Barbara Lost 100 Pounds and Became a Triathlete!*

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Barbara Whitehead (ONEKIDSMOM)
Weight Lost: 100 pounds
Hometown: Lincoln, NE
Occupation: Computer Programmer/Analyst
What was life like before your weight loss?
I have been a compulsive eater since childhood, raiding my parents’ food stores and downing large volumes of candy when I could get it.  I was a fairly active child, so didn't start actually gaining the pounds until adolescence.  I lost with an unhealthy fast/feast diet cycle between high school and college, which is the last time I was in the 120s before this current lifestyle change.  I was the classic yo-yo dieter.  I’d try for a while, lose some, and then gain it all back. I was so unfit that walking five steps across the room to answer the telephone caused my mother-in-law to ask me whether I had been running.  I was afraid that if my young son would hurt himself on the playground, I would be unable to get to him to help him.
What was your ‘light bulb moment’ that made you get serious about losing the weight?
My motivation to lose weight was to save my life.  I also wanted to manage the stresses in my life in a healthier way and to be happy. The “a-ha moment” came when I realized it was not losing the weight or the number on the scale that made me happy.  It was the behaviors that gave me weight loss and a healthy weight as a side effect that truly made me happy!  I firmly believe that this is the revelation that will enable me to keep it off for life.
Tell us a bit about your weight loss journey with SparkPeople:
It has been a long road getting here, with lots of hills and valleys.  The initial weight loss that "hooked" me on taking better care of me was when I joined Weight Watchers at work.  I had to get past some resistance from those closest to me to do it, but I went anyway.  I dropped about 80 pounds that time, but maintaining the loss was difficult and after a few years of white knuckle attempts, gaining some, losing again; it all unraveled and I regained most of it.  I tried again, various times, always trying to "get back" to healthy.  Not because of the number on the scale but because of how good it felt to be able to run across a field with my young child.  I went to all the programs, read the books on the best sellers list, and was never completely satisfied, because most of them gave only lip service to what I felt the big issue for me was:  eating my emotions.  Eventually I ended up at Overeaters Anonymous, but found that played into some of my own character flaws.  I still believe in the principles of the steps they teach, and you'll find a flavor of that in what I write on my SparkPage and in my blogs. 
SparkPeople has allowed me a safe place to share my journey and to find kindred spirits.  And, it is a fantastic place to find the support of fellow maintainers.  Those of us who have lost can wear out our friends and family with how we must continue our vigilance and focus beyond the initial loss.  SparkPeople for me has been more about community support than anything else.  The tracking tools are easy to use and helpful.  However, I found that when I started blogging nearly daily--the good, the bad and the ugly--motivation started becoming far more consistent.  When I was low, there was always someone to buck me up.  When I was crowing, the pats on the back have been great.  But most importantly, it gives me a chance to offer my support, experience, strength, and hope to others.  We care about each other here on SparkPeople! 
 Barbara and SparkFriend SLENDERELLA61

What is your typical exercise routine like?
I like having a balance of activity.  My typical week includes at least one swim, one bike ride, and one or two runs.  It also includes at least one strength training session.  If I have time for more, I’ll add more.
And every day, no matter if it is a “rest” day or a workout day, includes a vitally important thing:  remembering to go to recess, like the little kids in school!  What that means is leaving the desk and walking for ten minutes, either around the block outside, or in the hallways if the weather is bad.
How would you describe your typical diet now as compared to before your weight loss?
I’m all about the fresh fruits and veggies.  I eat less, but enjoy it more.   I eat smaller portion sizes and more frequent meals, but I savor each bite.  Plus, I drink at least 8 cups of water a day (usually a lot more, because I gave up all carbonated beverages in December 2009).

What are some major personal fitness goals you’ve achieved or have coming up?
Ever since I saw the first television coverage of the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii (oh my goodness, that was decades ago!), I have been enamored of this multi-sport event.  In 2007, as part of one of my efforts to “maintain,” I challenged my siblings to do an informal one with me, and my brother even drove 1,100 miles to swim a half mile, bike 10 miles and run/walk a 5K in support of his sister.
I was really thrilled to put on a timing chip and compete in my first “official” triathlon in 2012.  I repeated the feat this past July.  I’ve been running longer distances, as well, a personal dream.  On September 7 and 8, 2013, I reached a long-time goal by virtue of a challenge race called a Double Half Mary.  This is a half marathon each of two successive days.  I won’t guarantee that someday I might chase after the full marathon in a single session.  But first, I really want to up my triathlon distance from the two sprint distances I’ve done, up to an Olympic distance race.  That one includes 1,500 meters in open water, 40 kilometers on a bike, and a 10K footrace. I’m still dreaming, and still doing, and having gotten back to fit makes it possible.

How has your life changed since losing weight and improving your health?
My knees don't hurt.  My back doesn't hurt.  I don't stay sick as long if I succumb to a bug.  Everything is easier at this weight: running, biking, swimming, and just plain living!  I find that others relate to me differently, too.  As an adult-onset (maybe even senior-onset) athlete, I find that younger people who are near me in a race have said I am an "inspiration."
Congratulations, Barbara!

