In Living

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

In Living


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

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OMC: Did you try to take a photo of yourself in a dressing room every week, every couple weeks or just whenever you happened to be shopping?

JK: There were no set credentials to my shopping expeditions. I say expeditions because going to these stores and trying on clothes was an adventure for me. I never knew what to expect of the outcome. Going through such a rapid change, I quickly lost site of myself physically. I'd go into a store needing pants and wound up, by habit, grabbing my old, largest size, 28.

Even at 160 pounds lost, I'd still see the "old" me in the mirror. Then I started shopping a different way. I'd pick out clothes in a variety of sizes and try them all on to gauge where I was in my progress. I was probably heading to the store on a bi-weekly basis just to "check in" with myself.

OMC: What size did you start at and what size are you now?

JK: My starting size was a 28/30. I could only shop in specialty stores. At my very lowest weight, I fit into a size 8 dress. I remember this vividly because I had never EVER fit into a single digit size in my life. Right now I wear a size between 12 and 16, some fits do not account for the loose skin I carry as a result of the loss.

OMC: Are you afraid of gaining it back?

JK: No. I have fluctuated some, as I search for my perfect balance of healthy living. Weather changes my weight, hormonal cycles also change the number on the scale. I keep watch on the number but focus more on how I am feeling. I do occasionally eat pizza or ice cream and, the next day, feel horrible and turn back around and eat a salad or fruit.

I feel like I have detoxified my body. The numbers may continue to range up and down but I don't believe – especially with the strong network of support that has been built around me after sharing these images – that I will ever go back to the "old" me.

OMC: Do you feel better physically? Emotionally? What are some of the best rewards for you about losing the weight?

JK: I get asked this a lot. I think I feel better physically. I mean, I lived in this body throughout the whole transition. It wasn't an on / off switch so I barely remember the way I physically felt at my heaviest. The emotional change was the most dramatic. I remember hiding behind people when being photographed and staying inside instead of attending social functions.

Now I am not afraid to go on national television and have the confidence to stand next to my nude self-portraits and speak to total strangers. Atop the greater sense of self, the very best reward is knowing that I have added years to my life.

OMC: How have people in your life responded to you weight loss?

JK: At first people, mainly my family, doubted my latest weight-loss attempt. Now that they've seen what is possible, everyone is so supportive. I have a fantastic network of friends and family who cheer me on at my strongest and cheer me up at my lowest. The public has also been incredible. I am contacted frequently about my journey and I am reaffirmed that what I am sharing is important. My life is real life and I am happy to have the opportunity to share it with so many.

OMC: What else do you plan to do with the photo collection? Are you still adding to it?

I do not know what the future holds for this work. "Changing Room" remains an open series because I would like to option to add to it if I feel I need to in the future. As an artist, I am inspired by life and am always inspired to keep making works. My website features "Changing Room" and "Half" which deal with my weight loss, "14 Million Minutes" is a series about the loss of my mother, and "Tag" deals with my response to body-image in media. I'm sure that whatever events occur moving forward, I will continue making art about it.

OMC: Obviously, "Changing Room" is about more than weight loss and dress size. Can you expand on that?

JK: These images aren't solely about a decrease in my size, they are about so much more. They are about life and death, about pain and sadness, they are about truth, reality and society. You don't need fancy cameras and lenses to make art, you need a voice. I hope that my voice is heard through my works.

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