Transformation Stories

Bobbi-Jo Asher: From 450 Pounds to Freedom and Fitness

Bobbi-Jo Asher

Bobbi-Jo Asher has the date June 5, 2017, forever burned into her memory.

That was the day she finally decided she had to do something about a painful life headed toward a tragic ending. Continuous weight gain that had carried into her early 40s found her weighing 450 pounds. Along with serious emotional struggles, physical ailments related to her obesity were taking their toll. Time was running out.

“I didn’t want to die,” Asher said.

And while she pondered the sad possibility of a life cut too short and of her family having to suffer a needless loss, she found herself also focusing on a practical aspect of her dire situation.

“I have sons, I had men to carry my casket,” Asher said. “But they wouldn’t have been able to lift it.”

Drastic action was needed, and drastic action was taken. The 45-year-old Asher lost 200 pounds in approximately 18 months by completely changing her diet and taking advantage of the ability to exercise as the weight began to come off.

Today, the Arizona resident’s focus is on a lifestyle that includes being an ISSA certified personal fitness trainer, being the owner of a yoga studio, and gaining an inner peace that had eluded her for so long.

“I wish I would have figured it all out sooner,” Asher said.

It’s a turnaround that she still finds hard to believe at times, but it’s real because she found the strength to take ownership of her life and made the miraculous change happen.

“I had been in abusive relationships in the past,” Asher said, “but I realized that I had been abusing myself more than I had ever been abused by anyone else.”

So, she went to work.

Making the Change

“I eliminated all toxins from my diet,” Asher said. “Most of my meals consisted of a lean meat and a green vegetable. I drastically reduced my carbs, which was helpful to me because I have thyroid and metabolism issues.

“I probably wouldn't have had the thyroid issue if I had maintained an active lifestyle. It just kept getting worse because I had not been kind to my body and had abused it for so long. I wasn’t a totally inactive person, but as I got older and constantly gained more weight, I just got more sedentary.”

After she lost around 30 pounds, Asher started going to the gym, something that had been unthinkable until then because she simply couldn't move. Last summer, as Asher continued to be regular in the gym and the weight continued to come off, people congratulated her on her success and said that she could be someone who could help others in her situation do the same.

That’s when Asher first gave thought to becoming a certified personal trainer. The fitness coordinator at her gym recommended ISSA. She followed that up by becoming certified as a yoga instructor. She recently opened her yoga studio, Freedom Fitness and Yoga, in Maricopa, Ariz.

Asked about the name, she said, “Freedom, because of my freedom from the prison I had built with my body. And because I have my trainer certificate, I wanted fitness to be a part of it. But also because I hear all the time that yoga isn’t exercise. If you believe that, you aren't doing the right kind of yoga.”’

Where it All Began

Asher said the excessive weight gain began once she reached puberty.

“I was an only child, a latch-key kid, and my mom was overweight,” Asher said. “So, there wasn’t anyone there for me to explain that there were better [food] options. I ate SpaghettiOs for breakfast and canned chili [for lunch]. That’s what was there, so that’s what I ate.”

Asher got pregnant at 17, her weight ballooned to over 200 pounds before giving birth at 18. As a single mom, and lacking any self-love, she continued to spiral downward.

“When you have low self-esteem, you wind up in relationships that aren’t healthy,” Asher said. “So, while I was in an abusive relationship, I was abusing food.

“As a single mom you tend to eat food that is cheap, which is usually junk food. You tell yourself you can't eat healthy because you can’t afford it. Of course, that is a fallacy, but you get caught in that trap.”

Moving Forward

Asher’s weight has remained at around 200 pounds of late, and while she would like to continue to lose more, she is more concerned with being active and eating right. She enjoys lifting weights and is comfortable with the idea of having a muscular, “thicker” body.

Asher has gone through a surgery that removed some of the excess skin from her arms, and she was blindsided by an unexpected complication during her recovery.

“Not being in the gym, and not having the adrenaline and the endorphins and everything my body had become accustomed to, I was downward spiraling, crying, and depressed again,” she said. “It was a good thing to go through in a sense because it told me that I hadn’t cured my depression by working out, but that I was managing it very well.”

She plans to have similar surgery on her abdomen, but is not looking forward to the emotional side effects. She hopes her previous experience will better prepare her for any trying times.

Asher, who has been married since 2010, has four children of her own and three step-children. As a group, they have enjoyed going on family vacations, with Asher always having been the one taking pictures of the others enjoying various activities. She was too heavy to participate.

Things have changed.

“We went to Hawaii last year and one of the first milestones I experienced was not needing a seatbelt extender on the plane,” Asher said. “Then, after going swimming in the ocean I was able to climb the ladder to get back into the boat. I never would have been able to do that before.

“I was actually doing things. I was actually living my life.”

Inspired to make fitness a bigger part of your life? Check out the ISSA’s Personal Trainer certification course online.