After raising kids, ‘it was her time to look after herself’
Story by Tracy Kennedy | Photo by Leah Hennel
CONSORT — Billie Jo Rossing has been a work in progress for several years — and she works hard every day at staying healthy for the long haul.
The Consort woman has struggled with her weight for most of her life, but can’t get over how much her quality of life has improved since successfully losing 105 pounds over the past two years.
“I can take my dog for a walk and I’m not dying by the time I get home,” says Rossing, 49. “I let him off leash and then I have to chase after him. It’s amazing what a change it’s been; I sleep better, my depression is gone and I smile real smiles.”
She says in the past, those smiles weren’t always authentic. She’d plaster on a happy face to go about her day, but with depression and anxiety out of control and suffering from poor sleep, Rossing was deeply unhappy and craving a life change.
That change didn’t happen overnight. Her journey started in junior high, where she began her struggle with weight. Over the years she tried it all: pills, countless weight loss centres, personal trainers and more. Like many others, Rossing would lose weight only to regain when life’s challenges came up and her body’s natural defences against weight loss — including hormones, metabolism and genetics — moved the scale’s needle back up yet again.
In 2015, and after many conversations with her family doctor, Rossing was referred to the Red Deer Bariatric Specialty Clinic. After more than a year’s wait, she began the program and worked with clinic staff for another a year to prepare for gastric sleeve surgery. The surgery removes 80 per cent of the stomach, limiting the amount of food a patient can eat in one sitting to about one cup. The surgery is not a cure, but rather, one tool among many to treat obesity.
“You need that time to be ready for change,” says Rossing. “People think you’re taking the easy way out — I’ve heard that lots of times. People think it’s a quick fix, but it’s not.”
Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) healthcare professionals provided guidance throughout Rossing’s journey.
Laura White, an AHS dietitian, worked with Rossing on helpful strategies in making lifestyle changes.
“When I work with a client, I look at how often they’re eating through the day, the portions they have, the foods they choose, and we look at foods that give our bodies more nourishment,” says White.
“In our food environments, we are faced with so many choices like never before, so navigating what we should choose at the grocery store, at a restaurant, and in our cupboards is challenging.”
Amy Judson is a registered nurse who helps clients navigate their weight-loss journey. She says it’s important people have a driver, or a ‘why’ behind their desire for change.
Married for 21 years and with three grown daughters, “Billie Jo had looked after people for a very long time, and this was her time to look after herself,” says Judson.
Today, Rossing continues to apply what she’s learned and takes an active role in her health through prepping her meals in advance, choosing healthy foods such as ground turkey and brown rice, and exercising regularly.
She also credits supportive family and friends for helping her succeed. In turn, she remains accountable by helping others.
“I’ve been very open about my surgery,” says Rossing. “That was something we talked about at the clinic — whether you’d tell people or keep it a secret.
“I told them I live in a small town so if I started losing large amounts of weight people will think I have a terminal illness or my husband is cheating on me,” she jokes.
Wisecracks aside, Rossing says it was important to her to encourage others who have struggled with weight by sharing the ups and downs of weight loss through her Instagram account and her Facebook page Billie Jo’s Crazy Journey.
“I’m always willing to help. I’m not a personal trainer, I don’t know it all — but I certainly have my opinions and my workouts and my experience,” says Rossing.
“It’s about so much more than just food — it’s about genetics, it’s about getting past ‘eat everything that’s on your plate,’ it’s about depression and emotional eating, about what’s going on at home, and how you’re coping. My advice to others is that today’s a new day and the first day of the rest of your life.”