When the chips are down, 48-year-old Julie Benziger has proven herself to be the one who comes out on top. The Austin resident has always fought for the underdog—working with a non-profit and being a property manager for affordable housing. But 5 years ago, Julie faced a challenge that almost knocked her down for the count. First, a flood devastated the house she had purchased only a year before. About 6 months later, she received a breast cancer diagnosis.
The following 12 months of treatment ended up being one of the toughest times in her life. Julie was living part-time in a hotel in Houston—far away from her home in Austin—with her 3 dogs. Although able to function and take care of her dogs, she felt like she was on autopilot the whole time. It wasn’t until after the treatment had finished and she returned to Austin that the emotional toll of the past year-and-a-half finally hit her. Julie fell into a depression that nearly swallowed her whole.
Then one day, knowing she needed to make a positive change, she decided to take one step towards recovering from her emotional struggles: she signed up for a 5k walk/run. Julie states that even though she always enjoyed the outdoors, she never considered herself a runner. But she knew she needed to do something, saying to herself, “I can do anything for an hour. Even if I just walk it.”
After her first walk, she was hooked. She started signing up for every 5k and 10k she could find. She started with smaller local walks before moving on to larger walks, such as the Capitol 10k in Austin and the Bolder Boulder 10k in Colorado. While she is definitely motivated by the health benefits of walking and running, the real payoff for Julie is the sense of accomplishment she feels at the end of the race, surrounded by a community of other health conscious people.
Now at 48 years old, Julie continues to make forward strides towards health conscious living. She’s enrolled her 73-year-old mother to participate in some races with her and has even offered to pay entry fees so her friends and family can participate. Julie says if she doesn’t do something physical every day, she feels like she could “self-combust.” Her daily routine consists of doing a 7-minute bodyweight workout 2-3 times in the morning, meditating for 5 minutes a day, and going for an afternoon walk with her 3 dogs. When she wants an extra challenge, she’ll go for a long walk, go hiking, or swim in a local lake.
Julie’s shift to a health conscious lifestyle doesn’t include just exercise. Diet plays a huge part in how Julie takes care of her body now. Before cancer, a typical lunch consisted of nitrate-filled lunch meat on refined bread and a cup of sugar-filled yogurt. She considered her lunches “healthy” since she wasn’t eating fast food or drinking soda. But after some research, Julie saw how the lack of produce and abundance of processed foods was harming her body. Now a typical lunch for Julie is a salad with chicken, walnuts, cranberries, and other fresh vegetables.
In addition to diet and exercise, Julie also takes Health IQ’s daily quizzes—which fuel her health conscious lifestyle. When asked why she enjoys the quizzes, Julie says, “I find it interesting to discover where I am strong and where I am weak. I always learn something from them. And not only do I learn something, I like to share my knowledge with other people. I find it all so fascinating! I think many people aren’t well briefed on health conscious living. You watch the news and one day something’s bad and the next day it’s great for you. It’s hard to discern what’s true and what’s not. The quizzes help me understand the “why” behind the news blurb.”
Julie’s advice for anyone who is knocked down by a personal obstacle is to start small and simple and take it one step forward at a time. “It’s interesting to notice how something negative can happen but something better blossoms out of it. Because of cancer, I’ve now really started paying attention to my health. So no matter what’s going on, there’s always a silver lining.”
We at Health IQ agree, Julie, that the road to health conscious living isn’t a destination but a lifetime journey we take—one step at a time—based on the choices we make every day. Thank you for exemplifying what it means to be a survivor and a true Health Hero.
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