Knowing only a slim, or fit version when it comes to your body makes it pretty tough when you have to go through a change and get used to the fact that it’s not the way you like it anymore. Forty-eight-year-old Peggy Pullen who was slim for almost all of her life, put on weight due to medical complications during her first pregnancy. Becoming a mom wasn’t very easy for her.
“I had five infections and I was bedridden for the last three months of my pregnancy, so I started gaining weight,” Pullen tells PEOPLE. “With my second child, I gained even more weight and went up to 240 lbs. I guess I just stopped caring because I was in survival mode, trying to take care of my children and recover from my sickness.”
Just after she had two more kids, she just couldn’t lose the baby weight no matter how much she tried.
“I would hear infomercials about different diets and other solutions, and I tried everything that I saw on TV,” says the 5’3″ mom. “I felt lost because I wasn’t losing weight. Now that I know what I know through bodybuilding, I know that diets don’t work because they make you skinny fat — you don’t gain muscle. The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn. I would lose 10 to 15 lbs. with a diet, and then gain that back and more.”
Back in the 2014 when Pullen was 200 Ibs. she was at a pool with her family when another child called her a hippopotamus. The comment the child made was so humiliating for her, she decided to lose weight this time for good.
“It was in front of my children,” she explains why the comment was so hurtful. “They all have been bullied, and I always talk about believing in themselves, and here I was being bullied in front of them. It was horrible. I went home and cried a lot, but I realized kids learn from what you do, not what you say — and that’s what kept me pushing.”
After her success at dieting, Pullen changed her main focus to exercise and then began bodybuilding. She wasn’t sure where to start, so Arnold Schwarzenegger became her inspiration.
“I was trying to build muscle and Arnold Schwarzenegger is the king of bodybuilding,” she says. “I started watching some of his motivational videos and using his workout videos. Arnold talks so much about the mind, and he says that if you can’t convince yourself, don’t expect anyone else to convince you that you can do it. It really helped me because there were so many times that I thought, I can’t do this, it’s too hard.”
Apparently, there is such a thing as gym bullies
“Here’s a mom that’s really fat and getting in their space, and they didn’t like it,” she says of her gym bullies. “They would laugh at me. It was pretty awful, but I had Arnold right there with me, and I got inspired to kick harder and challenge myself. I continued to lift heavier and heavier.”
She also found support in Bodybuilding.com’s BodySpace which was an online community so when she saw her body change inspired her to challenge herself even more.
“I got hooked on bodybuilding, and it’s been a wonderful experience to know that I can actually do it,” she says. “I’ll be 49 this year, and I feel like I look a lot younger. It’s the secret of youth!”
Now she’s only 120 Ibs and bodybuilding has become a part of her life.
“I work out six days a week and rest on Sunday,” she says. “Life is hectic being a mom — there’s always drama, and sometimes I sleep two hours, but I don’t care. If I have to go at 2 in the morning or if I’m working out at midnight, I’m going to get it done. It’s become a part of my life. It’s a way to take out stress, it makes you stronger, it makes you think better. After I’m done with a workout, I’m on cloud nine, and I can handle life better. ”
Pullen everyday feels better and better and her transformation has become an inspiration to others.
“The best part is giving hope to others, and being a role model to my own family, especially my kids,” she says. “I homeschool my kids and I always tell them to be the best they can be, and here I was failing at that. I’ve seen a change in them since they’ve seen their mom become stronger.”
Finally, she feels very comfortable with her own skin.
“I no longer care what people think about me on the outside, because I’m so much stronger on the inside,” she says. “I’ve become a better person, better mom and a better human being.”