooked on running at Disney. I will never forget the moment I ran through the Osborne lights in Hollywood Studios.  It was like running in a magical dream.  I met my goal of a ten-minute mile pace and my sister and I celebrated at the after party.

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Since my first Disney race in 2011 I ran the 2012 Princess ½ Marathon, 2012 Tower of Terror, and the 2013 Glass Slipper Challenge.  It was during training for the Glass Slipper Challenge that I discovered the power in the online Disney running community. I joined several online groups and found inspiration and motivation hearing about the journey of fellow runners. The Disney running community inspired me to set challenging goals and kept me motivated to carve out time to train. At the Glass Slipper Challenge I placed 29th in my division for the 10K and 138th in my division for the ½ marathon.

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Currently, I am training for the 2014 Wine and Dine ½ Marathon and the 2015 Goofy Challenge.  January will mark my first marathon and a huge step in my running journey.  Never would I have thought I could voluntarily run over 26 miles.  Disney races keep me motivated to make healthy lifestyle choices and maintain a consistent running schedule. Although I initially set out to lose 35 pounds, I lost a total of 50 pounds and have been able to maintain my weight since 2011. More importantly, I now see a healthier version of me when I look at my photos.

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About Julia: I am 43 and have been married fourteen years to Joe, my biggest supporter. In addition to being a mom to three amazing children, I teach at a large university and will complete my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in May 2015.  I am currently training for my first marathon as part of the Goofy Challenge at WDW in January of 2015.

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Has running at Disney helped to transform your life?  If so, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at sarah@runningatdisney.com to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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