Carrie Brocksmith is seen here wearing her letter jacket, something she hasn't been able to do  in a long time.

She made a choice. To fly.

Ideas: She made a choice. To fly.

Carrie Brocksmith is seen here wearing her letter jacket, something she hasn't been able to do  in a long time.

She made a choice. To fly.

Carrie Brocksmith of Seymour made a life-changing decision to take her health back. Read her inspiring story.

Story: Bridget Broihahn

Photos: Mike Heiniger

For 49 years of her life, Carrie Brocksmith, of Seymour, was a caterpillar.

“I was a fat caterpillar, and now I am a beautiful butterfly,” she said, as she exposed her butterfly tattoo she adorns as a sign of her evolution into a healthier lifestyle.

Brocksmith has lost 123 pounds. She had a gastric bypass earlier in 2017.

“In March of 2017, I was having trouble with my knees,” she said.

She saw three medical professionals: a general practitioner, an orthopedic surgeon, and a general surgeon who all told her she needed to lose weight.

Those who know her say she is truly a woman who is comfortable in her skin. It makes sense, she has a degree in theater from Milliken University and is a director at The Monticello Theater.

“I’ve been thinking about how to tie my theatre stuff with my weight loss stuff, and I came up with “motivation.” In theatre, an actor asks “What’s my character’s motivation?” to determine their action on stage and with other actors. With my weight loss journey, asking “What’s my motivation?” has been a question I frequently ask myself, whether I am considering a healthy food choice or about to skip exercising. Why do I do what I do,” she asked.

“I am walking around like a 90-year-old woman,” she said to the physician’s assistant who told her she had to come up with reasons why she wanted to lose weight. There is a pathway to surgery to see if it is the right thing for an individual. Brocksmith said there is an evaluation to see if one is ready physically and emotionally. The determination for Brocksmith was that this would help her quest to becoming healthier.

So, she had the procedure. Then, the hard part began: the changing of her lifestyle, the reaction of family and friends. Even people at her job, she’s in apparel at Meijer in Urbana, have sounded off at her metamorphosis.

“The weird thing is there are people who I thought would support me, who didn’t,” she said.

And there are people who have been very nice and complimentary.

“But, others need to take a “compliment class.” A customer came up to me said, “You used to be fat,”” she said.

She loves crossing her legs, she is sitting in chairs differently, plus walking into a bathroom stall is not an issue anymore. She had to exchange a pair of jeans she purchased recently for a size smaller.

“The first time I went into a restaurant after my surgery, I realized I don’t have choices, healthy choices, because I have to eat protein, and that is very limited,” she said.
Right now she eats about six times a day and she limits her quantities to about ½ cup of food at each sitting. Of course, this will change as she gets closer to her goal and as her life evolves.
“If you do this, you have to change your whole way of eating. You have to be open-minded,” she said.

She eats almost every two hours.

“I look at it like being reborn. At first, I was on liquids like a newborn baby, then pureed foods. Food with roughage was later introduced. I eat slowly,” she said. She has learned how small things like properly chewing her food helps digestion and nutrition.

“I can drink right up to when I eat, and then I can drink a half an hour after I eat. It’s all to help digestion,” she said. “I don’t feel deprived. Surgery is not going to fix a weight problem. It’s a tool.”
She does a lot of preventative planning so navigating through tough situations can be easier for her. She goes to a support group once a month. She also get wonderful recipes and tips, as well as emotional support from the group. Brocksmith said the Carle bariatric center is great.

“With the help of bariatric surgery, I have chosen to have a sustaining lifestyle that has more benefits than my previous way of life did. I am healthier and happier than before, and I have utilized unique goals like riding roller coasters at Six Flags, and monthly weight goals like rewarding myself with new boots and celebrating my fitting into my high school letter jacket to keep me motivated to stay healthy and happy,” Brocksmith said.

What she has learned so far from this experience is that she cannot change other people.

“I can only work on myself. And that’s a full-time job in itself. My desire is that my choices will influence others to evaluate their own lifestyles and consider a healthier alternative to junk food, fast food, and couch-potatoing – if that’s a word,” Brocksmith said.

Brocksmith is thankful to share her story.

“2017 was quite a year of big changes for me: My daughter Hannah’s marriage, my bariatric surgery, my mom’s death, my 25th wedding anniversary, and my step-mom’s Alzheimer’s progression. I wouldn’t suggest that much change to anyone, but like a butterfly that has to struggle to get its wings to work, it was all good for me in the long run,” she said.