The uncontrollable aspects of our lives are the things we try to wish away. For many of us, though, they can be the make-or-break point that sets us on a whole new trajectory. Natalie Barry had many obstacles in her weight-loss journey, but her two most serious challenges—developing polycystic ovary syndrome, known as PCOS, and losing a baby—easily could have been her reasons not to try.
Barry is like many women in that her battles with self-esteem and food began back in high school. Being bullied by her peers drove her to a regimen of incessant cardio and eating next to nothing—because that's what women are "supposed to do" when they feel bad about their bodies, right? Barry met her now-husband after high school, and as they built their lives together, she found her weight blowing up again.
"I was in my early 20s in a management position with a company that took full advantage of my work ethic," she says. "Stress piled up, and I would turn to food to deal with it. Naturally, my weight piled on. I tried numerous times to lose it but failed over and over."
Eventually, Barry was able to lose a whopping 60 pounds in only five months, but her methods were far from what you would call sustainable—all cardio, very little food. Then she found she was pregnant.
"I was told I would never have children due to my PCOS. To our surprise, I got pregnant in 2009, only to lose her as a stillborn at 22 weeks," she recalls. "I felt broken. Thankfully, we were able to conceive again in 2011, but it was a very difficult pregnancy. I had to stop all physical activity, which led to the weight piling back on."
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal disorder that can affect not only fertility but also the ability to lose body fat. Barry fell into depression and was put on medication. While she loved her daughter deeply, she couldn't seem to bond with her the way she'd hoped to as a new mom.
"I tried to cover up my day-to-day struggle; I didn't want anyone to know what I was going through. I continued to gain weight and eat unhealthy food with next to no exercise. I hated feeling like I had no control over anything anymore."
Natalie experienced much trauma and pain over those years, but she eventually turned things around.
This is her story.
Snapshot: Natalie Barry
- Height: 5' 2"
- Weight: 125-130 lbs.
- Location: Melville, Saskatchewan, Canada
- Occupation: Personal Trainer
What was the aha moment for you?
I remember waking up one day, looking in the mirror and taking that "before" picture. Looking at it, I knew that I needed to change. I knew that if I didn't do something that moment, I wouldn't be here now to tell my story. My daughter needed me and deserved to have a happy and healthy mother. I owed it to her and to myself to get healthy, not only physically but mentally.
Taking that before picture was my Day 1. I have never looked back. There have been numerous setbacks, obstacles, and injuries, yet I have never given up. I can't stress enough just how strong, mentally, I have become throughout my journey.
How did you accomplish your goals?
When I first made the decision to get healthy, I started by taking my daughter for walks. We would walk around town every day for a couple of hours. Shortly after that, I decided to pick up running again. This was huge for me, as I found that it was a great way to help clear my mind. Eventually, I bought some weights to start integrating weight training at home, along with my walks and running.
My nutrition also needed help. I started off with just making small changes: less sugar, less processed food, cutting down on soda, drinking more water, and eating at home. I started adding in more lean meats and veggies.
I didn't have just one training program that got me to where I am today. My programs change frequently, every 4-12 weeks. I've used split training, full-body training, strength programs, fat-loss programs, HIIT programs, etc. I've done about 12 of Jim Stoppani's programs.
What was it like to see changes after all that time?
I started to see changes not only physically but mentally. I was increasingly happier, having fun again, and loving being a mother. I decided to join the small gym that we have in town. I didn't know a soul, but stepped out of my comfort zone and joined. The hours I went would vary, since my husband's job wasn't your typical 9-to-5, and someone had to be at home with my daughter, of course. There were times I would go at 11 p.m. or even 4 a.m. I was seeing results that I loved. I was finding a passion for lifting.
As I became more comfortable in the gym, I knew this was not just a phase I was going through—it was a lifestyle that I would stick with. A friend introduced me to JYM Supplement Science. That is when I started to see the most changes. After losing almost all the weight I had gained, I wanted more, so I jumped onto JYM's Shortcut to Shred program, which pushed me further than I had ever been. I was hooked and wanted to learn more about nutrition and lifting.
What supplements helped you through your journey?
