How working from home spurred this Houston teacher’s 25-pound weight loss transformation

For Barbara Smith, the coronavirus pandemic provided the impetus she needed to kick her health into high gear.

The Oak Forest resident, 41, was already active. A runner for more than two decades, Smith completed two marathons in 2019. She even created a running team at Sinclair Elementary, where she teaches fifth grade math.

Yet even while maintaining a healthy diet and running regularly, she began gaining weight in recent years.

It wasn’t a lot – but enough to bother her.

“I just wasn’t feeling or looking like my activity level,” she said. “In the year I ran two marathons, I was at my heaviest. In three years, I had gained 20 pounds. It wasn’t sitting well with me.”

Then COVID-19 hit.

Smith was on a family vacation in Vermont for spring break, when everything shut down. Their flight was canceled and later rescheduled. She returned in time for a major rapid change: becoming a virtual teacher.

“I needed to reinvent myself,” she said. “And literally overnight, teachers had to. It was like basically you’re going to do your job completely differently tomorrow. There was no planning, no strategy.”

Helping students continue to learn, and to emotionally cope with the change, became her top priority.

Smith’s stress level went up. She was already frustrated about her weight gain and now had increased anxiety about teaching online.

“It was like a hard stop,” she said. “I knew something’s got to change.”

Just then, a friend posted a challenge on Instagram. She was creating a team to try a 100-day Beach Body fitness plan.

“It was perfect timing,” said Smith. She signed up, and also recruited her friend, Holly Crawford so they could hold each other accountable.

“I was like, ‘This is what we’ve been looking for,’” Smith said.

There were about 15 people in the group and they started in July.

“You do it on-demand, online, on your own time,” Smith said. “There were 100 workouts that were 30 minutes or less that you could do from your home.”

She bought some hand weights. “On day one, I pushed play,” she said. “It was hard, but I was ready for the challenge. I had been wanting to change things up.”

That included her nutrition. Smith explained that Beach Body provided a systematic way to change her diet, and she quickly discovered that breakfast was a weak spot in her routine. Before, she would grab whatever she could. Now, she has a protein shake every morning.

“One tweak made all the difference,” she said. “I thought the change was going to be working out harder, longer and smarter. But it was actually my breakfast, and everything else fell into place.”

Smith has completed her first 100 day challenge and is on her third Beach Body training program. She has lost 25 pounds and 20 inches since starting.

“The habit is there,” she said. “My healthy lifestyle, I can just maintain it and not feel bogged down by trying to lose weight.”

Smith feels more energetic and positive, as well. And that’s been a boon since teachers have returned to campus.

Smith wants to pass on what she’s learned during the pandemic, to encourage other stressed-out teachers and parents. It was her success with the program that encouraged Heights resident Erin Hasbrouck to try for herself.

“Barb said, ‘I’m doing this program, and I’m loving it. I think you would love it too,’” Hasbrouck recalled.

Hasbrouck does not typically enjoy running or working out. She does not struggle with her weight, but she wanted to gain strength. So she decided to give the exercise program a shot.

“I was looking for something, but I wasn’t sure what it was,” Hasbrouck said. “Then Barb texted me. It was perfect timing.”

Hasbrouck started the 100-day challenge in December and already feels more fit and toned.

Smith provided the inspiration Hasbrouck needed.

“She has so much energy and enthusiasm, and it’s kind of contagious,” Hasbrouck said. “She’s a great cheerleader. I knew I’d have her support 100 percent of the way.”

Smith even convinced her husband Kyle to start training with her.

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