From Couch to Marathon: St. Charles Woman Celebrates 170 Pound Weight Loss by Running Chicago Marathon

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness October 04, 2018
Less than two years ago, Colleen Wartman couldn’t walk from her car into the grocery store without getting winded. Now, 170 pounds lighter, the St. Charles resident is planning to complete the Chicago Marathon on October 7.

Wartman, 53, is receiving support and personal advice from her weight loss team at the Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital. Medical Director Matthew Pittman, MD, and Bariatric Dietitian Audra Wilson, RD, LDN are also running the 26.2-mile race.

Wartman, who confesses to hating running before she started training, at first balked when approached about joining the Team World Vision marathon team at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva.

“My first thought was that it would be impossible. But, losing half of my body weight also seemed unattainable once, so after a lot of prayer and with God’s help I decided I could achieve the impossible again,” said Wartman. “The pinnacle of health is running a marathon. I’m running to prove to myself and others what someone who was once 350 pounds can achieve.”

Wartman says she has struggled with her weight her entire life, essentially losing and gaining the same 50-70 pounds over and over. When she reached a high of 350 pounds, she elected to undergo bariatric surgery at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I know it saved my life,” said Wartman. “I had tried every diet imaginable, but still couldn’t maintain a healthy weight. The surgery helped me get my eating under control and kick-started a complete lifestyle change.”

By making the stomach smaller, gastric bypass surgery restricts the amount of food eaten and reduces the number of calories the body absorbs. But as Dr. Pittman explains, it is only a tool. The real change comes from a long-term commitment to exercise, healthy eating, good sleep behavior and managing stress.

“We encourage patients to try many different exercises to find one they will continue doing,” said Dr. Pittman. “I recall Colleen saying she would never be a runner, so we started her off with a walking program and built in intervals of jogging. She was feeling good and pushed herself farther, way farther than she ever imagined. We are so proud of her.”

At the same time, Wartman was tackling her diet. At first, she says she mourned the loss of the fatty and calorie-laden foods she used to enjoy, but thanks to the therapy, education and support she received at Delnor Hospital, she can now manage her addiction to food. Training for the marathon has forced her to be even more creative in the kitchen.

“It is challenging for gastric bypass patients to consume the right mix of nutrients to properly fuel this level of endurance exercise. Due to the smaller size of meals, it is especially important to choose nutrient dense foods,” said Wartman’s dietitian Audra Wilson.

To fuel Colleen’s training, Wilson advised Wartman to combine carbohydrates with protein to optimize each meal. For example, combining Greek yogurt with berries and oats, or an English muffin with an egg and low-fat cheese.

In addition to celebrating her new healthy weight, Wartman is running for a cause. She has a goal of raising $3,000 to support Team World Vision’s mission to provide clean water in some of the most remote areas of the world.

“My faith has played a big role in this journey,” said Wartman. “I’m running for a good cause, and I want to show others that this surgery can lead to a life lived to the fullest.”

Learn more about Wartman’s marathon journey or donate.

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