Was there a diet plan that guided your transformation?
My diet plan has changed throughout the years. When I first started, it was small changes like choosing healthier options: eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, chicken, broccoli, cauliflower. I watched portion sizes and still allowed a treat or cheat when I wanted one. I'd say my diet was 80 percent clean and 20 percent allowance for a cheat. This worked to keep me on track.
After coming across Shortcut to Shred, I became aware of macros and how important they are for fat loss and gaining lean muscle mass. I started tracking my food and saw amazing results with my physique.
Dealing with PCOS, I have found through trial and error that low-carb diets give me the best results. Having PCOS makes it extremely hard to keep body fat off, so it is important to keep my diet on point. Once I started tracking food, my macro breakdown looked like this:
- Protein: 1.2-1.5 grams per pound of body weight
- Fats: 0.5 grams per pound of body weight
- Carbs: 0.25-0.50 grams per pound of body weight
I stuck with this for quite a while, adjusting carbs and giving myself a clean refeed day once a week.
Here's a typical day's eating:
What was the most challenging aspect of your journey?
That would have to be staying focused without much support from friends and family. When someone starts on a fitness journey, we fully expect friends and family to be the ones supporting us the most. This isn't always true. I found myself being made fun of for posting about my progress, for prepping my food, and for taking food to family functions when I knew there wouldn't be healthy choices for me. It made me feel very alone in my journey. That didn't help with my depression, but I had set out with a goal to get healthy and I wasn't going to let anyone derail me. I didn't let the comments stop me from prepping my food, packing a cooler when I went on day trips or family visits, and posting on social media about my progress and my training.
Finding a support system through social media after about a year of doing this on my own was huge. I now have friends whom I have never met in person showing me more support than my family ever did. Although I don't have those comments made now, they were definitely hurtful in the past. Once my family knew this was my lifestyle now and not something that was just a phase, they finally accepted it.
What advice would you give to others who aspire to make a major transformation?
You will have setbacks, you will have obstacles to face, you will have injuries to overcome, but you can do it. You can change your life! I am living proof of someone who went from being overweight, depressed, and ready to give up, to someone who is in the best shape of her life. At 40 years old, I am happy and healthy, and all because I never once thought of giving up, no matter what I faced.
Dig down deep inside and you will find it in you. This journey is never a straight line, it is never an easy ride, but it is possible. Set yourself up for success by knowing that there will be times you take one step forward and two steps back. But as long as you keep moving forward, those times won't last.
Make a plan, but be open to change. Fitness isn't a one-size-fits-all thing. What works for one person may not work for the next, and what works for a while may not work forever. Be open to adapting your training and diet as you progress.
What are your future plans or goals in the fitness arena?
My future plans are to continue learning and building a healthy body. I love challenging myself, and although I have said I would never step onstage, I just may find the courage to do so one day.
Since becoming a certified personal trainer in 2016, I have found such a passion for helping others reach their fitness goals. It is amazing watching clients find in themselves what I see in them! It has become so rewarding for me. I started where a lot of my students are starting, so I understand the struggles and relate to how hard it is at times. I will continue to educate myself in the fitness industry so I can continue teaching them.
How did Bodybuilding.com help you reach your goals? Bodybuilding.com helped me with my fitness goals by introducing me to Shortcut to Shred and Jim Stoppani's JYM Supplement Science. When I started using supplements, I turned to Bodybuilding.com to stock up!
Any cool or interesting facts about yourself that you would like to share?
I did win the Jim Stoppani Ripped in 6 Challenge in 2017 and was flown down to meet him and other challenge winners. It was my first time out of Canada in nearly 15 years. In 2018, shortly after that, I decided to enter the Ms. Health & Fitness contest. I came in 10th out of 7,000 women and earned a spot in Muscle & Fitness Hers. I had always looked at the women in fitness magazines and told myself I would never have a body like them. To actually make it into a fitness magazine was an incredible accomplishment for this small-town, 40-year-old mother. "Never say never," is a saying I now live by!
For more transformation stories, training tips, and articles on nutrition and supplementation, visit JimStoppani.com.