by Lexi Foldenauer
For twelve years, Jimmy Kelsey was working five different sections at four schools throughout Seattle, not including the two online classes he oversaw as well.
“That was hard,” Kelsey said with a laugh, “That’s almost two full-time jobs.”
Kelsey, an economics instructor at Whatcom Community College, recalled the day he packed up his belongings from his Seattle apartment and moved to Bellingham. It was September 2001, and he had just landed a position a month prior at Whatcom, after living and working in Seattle most of his life.
“I worked everywhere,” said Kelsey.
The pressure of his numerous obligations led Kelsey to turn to food for solace.
“I was probably stuffing pain in some sense from the stress of the full-time job,” he said.
Kelsey recalled nights when he would open a box of crackers, only to open another right after. Along with frequent trips to places like Wendy’s and Burger King, the continuous snacking led him to a very unhealthy weight, exceeding 400 pounds. It was a Diabetes diagnosis a few years ago that acted as a major wake-up call to his unhealthy lifestyle, Kelsey said. He knew it was time to make a healthy change and lose weight.
“I knew I had to if I was going to stay alive,” he said.
Kelsey began researching online for ways to lose weight. He decided early on to avoid procedures like stomach-stapling or banding surgery, and knew he would have to do it the old-fashioned way.
“I focused on resuming a more active life-style and losing weight, instead of being immobile, being bummed out, and being morbidly obese,” said Kelsey.
A lot has changed for Kelsey in the past few years, and recently he had the rewarding opportunity to send out a group e-mail informing his colleagues of some good personal news. The e-mail reads “100 pounds lost” in big, bright red letters. Kelsey signed the e-mail, “My thanks to so many of you who have encouraged and supported the effort.”
Prior to having a heart surgery in 1997, Kelsey had gone through two other dramatic weight losses. He was put on a liquid diet under medical supervision, in which he was consuming an average of 700 calories a day. Kelsey lost 157 pounds while on the liquid diet, which was the lowest he had been in years. He was also given injections to suppress his appetite, which he said did not help much.
“I just kept stickin’ to it,” said Kelsey.
Unfortunately, the diets didn’t help long-term and soon his unhealthy eating habits returned, causing his weight to escalate more each year.
Around 2000 was when Kelsey’s weight gain began to really increase, he said, and by the summer of 2007 he had reached a high of 415 pounds, and said his life was temporarily put on hold. That same summer, a visit from some old friends gave Kelsey the boost he needed. He watched his friends play in a soccer tournament, and felt inspired to be able to get out on the field again himself. Even just visualizing gliding down a mountain on cross-country skis or kicking a soccer ball around were enticing thoughts that provided motivation.
“I felt like I had something to live for again,” he said.
Today, Kelsey has reached a more comfortable weight, which is something that he still works at daily to maintain.
“The hardest part is the first step,” said Kelsey, “just getting started.”
Once you make the effort and start to see some results, it is much easier to keep going, he said. Paying attention to what he eats, and why he wants it, has been a major part of his weight loss. He now chooses to treat himself to really good food, with more nutritional value, and takes the time to savor it. One of his favorite places to shop is Slough Foods, a specialty store in Everson, where he likes to purchase fine meats and cheeses. Another essential part of making such a major life transition is to be around people you love, said Kelsey, which he is certainly doing.
Aside from personal discipline, Kelsey attends St. Joseph’s Diabetes and Nutrition Center for support. He does activities in the therapy pool twice a week, with the guidance of his diabetes and nutrition counselor, Cindy Brinn. Kelsey is eager to enter the rehabilitation program after he gets down to a required 300 pounds, in order to receive a hip replacement. After this next step in weight loss, Kelsey will begin classes to learn how to live with a new hip.
Being an avid fan of soccer, Kelsey loves attending pick-up games, even to just watch them.
“It gives you something to think and relate about,” he said.
Activities he used to enjoy, like soccer, hiking, and bicycling, were no longer something he could possibly do when his weight had spiked, but he is looking forward to getting back out there. He hasn’t been to Whatcom Falls Park in six or seven years, and is eager to go back there to take walks. Among other things, Kelsey wants to buy a tricycle – “a fancy German one to ride back and forth from school,” he said.
Despite being limited to a wheelchair right now, Kelsey has season tickets for the Sounders, and plans on using them.
“I’m goin’,” he said, “No matter what it takes, even though it’s hard.”