Encouraging Health and Happiness

MAC Member Spotlight: Julie Kientz

julieMAC Member Julie Kientz is a people person.  That description might fly in the face of stereotypes about computer scientists and engineers.  However, as an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering, Julie takes a very ‘people-sided’ view for her research and teachings that focus on bridging the gap between humans and technology, especially in the area of health care.  She has been recognized nationally and globally for her dedication to her projects as well as her innovative ideas in helping others.  But maybe her best idea recently was to look at her own situation and work to bridge the gap between her current fitness and her goals for a healthier lifestyle.

Growing up in small town Ohio, Julie was admittedly not the athletic type.  Fitting more the role of the ‘smart kid’, she believed what she terms “the dichotomy of either being brainy OR brawny.”  For Julie, choosing ‘brainy’ has meant a top notch education, recognition for graduate research projects and a dream job at the University of Washington.  Success has continued for Julie with the culmination last year of being recognized by the MIT Technology Review as one of  the world’s top 35 innovators under the age of 35.   As her studies and important work took the lead in her life, Julie’s epiphany moment about her health came during a cholesterol test at age 29.  Staring into the future of an upcoming marriage to her husband, Shwetak Patel, and her plan to become a mother, Julie realized that she needed to spend some time on her own health and fitness.  She began working with a personal trainer at the UW gym and continued right up to her 20th week of her pregnancy.  After she gave birth to Maya in 2012, Julie thought that she could conduct her workouts on her own. However, the continued demands of her work and her new family made it easy to be less disciplined about getting to the gym and less intense about her workouts when she was there.  Julie was not getting the result she wanted.


At the recommendation of a friend who was having great results, Julie decided to join the MAC last September and try Body Breakthrough.  She is currently in her 3rd 12-week session of the intensive training program led by Breanne Curran that combines hard work and nutritional guidance.  With the sweat put in at the club and the homework that Breanne gives her, Julie has been very happy with her results, losing 20 lbs and returning to her pre-pregnancy weight.  When analyzing her own success, she is quick to credit the accountability that comes with participating in Body Breakthrough as a huge motivating factor in doing the work.  While she has yet to participate in other classes or programs, Julie has enjoyed other benefits that come with MAC membership;  namely, time away from her students.  Although she enjoys  the collaborative learning environment with her students in the classroom, Julie was keen to leave the UW gym where students would interrupt her workouts to discuss a project or where awkward moments were created when running into students in the locker room.


During her training time at the MAC, Julie is always looking for ways to marry human needs to technology.  Maybe it is using technology to tap into the specific motivation that inspires each person to workout.  Or perhaps it is consulting a trainer to determine the correct body mechanics needed for a program that helps the visually impaired workout effectively and safely.


While Julie’s increased fitness levels and nutritional habits certainly support her busy lifestyle, one of her main motivations for her hard work at the MAC is to be healthy and present for her family.  And that means being a good example for her daughter, Maya, so she doesn’t grow up believing she has to choose between being brainy or brawny but rather that she can be healthy of mind and body.


Thank you for sharing your story, Julie.  We congratulate you on your fitness success and look forward to being your partner for your future fitness goals.



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