A Woman's Journey From Bulimia To Powerlifting Champion

By McCarton Ackerman 11/18/16

"I can honestly say my gym work has saved my life.”

A Woman's Journey From Bulimia To Powerlifting Champion
Jo Beck Photo:Twitter/Chris Dyson photography

After spending more than a decade in a weakened state due to eating disorders, a British woman has made a full recovery thanks to weight training and is now a contender to qualify for the British powerlifting team. 

Speaking with Chronicle Live, 50-year-old Jo Beck said she had always been self-conscious about her weight and often did cardio as a punishment for indulging with food. But when her then-husband began critiquing her appearance during their marriage, her struggle with body image significantly worsened.

“One day, my ex-husband caught me struggling to do up my size six jeans and said not quite jokingly, ‘You better not get fat on me.’ For the next decade-and-a-half, the gym was somewhere I punished myself for what I had eaten that day, sometimes for up to three hours a day,” said Beck. “Fast forward 15 years and I’d yo-yo dieted my way through three post-pregnancies, a three-stone self-inflicted cheese and wine baby, and an acrimonious divorce.”

Struggling to move forward after her divorce four years ago, Beck discovered lifting weights and soon committed to a powerlifting regimen. Not only did her confidence increase, but she also found it to be a welcome relief from the daily duties of caring for her three children.

“Parenting is a full-time job and fitting in training is what keeps me focused. If I hadn’t started using the gym as a way of dealing with the stress and negativity of my divorce I would probably have become really overweight,” she said. “I was probably drinking far too much and I can honestly say my gym work has saved my life.”

After beginning powerlifting last March, she is now gearing up to compete next year at the British Masters in Belfast, where a strong showing could see her join the British powerlifting team. But regardless of what happens, Beck said she wants her story to inspire other women and show them they can not only overcome an eating disorder, but also reach the peak of their fitness at any age.

“The gym doesn’t have to be somewhere that you punish yourself for what you have eaten. It’s a place to get fitter and stronger,” she said. “I hated PE so much at school that I used to make myself sick in the toilets before the lesson. I was always last to be picked on any team. So believe me, it’s never really too late to find out you’re strong.”

Other women have also spoken of their journeys from eating disorders to powerlifting. Twenty-five-year-old Aroosha Nekonam shared her story last April with Cosmopolitan, while 23-year-old Linn Stromberg said weightlifting saved her from a nearly fatal battle with anorexia. 

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.