Before 2016, on any given day, you could find Juline Gurney taking a kickboxing class, training for a marathon and even teaching bootcamp classes, but all that changed when Gurney had to make the one decision no mother should ever have to make: to take her 33-year-old son, Joseph Lee Paul, off life support.
In 2008, Paul was diagnosed with a rare blood-clotting disorder called antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, and Gurney and her husband immediately sold their business, house and all their belongings and began to chase specialists all over the country to get the best care for Paul.
“We were told from day one that this disease comes with an expiration date, but we did not want to accept it,” she says. Regardless of their efforts, Paul had a heart attack on May 15, 2016. Two weeks later, with no signs of brain activity, Gurney removed him from life support.
Giving Into the Guilt
Gurney grieved deeply for Paul. She stopped spending time with her friends and family and lost interest in physical activity. And though she somehow made it to work each day, the minute she got home, she’d lie down on the sofa and stay there until morning. On most days, she would forget to eat, but when she remembered, she would binge on high-calorie comfort meals. In two years, she gained 50 pounds.
As standard company procedure, Gurney’s life insurance required her to get a physical. She didn’t think much of it at the time, but a few weeks afterward, she received notification that her premium would be increasing significantly because of her obesity, high blood pressure and pre-diabetes. She was shocked.
“I went to my primary doctor to double-check that diagnosis, and he told me the exact same thing,” Gurney says. “He also said that if I didn’t change my lifestyle, I could easily have a heart attack.”
Finding Her Way Back
That was all Gurney needed to hear. She joined a walking group, cleaned up her diet and ate every two to three hours. Soon, she had the energy to play basketball with her grandson and kickbox for an hour without taking a break. Three months later, she joined a gym and enlisted the help of a trainer for strength-training workouts. It just so happened that her trainer was a competition coach — which was a welcome sign from above.
“My son used to tell me I should do fitness competitions,” Gurney says. “I used to laugh since I was super conservative and wouldn’t even wear a bikini to the beach.”
Conservatism be damned, Gurney decided to go for it, and she has since competed in six shows. She even placed first in the Bikini Masters Over 50 division at the 2019 NPC Topamania Classic. “Now every time I get onstage, it’s all for my baby boy, Lee,” Gurney says. “I just know he is watching down with a big smile on his face.”
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Size: 8-10, now 0-2
Occupation: Business equipment financing
Juline’s Training Split
Cardio: 45 minutes in the morning plus 45 minutes in the evening
Wednesday: Active rest — walk 3 to 5 miles
Friday: Abs and obliques
Mantra: Take a picture in your underwear. If you don’t like what you see, change it. Only you have that power.
Grab-and-go meal: Egg white veggie muffin cups. I pre-make a bunch for the week.
Stay-on-track strategy: If a food has no nutritional value, don’t eat it!