*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

Have you lost weight and kept it off using We'd love to share your story. Email us: sparkpeoplesuccess (at) gmail (dot) com

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Awesome story! The best part of it is how they have effectively maintain a healthy lifestyle for years!! Report
This is one of my favorite success stories. From 5-steps, out of breath to a 5 kilometer! I also found a neat plan for the week: One swim, one bike ride, and one or two runs! Also, she is right about Spark people being great supporters! Every time I knew I was going to need some back up, someone always came to my rescue in a timely manner. :) Report
Wow---you look fantastic... and I bet you feel it too!
Thank you for sharing your amazing and inspiring story!
You are incredible! Report
congrats, Barbara!! You are an inspiration to me. I am recomitting to a food and health/lifestyle change and this is what I really needed to read. THANK YOU!!! Report
What a wonderful post!! I can so relate to much of your journey. Thanks so much for sharing and congratulations !! Report
I just had to come and read this again. You actually looked a bit like me in the before picture. You really are amazing! Report
This is great! Well done! You're so inspiring! Report
From one senior to another I REALLY admire you and your accomplishments. Report
What an inspiring story. I realize that other people are emotional eaters like me and that it is possible to overcome it. When you said it is not the number on the scale, but how you feel that makes you happy is exactly how I feel. Report
Thank You for sharing your story! Yours is the first blog I have read and I enjoyed it so very much!! So uplifting and it gives me that "spark" of hope that yes, maybe even I can "do it" !! Congrats girl!! BIG HUGS Report
Congratulations on being featured in a Spark People Blog! the article is great and you are really in inspiration to me, and I'm sure many others! I am honored to call you "friend"! Report
Thanks for the words of wisdom and the inspiration. You look great!
Thank you Barbara for being my inspiration! Great work you have done for yourself and your family. Being healthy is a choice we make everyday. You are a true motivator!
Terrific. Very inspiring and thank you for sharing. There is 'light at the end of the tunnel' for me. Thanks. Report
Wow! So inspirational!! Congrats to you! Report
This is inspiring!! My ultimate goal is also to lose 100+lbs and to be a triathlete. I've got 2 5Ks under my belt, and am spending this year training for a sprint triathlon. I want this SO much....thank you for inspiring me to keep trying!! Report
Great job! Thank you for sharing your story Report
Barbara, I needed your blog today. Congratulations! Report
Good for you. This is my first few days here and yours is the first motivational article I've read. I want to lose 100 pounds, too! Report
Congratulations! We are so proud of you. I do have a question, how long did it take you to take all the weight off. It does not mention it on the article. Report
That is awesome! You are an inspiration! Report
Congratulation that is awesome! Report
Well done Barbara, bravo !!! Report
Barbara- You are a rock star! I am just starting my journey and am looking forward to a healthier lifestyle. You look fantastic! Report
You have done a tremendous, great thing for yourself and to inspire your friends, family, and us!

Livelygirl2 Report
I am 54 and just starting my weight loss journey with SparkPeople. It is success stories like yours that give me so much motivation.Congrats!!!! Report
You were truly an inspiration to me! because all I see is young people losing the weight and their metablolism is alot better than mine. but your age and the weight loss you conquered is amazing..thanks for sharing. Report
you so inspired me. just starting my journey. have also gained and lost so much over the years but as we get older more health issues seem to come up.congrats on all your acomplishments Report
Congratulations and thank you for the inspiring article and photographs! I was fat since childhood, had a head start on you in that sad department. I did the whole yoyo bit and so many things you wrote are like my own weight story. I have always loved physical activity and exercise, but anything short of a marathon every day could make up for my uncontrolled appetite. It is very beneficial for me to know that you overcame similar difficulties. Thank you again! Report
Congratulations - you are truly and inspiration and I appreciate hearing about your journey!! You are AWESOME Report
Great story! Report
Thanks for the inspiration i could use a new friend buddy you are such a great inspiration!! Report
I love the line, "It was the behaviors that gave me weight loss and a healthy weight as a side effect that truly made me happy!" Thanks. Report
Thank you for the inspiration. Report
Awesome job! Report
Woohoo what a great job. Report
What an awesome accomplishment! Report
You have inspired me! Report
Wow ! I tell you what- Wow ! Great Job! Report
good for you! Report
Congrats Barbara, you are truly an inspiration to all of us. Report
Wow, just wow! What a great story! Report
Congratulations! What an incredible story of success. Thank you for sharing. I am in a phase of 'being on track' right now and your story gave me more reasons to maintain my dedication to my current exercise routine and focus on veggies/fruit/water each day. I loved your comment 'everything is easier' at your current weight. Thank you and best wishes! Report
I wish I could love those "behaviors". The chronic pain just never stops, and walking makes it worse. I couldn't run to save my life. At 66 I've pretty much given up the thought of ever being "slim". Report
Thank you for sharing. I really, really needed to read this today! Good luck to you! Report
Congratulations on all your accomplishments!!! You are an inspiration!! Report
Now you are famous in the Spark world. Thanks for being my friend. I love reading your blogs for inspiration. Report
Great, inspiring story. Kudos to you. Thanks so much for sharing. It helps. Report
Still thinking about "It was the behaviors that gave me weight loss and a healthy weight as a side effect that truly made me happy! I firmly believe that this is the revelation that will enable me to keep it off for life." Report
Barbara, you are truly amazing and definitely an inspiration for us "adult-onset athletes." It gives me the courage to keep on trying. Report
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