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Janey Barnhart's impressive transformation.
"It's never too late to make a change"
By Jennifer Rea
Like many women, Janey Barnhart, a research nurse for the MultiCare Institute of Research and Innovation, has struggled with her weight since junior high school. Her family’s bad eating habits only made Barnhart’s bad genes worse and made dieting a frequent occurrence in her life.
“I pretty much had two mindsets,” says Barnhart, “I was either on a diet or I was eating like a crazy person, there was no middle ground.”
Over the years, Barnhart, a 33-year employee at MultiCare Health System, tried all variations of diet programs, and even succeeded in losing weight. However, while the programs she used caused an immediate decrease on the scale, they never offered lasting results.
Barnhart’s weight loss “aha” moment came while she was coordinating a stroke trial for the Research Institute. As a part of the trial, she had to tell patients they needed to lose weight in order to get healthier.
“It was very distressing for me to tell them they needed to lose weight because I had my own weight issues,” says Barnhart.
So in April 2011, Barnhart went back to Weight Watchers with a new approach.
“I went back with a mindset of ‘I have got to get healthy; I can’t afford to be my own patient,’” says Barnhart. “I was telling my patients how to have a healthy, productive life and I realized that advice applied to me as well. I went back to get healthy, instead of becoming skinny.”
Barnhart began keeping a food journal and strictly following the Weight Watchers program. Already a regular exerciser and member of the YMCA, she supplemented her diet and nutrition changes with an exercise routine that includes a mix of briskly walking on a treadmill at a steep incline, lifting weights and doing a circuit.
“If I didn’t reach the goal weight for that week, I would say to myself, ‘It’s okay, you are healthier this week than you would have been last week if you weren’t doing this, so keep going!’” says Barnhart. “This mindset enabled me to get through holidays and humps when I didn’t lose, but maybe gained a little bit.”
Although her weight-loss journey was not an easy one, her hard work and diligence have paid off. Barnhart went from a size 20 to a size four-six — and she has kept the weight off for eight months.
Barnhart credits her weight loss success to her change from focusing on fitting into a smaller pant size to just getting healthy. Losing weight was simply a benefit of that new focus. Through her commitment to healthy living, Barnhart also managed to decrease her rising blood pressure and bring down her LDL cholesterol by 30 points.
Despite her success, Barnhart still occasionally struggles with making healthy choices a part of her daily routine.
“The biggest thing that I still have a hard time with is walking into the nurse’s station and resisting any treats that are lying around,” says Barnhart “If I have the opportunity, I can get myself into trouble and so I really have to pay attention to that.”
Although Barnhart’s commitment to health has changed her eating habits drastically, she still treats herself every once in a while.
“One of my treats is going to Starbucks and getting a 2 percent latte and a molasses cookie,” she says. “I just know that if I keep with my daily routine and structure and I eat the food that I have planned, I don’t feel like I’m starving and I can have those periodic splurges and I don’t pay for them.”
Being a role model for her patients has been a huge part of Barnhart’s commitment to being healthy. She has also noticed a difference in how she feels throughout the day, and can genuinely understand what her patients who are trying to lose weight are going through.
“Being at a healthy weight gives you the ability to go full force during the day,” she says. “It affects your endurance and fatigue levels.”
Barnhart is currently enjoying the new confidence her size four-six clothes and body give her. Her struggles with maintaining healthy eating and lifestyle habits have paid off, and she hopes to encourage others to make the same commitment to focusing on getting healthy, not skinny.“I look at my own challenges and my own weaknesses and I think if I can do it, you can do it,” says Barnhart. “Try to do anything that you can activity-wise, make little steps, build on every little thing you can do and think outside the box. Find a program that is healthy and works for you and just keep trying. It’s never too late to focus on your health and make a change.”