Shauna Newbold was the very last person to cross the finish line at a recent half marathon, but she’s still very much a winner.
The single mom from Toledo, Ohio knew she had come a long way from her high of 397 lbs. two and a half years ago. Newbold, 36, suffered from a dysfunctional childhood, panic attacks and fat shaming, but in an attempt to inspire her 11-year-old daughter, who struggles with self-confidence issues, took up running to set an example that, “We do the hard stuff,” she says.
At first only able to run short distances, she worked her way up to miles and then competed in a triathlon and a half marathon, dropping 132 lbs. along the way. Now 265 lbs., the elementary school drama teacher says she’s still in the midst of her “before and after” journey. “I wouldn’t consider myself an ‘after’ right now,” she says. “I’m kind of a ‘middle.’ ”
Newbold grew up thinking that she wasn’t “good enough” and tried to ease her pain with food, saying, “You don’t have to feel sad or lonely if you are eating, because you can disengage.” Overweight since age 7, she continued to gain weight, topping out at almost 400 lbs.
Her outlook changed one day after realizing that she could be an inspiration to her daughter, who is much smaller than her peers, suffers from anxiety issues and struggles with bladder incontinence.
“If I was ever going to help her understand her own value, the only way to do that was to understand my own value,” she says.
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Newbold says she had used her weight as an excuse for why she couldn’t do things, and she decided to flip the script to embark on a healthy lifestyle that included swapping in vegetables, proteins and fruits and cutting out processed sugar and white flour. She also started running, biking and swimming, and joined “From Fat to Finish Line,” an online tribe of like-minded, overweight runners who encourage each other to reach their goals.
When she showed up for her first half triathlon, she was an unlikely sight at 330 pounds in her sparkly running skirt. In fact, she noticed a fellow runner making fun of her size, and her friend told her that the man had taken a photo of her and sent it to others with disparaging remarks. But she didn’t let him dissuade her. “When you have the drive, you can do anything, including running a triathlon,” she says.
And Newbold has seen her example rub off on her daughter, Dizya. “She is more willing to do things she hasn’t before,” such as performing in a dance show despite her anxiety and learning to ride a bike and to swim. “She said, ‘We do the hard stuff,’ and she went out there,” Newbold says. “That was huge to me.”
Now as she preps for a sprint triathlon in August, Newbold says she doesn’t have a specific weight she’s trying to reach. “My goals do not revolve around weight anymore,” she says. “I want to climb a mountain, run a full marathon, run a Ragnar race.”
“I’m not a size 2 now,” she says, but that’s not the point. “It’s not about the size at all. It’s about the journey.”