I lost 150 pounds on the paleo diet. Now I do CrossFit competitions.

A woman sitting on a bench with a dog, and the same woman after she lost weight wearing a black dress.
Barbara Card before and after her weight loss.Courtesy of Barbara Card
  • Barbara Card was unhappy with her body and emotional state when she weighed 280 pounds.

  • She did the paleo diet and took a part-time cleaning job at the gym to cover her fees.

  • She lost 150 pounds and takes part in CrossFit competitions.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Barbara Card. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I'd always been non-athletic. But when I finally caught the fitness bug at 43, nothing would stop me from working out.

The membership fees to my gym were beyond my budget. But I cleaned the place — including the bathrooms — as barter.

My activity at the gym and a healthy diet transformed my life. I've lost 150 pounds, my dress size has decreased from a 20 to a two, and I participate in CrossFit tournaments.

I'd been heavy since childhood. I'd forge notes from my mom to get out of PE. "She's on her period," I'd write. Anything to avoid exercise. Whenever I did it, I felt uncoordinated and awkward.

I've always been an emotional eater. I'd turn to food when I was celebrating or upset. I was never a fast foodie, but I'd cook huge meals. I'd eat a big steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, with mac and cheese on the side. The dessert would be a cheesecake.

A woman on a boat in a bikini holding up a fish and a fishing rod.
Card enjoyed vacation before she started exercise and the Paleo diet.Courtesy of Barbara Card

Meanwhile, I became a heavy drinker and smoker. I had an addictive personality.

I joined a gym with financial support from my boss

I was self-conscious about my weight. My husband, Cameron, and I went to an amusement park and got on a roller coaster. The attendant couldn't fit the bar over my stomach. Then, I saw her laughing with her co-workers.

I didn't have the willpower to stick to diets for long. I was five feet tall and weighed 280 pounds. I thought I was a lost cause.

Then, in 2017, the owner of the small soap company where I work motivated me to turn things around.

We talked about my attempts to lose weight. He was watching his health and had a family membership at a nearby gym. "Why don't you take a class after work?" he suggested. "I'll pay for you to join."

I wasn't offended. He was looking out for me; It came from a place of love and care.

Before I went to the gym the first time, I tried to talk myself out of it.

"This is not the right place for me," I thought. But I went in because I wanted to make my boss proud. I was uncomfortable throughout the class, but I pushed myself. One woman convinced me to return for a 5:30 a.m. class two days later. I'm an early riser. " "That's more my time," I told her.

I was always motivated to try harder

Soon I was going to the gym nearly every day. My boss paid for my membership for a year. After that, I supplemented my salary by working as a part-time cleaner there. It was the simplest way to afford the monthly fee.

I loved the adrenaline rush. As I got stronger, I began CrossFit. I lifted a 35-pound dumbbell and did it through 120 reps the first time. It motivated me to try harder.

A tattooed woman lifting a barbell at a CrossFit tournament.
Card demonstrates her strength at the gym.Courtesy of Barbara Card.

These days, I take part in CrossFit tournaments. It's not about prizes. I compete against myself to see how far I can go. I do box jumps and pull-ups — things I never dreamed I could manage.

I quit drinking and smoking. I follow the paleo diet that's popular with high-profile people like LeBron James and Peter Thiel. It mostly consists of lean proteins like chicken and vegetables, fruits, and other unprocessed food.

Cameron is a baker and makes amazing paleo cookies. I'll make a paleo ice cream with cashew milk and fresh berries. It's easier than I thought; I do healthier, homemade versions of shop-bought treats.

I'm going to be 50 this year. I feel and look better than I did at 30.

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