|Barbara Mae-Thorne went from nearly 250 pounds, left, to a lean 115 pounds. (Supplied) |
It’s not over until the fat lady sings, as the saying goes. In the case of independent country recording artist Barbara-Mae Thorne (barbaramae.ca), her fledgling singing aspirations appeared to be over because she was a fat lady.
“I’d go out to several competitions throughout the years and was always told I wasn’t marketable — great voice, not marketable,” the resident of Airdrie, just north of Calgary, recalls by phone.
“I know I sing well, but it was always the image.”
Her burdensome image problem was ever-present. It chipped away at her confidence, especially during performances.
But the five-foot-two Nova Scotia native’s unmarketable image and sagging self-confidence weren’t her biggest concerns as her weight soared to nearly 250 pounds in April 2009.
Thorne was worried about her health.
For starters, she had lost both parents to different types of cancer within a nine-year span.
Her dad died six months after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer in 2000.
And her mom died in January 2009 after a bout with multiple myeloma, a common blood cancer.
“After taking care of others for so long and noticing the illnesses that were in my family history (cancer, hypertension, heart failure and kidney disease), I decided it was time I got my act together,” she notes.
That spring, a 47-year-old Thorne set to work on losing weight and whipping herself back into shape.
Yes, back into shape.
Thorne, it should be pointed out, wasn’t always what she refers to as a “heavy person.”
The self-described “star athlete” in school excelled at a variety of scholastic sports, including basketball, volleyball, track and field, and ladies fastpitch.
Later, as a stay-at-home mom in her early 20s, Thorne decided to become a certified fitness instructor and trainer. It was a flexible gig that allowed her to work around her husband’s and children’s schedules.
“Even at my heaviest weight, I was still exercising and training others as manager of a local fitness centre in my community,” she adds.
And so, drawing on her fitness background, Thorne managed to drop 92 pounds by October 2009.
“I was thrilled,” she notes. “Finally, I felt like my old self again.”
But she wasn’t done yet.
The lifelong goal-setter just needed a new challenge.
And then one fateful morning, Thorne emailed her husband at work to tell him that she had decided to enter a figure competition.
She still remembers his incredulous response: “You don’t even own or wear a bikini.”
Thorne recruited a husband-and-wife team — Tracy and Jeff Winger out of Tri Fit Training in Airdrie — to help her with pre-contest preparation.
“I worked with Tracy to develop a four-day weight training program and six-day-per-week cardio program,” she says. “And I worked with Jeff to develop a diet/nutrition plan.”
Thorne dropped another 27 pounds before stepping on stage in November 2013 at a lean 115 pounds.
“Although I did not place, I was very proud of my accomplishment and how far I had come from that person who weighed in at almost 250 pounds,” she says.
“I feel like a totally new person. Not only is my body stronger, but so is my mind. I feel more confident in myself both personally and professionally.”
The 52-year-old grandmother of three, who works as a project coordinator for an oil and gas company in Calgary, now has her sights set on competing twice more this year.
Meanwhile, Thorne has been playing semi-regular gigs at various community events, as well as at a Calgary casino.
“Now I can perform in front of people being confident not only in my vocal ability but my body image as well,” she notes.
Along the way, Thorne is singing the praises of health and fitness. She hopes to inspire other women, especially those that believe they’re too old to transform their bodies.
“Once women start to reach a certain age, then they think: ‘Well, there’s nothing I can do anymore. This is going to be the way I am for the rest of my life,’” she says. “And it’s not so. These days, 50 is like the new 30.”
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