By Andrea Brown Herald Writer
He’s an eccentric ’80s fitness fanatic who likes to prance around half-naked in sequins and Spandex.
She’s a modest 35-year-old homemaker with five kids from 2 to 13.
He came to her rescue two years ago when she weighed 322 pounds and wanted to shape up her life.
Julie Hollow credits Richard Simmons with cutting her weight in half and doubling her energy.
Hollow lost 160 pounds following his lead on the TV in her Mukilteo living room. She gave in to his every move and mojo.
“I did Richard religiously. For over a year, that’s all I did,” Hollow said. “He was my shining star. He gave me hope.”
Not only that, he gave her fun.
“I started with ‘Sweatin’ to the Oldies 2.’ Right here, baby,” Hollow said, clutching a prized copy of a DVD with his flamboyant bod plastered on the cover.
She has come a long way from her oversized recliner, worn at the seat.
“You can see where I sat on it,” she said. She points to the arms and adds, “I sat over it.”
She did lots of sitting.
“I’d have my kids bring stuff to me, even if it was right there,” she said. “Seriously. I didn’t have the energy to get out of my chair and get the remote control.”
Her oldest child, Anthony, 13, was often her go-to guy. “She used to just sit in her chair all day and not really be involved,” he said.
If she went on field trips, she stood out.
“I had a little boy make a comment about how Anthony’s mom needed a whole bus seat to herself,” Hollow said. “That stuff hurts. I didn’t let on that I took it so personally.”
She couldn’t wear tennis shoes. “I couldn’t bend over to tie them,” she said. “I had to wear flip-flops or slippers.”
It went with her wardrobe.
“You want to see my nightie?” she asked, then darted to the bedroom.
She’s back in a flash with a giant shapeless garment. “Talk about a tent,” she said. “I filled out every square inch of this. I didn’t look in the mirror for years. I dressed in men’s dark baggy clothes. I wasn’t pleasant to be around. It was depressing, dark times.”
The only time her weight was an issue with her husband, John, was when she’d wear his T-shirts. “She’d stretch my shirts out,” he said.
Her crusade began on Jan. 17, 2012, the day after her 33rd birthday. She decided: Enough. She’d been overweight all her life. “I was short and stocky, 4-foot-9 and 220 pounds in the fourth grade. I was still very heavy my senior year, and I got heavier and heavier and heavier.”
She blamed herself. “I, at 330 pounds, had to say, ‘You got here by yourself, sister,’?” she said.
“I was thinking, What is fun? I remember my aunt dancing with Richard when I would spend the night at her house. I thought, I’m going to look him up, see if he’s still around.”
Sure enough, he was. Simmons became her personal cheerleader to party off and boogie down the pounds. It was a family affair.
“As goofy as he is, he made me love myself. He brought out the best in me. I did it with my kids and I saw them happy, dancing and crazy,” she said.
“I like his funky energy,” said her daughter Alicia, 9.
It was slow at first, but Hollow didn’t give up. “When I was walking, I would take a few more steps,” she said. “My neighbor called me every morning asking, ‘Have you done your Richard yet?’ Just to keep me on track.”
It carried over to the dinner table. No more fast food or bad food for her or her family.
“You hold yourself accountable and you stick to it,” she said. “It’s about healing from within. You change what’s in your head and your heart and the rest follows.”
Hollow’s success story and a photo of her holding a huge pair of “before” jeans is on the wall of the Mukilteo YMCA weight room, where she started pumping iron last summer to add muscle to the rolls of loose skin. She sometimes goes twice a day.
Kate Rossart, YMCA membership director, calls Hollow “an inspiration.”
“She really impacts people positively,” Rossart said. “No matter what’s going on, she is smiling. She doesn’t quit.”
Simmons sent her an autographed photo that reads: “Julie, I am so proud of you. Live with the loose skin like I do.”
Hollow said she’s gone Simmons when it comes to fashion.
“He brought color into my life. Now I’m in hot pinks and crazy colors,” she said.
She’s not afraid to show off her figure. “I fit into a size 6 dress as a bridesmaid. I was walking down the aisle and I heard someone say ‘That’s Julie,’ and someone else said, “No way!’?”
“Now I’m like … ta-da! I’m living and I’m loving it. I bubble over. I get annoying sometimes. I annoy myself,” Hollow said.
“She’s a totally different person,” her husband said.
“Now she’s able to do stuff for herself,” Anthony said.
Alicia said the big change in her mom is “her happiness.”
As Simmons would say, “She’s a ball of fabulousness.”
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org.