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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

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In Living

Julia Kozerski at the start of her unintentional "Changing Room" project.

In Living

Progress...

In Living

More progress...

In Living

So many Goodwill donations for Kozerski.

In Living

It was an emotional journey ...

In Living

... with great rewards.

Local photographer documents 160-pound weight loss on iPhone


Julia Kozerski was overweight her entire life, but last year, she finally decided to do something about it. Although her approach included a major change in eating habits and the addition of an exercise regime, the biggest change Kozerski made was committing mentally to a healthier lifestyle.

It took over a year, but Kozerski – a MIAD graduate with a photography degree who lives in Bay View – shed 160 pounds, going from a size 30 to a size 8. She documented her weight loss journey by photographing herself with her iPhone trying on clothes in various dressing rooms, and compiled a collection of photos called "Changing Room" that she posted on her website.

Kozerski, who was a full time student, newlywed and new home owner during the process, had some major set backs on top of an already sometimes stressful life. Her mother passed away and her father became ill which resulted in her to, at times, revert to old eating patterns.

But what Kozerski learned was you can always start over the next day and that there is never a "good time" to do something really difficult.

Kozerski has received national attention for "Changing Room," and she hopes to spread a message that goes beyond weight loss.

"I want everyone to know that change is possible. I would have never guessed that I would be able to alter my life as such. I didn't take a magic pill or resort to fad diets. I was guided by my heart, my body, and, I'd like to think, common sense. Anyone can do what I did, they just need to find their balance. They need to be in the right place at the right time in their life and everything will fall into place. Big results start with the smallest changes," she says.

OnMilwaukee.com recently caught up with Kozerski and asked her more about her art, her life and her weight loss.

OnMilwaukee.com: When did you decide to do this project? Was it a decision or did it just sorta happen?

Julia Kozerski: "Changing Room" was not preconceived as a "project." I had been taking these images throughout my weight-loss journey and, towards the end, when I saw them grouped together, I realized that their impact was significant, not just for me personally, but also from an outside audience.

OMC: How long did you want to lose weight before you finally did it? Did you have numerous "failed" attempts? What finally worked for you?

JK: My family and I were always considered "heavy" and "big boned." Growing up, I was always the biggest and tallest girl in my classes. There were many failed attempts at losing weight, in my teens and especially throughout high school. They were always half-hearted. Deep down I wanted results, I just wanted them instantly. I usually gave up a few days in and returned to old habits. In the end, what worked for me was simple. We are taught to burn more calories than we eat – more out than in. I ate correctly, measured portions and tracked my caloric intake.

I skipped out on fast food and soda and turned to healthier alternatives including fresh veggies, fruit and lean meats like chicken and fish. I also started exercising. Nothing crazy, biking when the weather was nice, taking my dogs for longer walks, dancing around my living room when I was in a fun mood. I'd like to say I found a magic pill, but I didn't. I just paid attention to what I was putting in my body and moved more.

OMC: How long did it take to lose 160 pounds? Do you plan to lose more?

JK: It took me just over one year to lose over just over 160 pounds. With the recent passing of my mother and severe health issues with my father, I will admit to slipping up with my eating and slacking on my exercise more than I should. I have gained a few pounds back that I would like to take off again. I don't have a specific goal weight anymore.

For me, I have come to realize that the changes I have made and continue to make are a lifestyle change. It's about taking everything in moderation and doing what is right for you, at the right time for you and doing what makes you feel the best about yourself inside and out.

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