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Conquer Your Weight

Episode #45: From Bookworm to Athlete: How to Shift Your Identity to Achieve Weight Loss with Guest: Dr. Alicia Shelly

Show Notes

August 9, 2023

In today's episode, you'll meet guest, Dr. Alicia Shelly. She will share her personal weight loss journey, and discuss what tools you can use to also achieve long term weight loss.

Dr. Alicia Shelly was raised in Atlanta, GA. She received her Doctorate of Medicine from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, OH. Dr. Shelly has been practicing Primary Care and Obesity medicine since 2014. In 2017, she became a Diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. She is the lead physician at the Wellstar Primary Care Douglasville and Wellstar Centers of Best Health Douglasville. She started a weekly podcast & Youtube channel entitled Back on Track: Achieving Healthy Weight loss, where she discusses how to get on track and stay on track with your weight loss journey. She has been featured on CNN, Fox 5 News, and She was named an honoree of the 2021 Atlanta Business Chronicles 40 under 40 award. She also is a collaborating author for the, “Made for More: Physician Entrepreneurs who Live Life and Practice Medicine on their own terms”.
Twitter/Instagram: drshellymd


Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: This is Dr. Sarah Stombaugh and you are listening to the Conquer Your Weight Podcast, episode number 45. Announcer: Welcome to the Conquer Your Weight podcast, where you will learn to understand your mind and body so you can achieve long-term weight loss. Here's your host obesity medicine physician and life coach, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Hey everyone, thanks for joining me today. Today we have a guest with us, Dr. Alicia Shelly. She is an obesity medicine physician and she's going to tell us a bit about her own journey through weight loss and becoming more active, so I'm so excited to welcome her. Before I do, I want to invite you to come on over to my website and join my email list. I just launched an email list. I am sharing updates from my practice every week sharing easy, healthy recipes. So if that is something you were interested in, go ahead and pop on over to That's S-A-R-A-H-S-T-O-M-B-A-U-G-H-M-D dot com. Let's go ahead and get started with today's episode. All right, today I have a guest with me, Dr. Alicia Shelley. She is going to share a bit about her journey through weight loss and how that has helped her professionally working with patients and clients. And thank you so much for joining me today, Dr. Shelley. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so glad to be here today. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yeah, so let me have you introduce yourself. Tell us a bit about you and how you got to be where you're at today. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Yeah so I haven't always, so today I'm a totally different person from when I started, so I haven't been always the active person. When I was a kid, I battled with my weight a lot and I would have bursts where I would get active and then I'd get unactive. I was one of these people that just enjoy, would love to sit there and just read all day long. It was just something, so getting active was not something that I was good at. And so it wasn't until really a couple years ago, 2016, when I really started to get, I really needed to do something different with my weight and to get more active. And so I started starting from a couch to 5K where my friend was like, Hey, let's do a 5K. And so we started walking, we started running and eventually we did the 5K and I was like, oh my gosh, this is great. I feel great. I just never was active before. And so after that I started going for different longer races, went did my first marathon in 2018, and then was hooked. I was bit by the bug, and so it allowed me to not only be active, but just to be, it became a different person. I had the person I had to become to finish that race was the person I really enjoyed and the person I just felt good about. And so it allowed me to be more active. I noticed that my weight started to decrease. One thing that I forgot in my story here is that I had been fluctuating my weight so much that I eventually ended up undergoing bariatric surgery. And so even with that, I needed to, I would go to the gym, but I would go, but it wasn't fun. It was just something you did. And so it wasn't until I've kind of found this whole running and then at this point I've now transitioned into triathlons that has been so fulfilling for me professionally as well. And then on top of that, getting more control over my health most importantly. So it's allowed me to kind of stay healthy too. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I love that conversation about identity shift and when we think about adapting any type of new practice, new habits, it's really, it can be challenging to do that when you have an identity that is different from what your goals are. And so your goals being in line with your identity is so valuable to making those happen. And it sounds like there was a really clear shift that happened for you of like, I am this active person. I have this. Where do you think that shift came from? Dr. Alicia Shelley: I think it came from embracing something new because up to that point, I had never even considered exercise or running. I mean, I would go to the gym, but I would get on the elliptical and watch TV while I was on the elliptical and then I'd go home and I did that a couple times a week, and so I wasn't as active of maybe somebody else, but when I started to see myself in a different light, okay, now I am this recreational athlete, I never considered myself an athlete. It helped me to, it actually opened up a new area that I didn't know I enjoyed. I didn't realize that enjoy being outside of nature, even if it's going for a walk or going for, I actually do walk, run, so I am a big proponent for that, but just doing that, it was just so healthy, just being in nature, being in outside, I felt less stressed. I felt like I was in my happy place many times when I would go through a stressful period of time when I would go running, you felt better afterwards. You just felt like, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yes, Dr. Alicia Shelley: Why didn't I do this before? I remember I was trying to buy a house and I was so stressed out on like, is this the right one? I went for a nice little run walk and I just felt like, yes, we are in a good place. So I think that identity shift was allowing myself to really to try something new and to be able to just to try it. You just never know what you may enjoy and what you may not enjoy. