Julie Reisler didn’t get pulled over for driving under the influence of too many M&Ms, but she believes she should have. She’d just succumbed to one of her worst binges ever, consuming bag after bag of the candy. “I became crazy,” she remembers, “literally crazy.” The effects of the massive amount of sugar in her system mixed with a hormonal surge, leaving her trembling, nauseated, and manic. She was a threat to herself and everyone else on the road.
Julie’s addiction to food had overwhelmed her life. Its power over her dominated her every decision and behavior. It’s an addiction that was born from love and avoidance and began in her childhood.
Her father is a Vietnam veteran. Unlike today, the combat veterans returning from the hell-holes of Vietnam were considered the dregs of society by many Americans. Far from being supported and applauded, these young Americans returned home physically and emotionally battered and scarred, only to be villainized and further tormented.
Julie’s father is one of those veterans. He turned to food as a source of comfort, both for himself and as a means of creating moments to be with his family. Big doses of love were administered through food, Julie recalls.
Her dad was her best friend. As love for her dad was coupled with food, she developed just as strong a dependency on food as she had on her dad. Their addictions grew until they both developed the practice of hiding it from others. Julie would be seeking spots to hide her food stashes only to discover her father had already hidden his own stashes there, first.
By the time she was an adult, Julie’s addiction was in full swing. Few outside her closest friends suspected the extent of her problem.
“I was really good at smiling and pretending to be happy,” says Julie.
She was a wife, a mother, and had a successful career. But behind closed doors, she would dig food out of a trash can if the urge became too strong to resist.
It was after the out-of-control candy binge left her debilitated and ill for days that Julie’s close friend could no longer remain silent. “Julie,” her friend – also a therapist – told her, “ I really think you should get your butt up and get to a support group.”
The words and their message managed to reach through Julie’s inner turmoil and strike a nerve. Something inside her was not ready to give up on her life. She got up, got in her car, and drove.
Julie Reisler will never forget that drive.
She distinctly remembers the conflict between her will to survive and be happy, and the desire to just end all of her pain and suffering. All she had to do was smash her car right into a tree and it would be over, she thought.
Slowly, the will to survive out-yelled the voice telling her to end it. She made the drive and entered the support group.
The process of self-discovery is often downplayed, and its value is often minimized by jokes borne from ignorance or denial. For Julie, the process was almost agonizing, initially causing as much strife as the troubles that lead her there. But she was committed to her own well-being, even if it meant making difficult decisions.
Tearing down unhealthy habits and examining your sense of fulfillment in life can be overwhelming. There will be moments of doubt and fear that must be met with courage and strength. There will be times of temptation as old habits and the ease of avoidance seduce you. Those moments must be met with might. Julie knew she needed help, and sought it.
The next decade of Julie’s life consisted of thousands of hours in therapy or with her sponsor, coach, or a mentor. The carefully-crafted team of support helped Julie through each stage of her path to finding her true self and the life she would be most fulfilled living. Slowly, steadily, Julie tapped into her truest self and made the changes in her life that needed to be made.
For 11 years she’d been a valued leader at a massive company. Much to the company’s chagrin, Julie realized the comfortable salary and high-level job were not enough to provide the value she wanted from life. She realized she was meant to be of service to others.
With a newly acquired masters degree and a health and wellness degree in coaching and nutrition, Julie centered her focus first on her own health, and then on helping others kick their unhealthy habits.
With the new newly- realized sense of self, Julie faced the hard truth that her marriage was not right for her, and found the strength to end it. One difficult decision after another confronted her, and one at a time she conquered them until she hit her strongest stride. Her energy and clarity of heart attracted new love into her life, and Julie stepped into her new purpose.
Today Julie Reisler is a highly sought-after coach for others navigating their own bumpy paths.
Her personal accomplishments and professional training make her uniquely qualified to work with people seeking to tap into their truest and best version of themselves. It’s because she’s walked her own path of setbacks, struggles, addiction, and fear that she’s able to offer an authentic insight to anyone seeking her help.
Food addiction is something Julie is well-versed in. She can rattle off scary statistics about obesity and addiction, and she is passionate about educating people on its severity. But what she’s most passionate about is guiding people out of mediocre lives, and into extraordinary ones.
“Every day I wake up with this fire in my stomach. I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t want to live, and not because of something that’s so awful on the outside but because of what’s going on inside,” says Julie.
She still smiles as brightly as ever. Only now the smile is real. She still speaks gently, but she’s not afraid to call someone out – lovingly – if they fall back on the “victim” card. She advertises her workshops on “Becoming your You-est You and she’s got two books on that same subject – one geared toward personal growth and the other towards professional growth.
Julie Reisler’s story is not one that is likely to be plastered on national headlines, and she may not be a household name. And yet – what she stands for, how she does what she does, and what her message is, is precisely what lives in the hearts and minds of people around the world.
It’s an important story with a modest heroine, and it’s her humility that feeds the light she shines.