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The Story of Jules Marsh

by Maureen O'Hagan

one of those firebreathers. I just don't look like it yet."

Jules Marsh walked in the door at CrossFit Seattle in February 2009,
she had one goal: lose 190 pounds. In a year.

Looking back, head
trainer Dave Werner admits he was a little bit skeptical. “When you get
way out of whack like that,” he said, “it’s extremely hard to make
changes.” Part of it’s physical, of course. But there are also mental
and emotional challenges that most people simply aren’t prepared for.

however, was ready.

A few months earlier, she visited her family
in Tennessee, and saw her mother, at 67, struggling with “the ravages
of long-term obesity,” Jules recalled. Diabetes. Arthritis. Mobility
issues. Depression.

“I didn’t want to head down that road,” she
said. “But I knew I was.”

From the day she was born, at 11 pounds
12 ounces, Jules had been large. Over the years, she tried different
diets or exercise regimens, and some worked all right for a while.
Invariably, however, things would fall apart and she was back to square
one. Her health only got worse in medical school. During her residency,
when she put in 100 hours a week, shopping for and cooking healthy
meals wasn’t even in the realm of possibility. So for years, she dined
on sodas and Doritos, Jack in the Box and Wendy’s.

And then she
decided to change her life.

To some people in her shoes, CrossFit
might have felt intimidating. Jules saw it differently. Looking around
the gym, she had a realization: “I’m one of those fire breathers,” she
thought. “I just don’t look like it yet.”

Initially, because of
her size, she had a hard time getting into a rower, or stepping up on a
box. But, she said, all the trainers have helped her scale the workouts,
so no matter what it is, she can do it, and she can push herself like
everyone else. Her work ethic is impressive, by any measure.

just as important as the exercise, Jules made radical changes to her
diet, which Dave emphasized from the start. “I threw it out there almost
like a challenge,” he recalled. Sometimes, people react emotionally
when he suggests diet changes. “I’ve had people yell at me,” Dave said.
“But Jules didn’t resist. She was determined from the get-go.”

focused mostly on the Paleo diet, but has tried incorporating some
elements of Atkins and Intermittent Fasting, as well. Cutting out the
carbs was key. Jules said part of it is discipline, but eventually, she
felt a cognitive shift. “I used to pick what I ate based on taste, or on
what gave me endorphins or made me feel pleasure just for the food,”
she said. “Now, I get my dopamine from working out here and feeling
pleased and happy about what I eat because it’s a way of caring for

She used to allow herself one “cheat meal” each month,
but the last time she did that was back in June. It made her feel so
sick, it gave her even more resolve to stick to her diet.

160 pounds lighter than she was a year ago.

Along the way, her
daily life has changed, too. In the past, she got winded walking around
downtown; this year, she did the Columbia Tower Stair Climb. It used to
be, when the WOD involved running, she could make it only to the
sidewalk before she had to catch her breath. Now, she said, “I wouldn’t
be surprised if I could run a marathon.” Today, she can do a bodyweight
dip and a bodyweight front squat.
Some of the changes are less

“It’s a so much better head space to be in, taking care
of yourself and caring about yourself,” she said. “It was kind of a self
destructive thing and being out of that is good.”

Dave sees
Jules’ success in an even more profound way. A lot of the so-called
experts say it’s really not possible to make dramatic changes in your
life. Jules challenged the status quo—and won. “I think that’s a big
takeaway from all this,” he said. “If you want to make changes, and
you’re willing, changes can happen.

“Jules is a good reality
check for everybody. It’s like pointing out what’s possible.”

weight chart


Now Tire Dragin' Jules

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