Fit Nation: Finding the right life balance

Fit Nation couple trains together
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Story highlights

  • Julia Smookler learns that good health starts with herself
  • She and partner are preparing for autumn triathlon

Six CNN viewers have been selected to be part of the 2015 Fit Nation triathlon team. They'll race alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in September. As they train, the six will share their stories about their Fit Nation experience. Julia Smookler lives in Atlanta.

(CNN)As a midwife, my role is to always look out for the best interests of my patients. My day-to-day responsibilities are to provide exceptional health care. Throughout my career as a midwife, I have also been passionate about educating and empowering women.

I speak to women about how to have a healthy lifestyle and how to eat a better overall diet, especially during their pregnancy.
But when it comes to me, I forget all these lessons.
    Sometimes, I really do forget to take care of myself in the process -- and practice what I preach.
    After my own pregnancy, I struggled to find the right balance to eat healthy, make time to exercise, and still be a full-time working mom.
    While juggling my busy life, the weight piled on, and my energy started to diminish. It was time to make a change, and I had no clue how to get back on the right track.
    Finally, I got the opportunity of a lifetime, when I found out my husband and I and were selected for Fit Nation. This gave me the chance to ask for help instead of always being the caretaker.
    It was now my time to take a good look in the mirror, and get a game plan together, to make a change. It was time to start living the life I preached, and lead by example.
    I wanted to be healthy, I just could not figure out how to make it happen with all my obligations. I wanted to share some of the things I've learned in the last few months to create this new healthier me.

    All about practicing what you preach

    The first thing I learned at kickoff weekend came from our trainer, April: "Worry about yourself."
    That just wasn't in my nature.
    I was worried about Eugene, my husband. Worried about the guilt that I would feel not seeing my daughter as much, through all of my training. I was already creating a strategy on how I could bring fitness and health into the lives of people that I care about and my patients.
    The main person I needed to finally worry about was myself.
    I came to the realization that if I don't take care of my health and fitness, how could I help others and be the best for my patients and family?
    As a couple, Eugene and I had to work out a new schedule that was conducive for both of our busy lives. Since we were the first Fit Nation couple to be selected, we had to come together to plan and be strategic so we could make this happen for both of us.
    What I found to be crucial, is we had to have an open conversation and discuss the concerns we had and address obstacles in our way of putting our new plan into action.
    Once we established a schedule, we decided to focus on our meals for the week, and also make changes in what we were eating and cook more often at home, at the same time eating out way less.
    I still struggle with this, but at least I know how to make healthier choices and not to eat late. I found that it's the planning and preparation and communication it takes, to really make a change that sticks for the long run.
    I didn't realize how much I would enjoy biking and swimming now running I can still do without, but I work through that and move forward.
    Exercising has provided a new release for me from work and motherhood. I truly feel that I am doing something great for myself and the change so far feels amazing.
    It's now been six weeks since our kickoff weekend. Working out has provided me with more energy, and a new zest for life. I am cooking healthier meals, spending more quality time with my daughter, and working out more at the gym.
    I am still working on balancing everything. It has become a priority to put health and fitness first. Most importantly, I have realized this is a journey and changes are not made overnight.
    Please, have realistic expectations, don't be too hard on yourself, embrace your challenges and don't give up!
    My new norm is an aching body, the smell of chlorine (from swimming) on my skin, and dreams of kale salad.
    Watch out Malibu Triathlon:, I'll see you at the finish line!