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yeah, I love that exploring the potential for enjoyment, because I agree in the weight loss journey, we know that exercise can play such a big role in that, but when you think about whatever you're doing in your weight loss journey, it needs to be something that you enjoy, something that you're committed to and something that you are going to be willing to do long term. And so when you think about whatever the exercise is, but definitely the, I'm going to get on the elliptical, just watch my show, might as well be doing something. It doesn't really provide, I doesn't have that direct feedback where I'm stressed, I feel that endorphins release, I am getting some fresh air. I'm feeling that calm that happens when you can find an enjoyment beyond just maybe what feels like a theoretical weight loss goal, but there's also some enjoyment here in this moment. I agree. That's been really big for me of being able to incorporate exercise. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Yeah, oh yeah, and exactly. I think finding something you enjoy is key because sometimes I also didn't mention this, but I also am a obesity medicine physician as well, and sometimes I find my patients, I have some patients that just hate exercise, they just hate it. And I find that when they shift their thoughts to like, Hey, it's not necessarily exercise, it's me being active. It's me being able to have time with maybe me and my children. We go for a walk or me and my spouse, we go for a walk. Or even my friend, like I mentioned in my journey, my journey started with my friend wanting me to do a 5K with her. So we did it together. So it was like this sense of community and the sense of kind of connection at the same time. So finding an activity where you're able to incorporate that together with someone else or accountability, it helps with moving forward. During the pandemic, I had one patient where she and all her family would get on at five o'clock every afternoon and they would do some type of physical activity. They would be on, yeah, they'd just be on Zoom and the first part, first 10, 15 minutes, they would connect and be like, Hey girl, what's going on? Blah, blah, blah. Then they would do their next 15, 30 minutes, they'd their exercise and then they were done, and it was a way of connection. So finding ways where you can connect and still have a good time is important to you, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: And we know so much. It's not about what you do. I think many in the obesity medicine world, so many of my patients who come to me, they know what to do. They're really intelligent people, but how to do it, how to find the motivation, how to find the excitement. I love that you're addressing that with all your people as well. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Yeah, and I hear that everybody says that I know what to do, I just don't do Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: It. Right, exactly. Dr. Alicia Shelley: And why is it, and it's just because it's not fun. It's a chore. It's like another, oh, check on that long list of to-dos that you're like, I should do, but I don't. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Exactly. Exactly. Dr. Alicia Shelley: And so some tips that are helpful for people is sometimes definitely scheduling it if it's something you enjoy, number one, finding something you enjoy that you won't kill you, that you won't be horrible. And then number two, making sure you schedule it too and make that a priority in your day. And then number three is just being consistent with it because even if you start slow, it may be five or 10 minutes. What is always so exciting is that you'll notice as you keep doing it, you get better at it, you get longer at it, it doesn't become so much as a chore, so it gets easier as you keep doing it. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yeah, absolutely. Well, imagining we connected for a few minutes before hitting record button here and you are sitting in a hotel room in Milwaukee getting, preparing for your triathlon, which is so, I mean, it's so amazing. I imagine a few years ago that was not a thought that you would be having of something that was on the horizon for you. Dr. Alicia Shelley: No, two years ago, I used to love to watch on television. Ironman, I've watch once a year, they have the Ironman championships and when they're in Hawaii and I would record and watch it, and I never thought I could do it. I never thought it was possible until I saw there was this one gentleman who did it, he had a disability and he completed an Ironman, and I was like, oh my gosh. And what was the kicker for me was that they showed his schedule where he just, this is what I did each and every day, and if I just prepared, I could do this. And so I'm like, well, if I just prepare, I can do it too. So for the last two years I've been preparing, I've been exercising, getting it in, and I would never have thought of myself as I now think of myself as an athlete, but I didn't think of myself before. But just being that person where you run, you swim and you bike, and these were just different areas that I wasn't necessarily I didn't know I liked