One workout at a time, local woman regained health
By CATHY DYSON
Becky Tate has a message for anyone who ever looked in the mirror—or stepped on a scale—and thought things were hopeless.
If she could drop from a size 28 to a size 12, endure becoming a widow in her mid-30s and manage a food addiction one cup of raw vegetables at a time, someone else could do it, too.
“If you looked at me before, you probably would have never thought you’d see me running a marathon,” she said. “But I am a real person who did it, when I thought it was too late, and I was too far gone.”
The Caroline County resident isn’t a motivational speaker, but she has talked to groups and encouraged others to take control of their lives.
She did—after her weight topped more than 300 pounds, her husband died after a seven-year struggle with cancer, and she used food to soothe her grief.
Tate doesn’t sugar-coat how tough it is to make lifestyle changes.
“It’s baby steps and it’s going to take time,” she said. “It’s going to be hard every single minute. And it’s got to be your time, I guess, or it’s not going to work. But nobody is ever too far gone.”
‘ADDICTED TO FOOD’
Tate is 44 and an assistant director in human resources for Henrico County. She married her second husband, Jimmy Tate, in October 2009 and lists “formerly ‘Simulcik’” on emails, under her full name, Rebecca L. Tate.
She met Stephen Simulcik when she was attending Washington and Lee University in Lexington and he was at Virginia Military Institute. They married in 1990 after graduation and settled in Caroline, near his family. They had two daughters, Emma and Paige.
In 1997, Simulcik got a lump on his neck that he thought was from a rugby injury. A doctor diagnosed Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph system.
He had chemotherapy, then a bone marrow transplant, which worked for a while. But he eventually needed another transplant, and a second match wasn’t found. Simulcik died on Aug. 20, 2004.
Tate was at her husband’s side when she wasn’t working full time or with the girls. She’d always been a plus-size, and her weight climbed from all the time in hospital rooms and doctors’ appointments. She ate on the run to keep herself going, and sometimes, to make herself feel better.
“I’m definitely an emotional eater, and I am addicted to food for comfort,” she said.
In January 2005, when a co-worker asked if she wanted to be part of a “Fat Busters” weight-loss contest, Tate probably had hit her maximum of 311 pounds.
She’s not really sure because she avoided scales. Even at the doctor’s office, she turned away during that part of the exam.
‘WANTED TO KEEP GOING’
Her competitive nature helped during the contest. Tate limited her intake to 1,000 calories a day and wrote down everything she ate in a journal—a discipline she continues. She dropped 40 pounds.
“I had lost just enough that people noticed and started to say stuff about how I looked,” Tate recalled. “I wanted to keep going.”
She huffed and puffed her first time around the mile-long trail at the Henrico County complex. She did a little better the next time, and the next. When her daughters started playing softball, she walked as they practiced.
Then, she started running. First, one lap, then two. Gradually her times got faster. She also started working out twice a week with a trainer at the office.
“There was a lot of buildup,” she said.
In spring 2006, friends suggested she run a 5K race, so she did. Then, a 10K event was mentioned, and she did that, too. She joined a group of friends on Saturday mornings for scenic runs through the town of Bowling Green. She loved the time with friends and waving to residents who worked in the pretty yards she passed.
When her group decided to go all out for the Richmond Marathon in 2010, those same residents left out water bottles or rode bikes along the route to show support.
“Our goal was to finish in under five hours, which we did. That was really a great accomplishment,” Tate said. “But it’s probably the only one we’ll ever do. The training is just too grueling.”
‘SHE LOOKS WONDERFUL’
Tate has lost more than 130 pounds—and kept it off for six years. She likes her weight to be in the 175- to 180-pound range.
She’s 5-foot 7-inches and says her size suits her. She feels fit and toned, the results of regular workouts doing squats, lifts and running drills called “suicides.”
“She looks wonderful,” said Princina Edwards, the co-worker who suggested the weight-loss program. “I’ve seen the drastic change. She’s more energetic, more confident in the way she walks.”
Her friends aren’t surprised that Tate stuck with her plan “to make sure she would be around to see her children and grandchildren prosper,” said her friend, Anita Jansch.
“When Becky sets a goal, she fights tooth and nail to realize it,” Jansch said.
When the group trained for the marathon, there were times when one or the other couldn’t get there.
“She did every single run, every single mile,” said friend Lisa Dutton said. “She’s so motivated, she’s almost like way over-the-top crazy.”
Tate marks down each glob of mustard and stuffed olive she eats, along with the fat-free French vanilla creamer she puts in her coffee.
“She knows if she doesn’t do it, she’ll lose control,” Dutton said.
Tate figures she’s traded one addiction for another. Instead of eating a whole bag of chips—or a pound of bacon if the diet called for unlimited meats—she’s recording her daily intake of 1,600 calories as well as her physical activity.
Lunch at work is usually Greek yogurt and a cup of raw vegetables. She saves calories for a bigger dinner.
Tate realizes a nutritionist might scoff because she eats more at night or for the calories she consumes with “real” cheese because she can’t stomach fat-free. This is what works for her.
And, when she spoke recently to the Caroline Chamber of Commerce, she encouraged those present to find what works for them. Director Kim Napier said people got the message.
“She is very unassuming,” Napier said. “You can tell she’s proud of her accomplishments, but not boastful.”
Tate’s talk about running inspired Napier’s 22-year-old daughter to start a similar program.
“I’m tagging along,” Napier said. “Both of us could use a little weight loss, and getting in better physical shape won’t hurt, either.”
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425