Heidie Bratlie pauses for a moment and ponders what it was that changed her life. “It’s really not hard to be healthy, it’s all in the choices you make’, she replies.

“People let others tell them what to eat and what to do, and they don’t even realize what they are doing. But it’s easier, not to stand up for yourself. People don’t want to tell someone that they don’t want to eat the unhealthy food that is being served. Most of us were raised that way, not to be impolite. I don’t see it as impolite, I see it as my choice. There are ways to decline trashy food without being rude. I haven’t found one yet, but maybe someday”, she chuckles to herself. 

But there was a time where Heidi’s life wasn’t quite as full with smiles and jokes. The long, hard road that the resident of Vancouver, Washington began travelling started over three years earlier.

“In July 2010, I was huge. Weighing in at over 400 pounds. I signed up for a weight management class that was offered through my health insurance, but I really didn’t think it would help me. But it did! That class taught me how to eat healthy and how to avoid emotional eating. It’s a good thing too, because I was going to need it!”

Six months later, Heidi had lost over 100lbs. Sadly, the milestone celebration was marred by what was supposed to be a routine carpel tunnel surgery on her husband Jimmy. It wasn’t routine and he became sicker and sicker. On April 19th 2011, he died from Amyliodosis, a condition whereby a starch-like protein is deposited in the liver, kidneys, spleen, or other tissues.

“That was and still continues to be, the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with emotionally. I still don’t feel normal, but working out and eating healthy – keeps me feeling alive. Since he passed away I have gone on to lose 229lbs so far. Nothing will stop me. I’ve changed my life, and I can’t imagine life without a food journal and working out.”

“The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They did test after test. I do taxes for a living and this was my busiest time of the year, I worked about 60-80 hours a week during this time. I was still working my normal tax season hours and he kept getting sicker. We had no idea that he was going to die. I missed all that time I could’ve had with him.”

“Anyway, I would work my 12-13 hours then I would come home and I would go ride my recumbent bike for 20-30 minutes. One day in early April, he was so horribly sick and I came home and I went and rode my bike. He was so sick, I came back in the room and apologized for riding my bike and not spending that time with him. We still didn’t know he was going to die, but I felt bad for being gone at work all day and then taking more time away to exercise because he was so sick.”

It was what Heidi’s late husband then said that would become the most telling words in the time they would have left together.

“When I apologized, he said to me, ‘for what? Being healthy?’” 

“He was right, I was just trying to be healthy, but I still felt guilty. Then about a week later on April 18th he finally let me take him to the hospital. Within two hours they had him hooked up to everything under the sun and they had intubated him. The next morning, the doctors told me there was nothing left they could do and that I would have to take him off of the life support. That’s when I found out he was going to die. That was the hardest thing ever.”

But those words stuck with me – “For what? Being healthy?” –  I’ll never forget those words. The guilt was horrible, I had forced myself to ride my bike for about 3 weeks after he died. But then I realized that I had nothing to apologize for. Yes, I wish I could get those precious minutes back, but I will never again apologize for being healthy.  And I will NEVER give up being healthy. Anybody that can’t understand that, doesn’t have a place in my life.

This focused energy and single-minded purpose in Heidi’s life is now the catalyst for striving for all her better tomorrows. Recalling how she started, it was a simple choice that she felt she should make.

“I’m always up for a new workout, so when I heard about Train Dirty doing free workouts to prepare for the Spartan Race in the summer of 2013, I was in! I wasn’t going to do the race, but the workouts were free and there’s no better price!  I went to all but one of the training sessions. Even though I missed that one, I went and re-did the previous week’s workout. It was then that the leaders of my team made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I signed up for the Spartan Race in Washougal, WA. I had no idea what I was signing up for. I had never heard of the Spartan Race, but like I said, I’m always up for a new workout. 

Aware that others may read her words, Heidi quickly offers words of advice to those beginning a hard journey of becoming healthier.

“There are so many things I have learned along the way, especially in the beginning, that I would love to tell them. Take one day at a time, every day make a conscious decision to live healthier. Skip the diet, just eat healthy and remember that our body is not a garbage can.”

“There is no such thing as “blowing” your diet. If you choose to eat something unhealthy, it’s just a choice. After that your next choice can be healthy. If you choose to skip a workout one day, you can choose to work out the next, you have not “blown” anything. Everything is a choice. There is no such thing as the stereotypical “diet”. Everyone is on a diet. If it consists of fast food and candy, that’s still a diet. It’s just one that you might want to reconsider.”

Looking back at when she ran her first Spartan Race, she knows that turning her life around has reaped more than she has sown.

“I had no idea what I was signing up for. I had never heard of the Spartan Race, but like I said, I’m always up for a new workout. The Spartan Race in Washougal was tons of fun and very challenging. This year my goal was to finish, I did that. Now I have my sights on next year. If everything goes as planned, I should be at my goal weight, or very close, and I want to have even more fun, only faster than this year! The Spartan Race made me realize exactly how far I’ve come and also how far I to go. I work hard every day, and by next year, I will conquer!

Heidi knows what it means to ‘know at the finish line’. Fighting on through it all. Now it’s your turn.


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