or could do. I did the running thing. I enjoy running, but the whole swimming thing and the bike thing, those are totally different. Those are two different areas where I had to relearn because I did them before, but it was just for fun. My grandmother was like, please get out the house and learn how to swim. It was just Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Like, you know how to not drown, but how do I do this effectively? Dr. Alicia Shelley: How do I just this effectively? But what was so cool is just seeing how when you just kind of started with it, I remember I was telling somebody, my friend is doing her first triathlon this weekend as well, and we were talking about it. I'm like, I remember it's a 250 meter swim that she has to do. And I'm like, I remember I had to do a 250 million swim when I first started and I was so tired. I was like, why is this so long now? Just last week I did a 3000 meter swim and I'm like, oh, this is great. Let's go for a run. And you don't notice the progression, but you realize you're like, I used to not be able to do this. This used to not even be something I could even think of doing. And now I realize for me, I enjoy swimming in open water where it's at a big lake or it's an ocean. So I find that that's kind of my happier place. It's a place where I can be able to think, although sometimes I have really awkward thoughts. I'm like, is there an alligator here? And I'm like, don't think, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yeah, that thought is not helping me right now. Dr. Alicia Shelley: This is not benefiting me Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Faster. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Faster, yes. Love that. You always have different obstacles in different places, but you're right sometimes if you just start and you'll be surprised at how stronger and how longer you're able to do. And I find the same with my patients that they'll start off walking maybe five, 10 minutes and then before you know it, a couple months down the line they're like, Hey, now I'm able to walk 20, 30 minutes or now I'm able to walk 45 minutes. It's just the fact that they've kind of been able to gradually increase their intensity without injuring themselves, number one, no injury. That's the whole point, but it makes a difference. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Well, and reflecting on their wins, which is something I can tell that you're doing, is being able to see, look where I was and look at the things that I've done. So when you're starting in that journey and it used to be able to walk 15 minutes, now you can walk 45 minutes, that still may feel like a long distance away from being able to run a marathon or do a triathlon or some sort of bigger goal like that, but you've already made such big progression and being able to stop and celebrate that to have that mindset is such a powerful tool as well. I love that you're doing that. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Yeah. Oh yeah. It is so important because we don't realize our wins. We don't realize that we're improving because we're always trying to get to the next goal. But I do find when we, like you said, we stop, we celebrate, we document what we're doing. It makes a difference. When they first come in, I take a picture of them and they're always like, we're going to take a picture. I'm like, yes. So that we can compare when you come back a few months from now. And then when they come back a few months from now, I'm like, look, you see it. Your waist is getting smaller. Your face is smaller. You feel the difference of your losing weight. And they're like, yeah, some people, it's so funny because they will be so upset. They're like, I should have lost more. I'm like, but you've lost a lot. Let's celebrate. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yes. Yeah, I think, yeah, I drive my patients crazy because a lot of times they'll come in and they've lost a pound and not after just one week, but we've been meeting consistently and let's say over four months they've lost 15 pounds. And so they're on this trajectory of one pound per week, and they're like, oh, why isn't it going faster? And I'm like, isn't it amazing? And they're like, Dr. Sta, I want to lose more weight. But stopping to say, okay, what are all the things that you did do and what's going to be different about this journey? I think having that moment of reflection or those many moments of reflection is one of the best tools we can bring. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Yeah, I think so. And I think you're absolutely right because people get so discouraged sometimes, and I know sometimes I can get discouraged, especially when it comes to just weight and in general, but when we don't reflect, sometimes that discouragement can stop us from doing anything, we can just be like, I'm not doing it anymore. I'm stopping what I'm doing. This is not working. When actuality it is working, it just is taking time. It's not quick like when we were younger. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Well, and even a lot of times you didn't gain the weight overnight. You gained the weight over many years. And so if you can lose it, even if it takes a year or a couple of years, it's still oftentimes a lot faster than the weight even came on. And so that's a pretty cool win. But really working to reframe that can be challenging. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Yes, exactly. And sometimes making sure that you have those thoughts, those positive thoughts to kind of help. I always find it very interesting, ask my patients like, Hey, what went well for you since it started? I always actually start off with what went well. Everybody wants to talk about what did not go well. So I'm like, let's take a moment and talk about what went well. And then the lady was like, well, I can't think of anything, but I'm like, but you lost weight, so something had to go well, but you had to be consistent with something. Right? Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Take some ownership. Yeah, you'll blame yourself when it doesn't go well, but when it does go well, you got to take some credit. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Yes, take the credit. Take the credit. We're giving you credit here. I am your cheerleader. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Let me ask you, when you think about working with your patient, how do you apply what you've learned in your journey to being able to help them? Dr. Alicia Shelley: So a lot of times the funny thing is, and I should do more of this, I should share my journey with my patients. Sometimes I want the visit to be so much about them that I sometimes forget to talk about what I've done, but there are cases where I've had an opportunity to share. And so what I want to let my patients know is that they're not alone in this. They're not the only people who are going through this. They're not the only people who've gone through a stall or a plateau. And so sometimes I'll use some of my experience that I've had to be like, Hey, listen, you're exactly where you need to be. It may not be where you want to be, but it doesn't mean that you're not where you need to be. You're exactly where you need to be right now. And so we, this is part of the process, this is part of the journey. And sometimes what I do, if I get stuck or if I'm going up one pound down, one pound up, one pound down, one pound, just kind of staying in that little plateau, I would say, Hey, there's things that you can do to kind of help break through it, changing it up, changing some certain healthy habits, changing maybe more intensity here with physical activity. Because first of all, people get kind of set in what their certain patterns are and then it makes it harder for them wanting to kind try something different to break through. But I use my experience to be able to encourage and then hopefully let people know they're not alone. Sometimes it feels like you're the only person on this journey, but you're not. There's people who are doing it just like you. There are people who have been in your shoes and there's so much different advice that they can give to kind of help you move forward or that help them move forward. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yeah, absolutely. I really love that approach. I think it is so personalized. And so while sharing your journey, maybe really relevant at times, being able to focus on the person who's in front of you and see what they may hate, the idea of doing a triathlon, and that may not be their thing. And it doesn't have to be. It Dr. Alicia Shelley: Doesn't have to be. You're absolutely right. It can be whatever you want it to be. It can be hiking, it can be water aerobics, it can be Zumba line dancing. It can be what you want it to be, but we want you to enjoy it. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yeah, absolutely. Let me ask you, in the last couple of minutes here, is there anything that you would love to share with my listeners that would be some great takeaways for them? Dr. Alicia Shelley: Yes. So the one thing I'd want to say is you may be in a place where you haven't need to do something, but you just don't have the time to do it, or you're just kind of busy. My first suggestion for you is, number one, decide one thing. It doesn't have to be huge. It doesn't have to be this whole transformation of things, of healthy habits to do in order to lose weight. But I would say choose one thing and whatever that one thing is, schedule it. Just start. Schedule it in your day. Make it a priority of one of the things you're going to do each day is that one thing, and then be consistent with it. I do feel the secret sauce to a long lasting weight loss is consistency, is making sure that you're showing up each and every day. Even if you have days where you're off, where like, oh, you went to your son's birthday party and they had cake and you ate cake. It's not the end of the world. You just kind of get back on the right track. But making sure that not only do you have consistency, but then also have a little bit of grace because sometimes we can be our worst enemies. We will beat ourselves up, we will beat ourselves to a pulp. Especially just thinking of all the things like, oh my gosh, I can't believe I ate that pizza. You just go on in your head. So it's important to give yourself grace and be consistent. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yeah, I love that. And if my listeners are interested in learning more about you or working with you, where can they find more about you? Dr. Alicia Shelley: Yes, they can find me at Dr. Shelley MD on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. I have a podcast, the Back On Track Achieving Healthy Weight Loss podcast. And then also I have a YouTube channel where we talk about different topics on how people can live a more healthier life. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: I love that. And where are you seeing patients right now? Dr. Alicia Shelley: And I see patients in Douglasville, Georgia, actually with the at WellStar Center, the best health in Douglasville, Georgia. And feel free to look me up. I'll be happy to see you. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Yeah, absolutely. My patients know I'm in Illinois and Virginia, and I often have people reaching out like, Hey, do you know any docs in fill in the blank state? So if anyone is looking for a deck in Georgia, they should head to Dr. Shelley. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Yes, yes. We sure, especially in Georgia, we do do virtual visits, so yeah, you don't have to be in the Atlanta area. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Good. Well, I'm so glad we had a chance to talk today. Thank you for joining me. I really appreciate it. Dr. Alicia Shelley: Thank you so much for having me.
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