One year. 12 months. 365 days. 8,760 hours. 525,600 minutes. On September 20, 2017, Jada Blitz Training member Ashley Paul celebrated a very memorable day. Having known Ashley for over a year now, I can attest that her spirit is both powerful, humbling, and beautiful. She emulates a genuine and compassionate take on life, something that is a true reflection of how she chooses to live each and every day. Ashley’s story is both compelling and inspiring, something I feel we can all relate to and learn from. I have worked with Ashley as her personal trainer and am thankful to now call her my friend. So here’s to you, Ashley! You’re a true warrior, vigorous in all your endeavours toward creating a better life for yourself and your family.
My name is Ashley Paul. I love to laugh and have a good time. I am a wife, a dog lover, a college student, a small-business owner, and an employee of the NYS Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities. I was raised by my father and two mothers and had a very pleasant and prosperous upbringing. I share a love for Shakespeare and designing and building furniture. I aspire to be a role model for my nieces, and someday my own children, as a physically active parent, showcasing a sensible lifestyle of wellness through leading by example.
I’m just Ashley, and this is my story.
Up until junior high, I had always been ahead of everyone in terms of growing. There came a point when being bigger wasn’t cool anymore, and my course of fad diets, weight-loss supplements, and several trial gym memberships began. No real progress was ever made.
In August 2008, at the age of 21, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I returned home from college. Dozens of doctor appointments followed by relentless changes in prescription dosages took their toll on my mental, emotional, and physical health. Within months, I gained 60 lbs. I felt like a zombie, and my quality of life was less than relishable. All I could do was sleep. I would experience hallucinations and moments of zoning out so bad that I would be drooling. I was a mess. I had reached my breaking point and knew I needed to take back control of my life.
It took me three years. I fired my doctor and stopped taking my prescriptions—a horrible route to initially chose. I went through hell with the withdrawal symptoms, but I made a vow to myself to take everything one day at a time, to be honest with what and how I was feeling.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee—the setting for the perfect destination wedding. Such a beautiful place and memorable experience. I am here to marry my bestfriend, and my family has come to celebrate with us. We’ve booked a luxury cabin with three floors and have planned many activities for our guests, but I’m unable to join them. Here I am, during a time when I’m supposed to be having the time of my life, and I’m instead having trouble finding true enjoyment. I am miserable, I am angry.
I am 29 years old and 424 lbs.
This is no life, this is no way to live. I am trapped inside my own body. I am here to make a vow to my wife, someone who loves me, all of me, and someday we are going to start a family. I want to do better—I want to be better.
For as long as I can recall, I watched my sister battle epilepsy. Despite the effects it had on her everyday living and quality of life, she kept things moving. She always did for others and had the biggest heart. I said goodbye to her this month. We didn’t see it coming. I miss her everyday, but I find peace as I carry forward using her as a positive and motivating example of “living life living.” She was relentless and fearless. In her memory, I now choose to try new things without apprehension.
Less than one year later, in March of 2017, I was faced with another unexpected passing. This time of my father. I am still trying to process how sudden this was. He was a powerhouse, an all-around epic man. I was always a daddy’s girl, and I attribute my impeccable work ethic to him. This has been one of my biggest struggles, a continuous emotional quarrel I will learn to cope with over time. But just as I have done with my sister, I use my father as a daily example to persevere and move forward with courage and faith.
Wanting to do better and to be better—I just wanted to stop making excuses. I couldn’t keep up the charade of trying to be happy. I was no longer able to convince myself that it felt good weighing 424 lbs. Being overweight was causing more and more problems—more anxiety, more cancelled plans, and more halted ideas.
After returning from our wedding and coping with the loss of my sister, I made the decision that would change my entire life. With the support of my wife, I contacted Synergy Bariatrics and took all the necessary steps to become a vertical sleeve gastrectomy candidate. On September 20, 2016, I underwent a full VSG procedure.
It’s unfortunate the lack of knowledge surrounding the VSG procedure and the ridicule it receives for being a “quick fix” weight-loss surgery. That is far from the truth. I go out of my way to take care of my body in every way possible.
Fast Facts on Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy
- Candidates with a BMI over 45 have an increased risk during surgery
- Surgery can last over 2 hours
- Weight loss occurs over 18 months
- VSG requires major lifestyle changes for success
As I entered into the post-op stages and began the healing process, I continued to contemplate what my next steps would be. How could I make the most of this opportunity? Here entered Jada Blitz Training—all it took was one phone call.
Reflecting back on the first time I entered the gym—the bold red walls, the motivational slogans, the inspiration and encouragement—I know exactly why I have stayed. This atmosphere is something special, a place where I am not invisible when I walk in. Each time I visit, I am greeted by name. The entire staff takes time to acknowledge me. Despite my battles with being overweight, I have found comfort in knowing I am not alone. I have a team behind me that relates and takes pride in their own personal flaws and past turmoils through the sharing of their own experiences. At JBT, I know I am never alone. When I have a question or need advice, I am not afraid to ask—help is always there. When I miss a day, I know I am missed personally. Aubree texts me to make sure I am ok and to check in. These people I have surrounded myself with make me feel supported and special, even when I am absent, I am noticed.
Jada Blitz Training is important to me simply because it exists. It welcomed me with open arms, never to judge me or make me feel inadequate. My love for this place can be summed up by a quote from The Tale of Two Cities . . . “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” but at the end of the day, it was time well spent.
I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to everyone at JBT for always looking out for me and supporting me through this lifestyle transition. This place is my priority, my peace, and my pain in the ass.
Since September 2016, I have not experienced many setbacks. I have days where I second guess myself—yes, I am only human. Sometimes I don’t feel like I am doing enough, but I am consistent, and when I return to the doctor’s for my post-op appointments, it shows. I am currently ahead of schedule with my expected progress. In fact, at my nine-month POA (June 2017), I was down 97 lbs versus the estimated 80 lb mark.
This entire journey has mentally enlightened me. I am impressed when I take the time to acknowledge what I am capable of. Emotionally, I am humbled that I made the decisions leading up to the present and have not given up. I am here, I am happy, and I am no longer spoon feeding myself excuses. Physically, I feel strong—no more aches and pains because of my weight. I even have stamina and can run now. I am finally living life without restrictions. I wake up everyday wanting to be my best self, to keep things moving forward by improving in every area of my life.
In March, I conquered my first short-term goal. On my thirtieth birthday, my wife took me on a surprise trip back to Gatlinburg. We flew in a plane, and I had no anxiety about my weight interfering with my comfort. I was able to participate in all the activities she had planned. It was just awesome, and I finally felt truly happy. My next short-term goal is to finish school, buy a house, and to finally hear the pitter-patter of little feet. In the long term, I would like to be able to ride all of the amusement attractions at Darien Lake and to continue working on building my small business. I will always be realistic with my goals, and this makes me excited for what is to come.
My name is Ashley Paul, and I wake up everyday knowing I’ve done the right thing, that I’m doing the right thing. I know that Ashley is taking care of Ashley because Ashley loves Ashley. Always remember, you are entitled to whatever level of success that you want in your life—ain’t nothing to do but to do it.