Barbie Thomas: Body Builder with No Arms, and Inspiring Mother of Two

Yesterday night I was just thinking how many “problems” we face today are first world problems, just that majority of us don’t know that. For example, if your greatest problems in the past six months include any of the following:

  • Not having a seat when taking public transport
  • Not being able to lose the last two pounds (when you’re not fat to begin with)
  • Being too lazy to exercise
  • Wishing your boyfriend would text you more often
  • Being sent on a mandatory training by your company
  • Having Chrome hang on you while watching YouTube
  • Not knowing whether to have McDonald’s or KFC for lunch (neither of which are good options, by the way)
  • Feeling awkward about attending an event where you don’t know anybody
  • Having an oversensitive friend
  • Not knowing what to do during your weekends

…then you are truly living first-world style.

Barbie Thomas, Body Builder

Today I introduce to you this lady called Barbie Thomas.

Barbie is 37. She’s actually not much different from you or me except that she has no arms — she lost them when she was two years old due to an accident with an electric transformer. She climbed onto the transformer, grabbed on the wires and the electricity burned her arms all the way to the bone.

“They were like charcoal,” says Barbie.

Her arms had to be amputated from shoulders down as a result.

The doctors said that she probably would not live, and that if she did, she would be a vegetable for the rest of her life. However, Barbie recovered, boggling the doctors.

(This reminds me of Wilma Rudolph’s story — I mentioned her in a previous Ask Celes post. Wilma was hit by a series of deadly diseases as a child and the doctors told her mom that she could never walk again — but she grew up not just walking, but running, and later on becoming a record-breaking Olympian at the age of 21. In a way, Barbie bears similarity to Nick Vujicic too — the inspiring man with no arms or legs, whom I mentioned in the same post.)

Barbie Thomas

This is Barbie Thomas, who lost her arms when she was two

Today, Barbie is fearless: she does almost anything a person with arms can do. She drives, types e-mail, dances, puts on her shoes, lifts weights, cooks,wears her clothes, and runs on the track — all by herself.

Barbie Thomas, cooking

Barbie preparing roasted mashed cauliflower in a cooking tutorial. Watch: Lunch with Barbie.

Barbie Thomas, exercising

Barbie exercising on her back

Not only that, she is also a professional body builder.

Yes, you heard that right. A professional body builder. Have you ever complained about not being able to exercise because you’re “too tired,” because “the gym is too far away,” or because you “don’t feel motivated to work out”? I know I have.

Not only that,

  • Barbie has been competing as a body builder in Phoenix, Arizona, against able-bodied women, since 2003. That’s 11 years and counting.
    Barbie Thomas, body builder competition

    Barbie in a body builder competition, strutting her stuff

    Barbie Thomas, body building competition

    As Barbie says, “‘Can’t’ is NOT an option!”

    Barbie Thomas, jumping

    Barbie jumping, in another competition

    Barbie Thomas, dancing

    Barbie dancing while flawlessly maintaining her balance

  • Since young, she has been dancing, swimming, and working out.
  • If training isn’t enough to keep her busy, she has not one but two teenage sons aged 14 and 18, whom she takes care of every day!
  • She dabbles in modeling and intends to foray into acting, where there is a niche for limbless people in Hollywood.
    Barbie Thomas, modeling shot

    Barbie’s modeling shot

    Barbie Thomas, modeling on the beach

    Another modeling shot of Barbie, this one on the beach

  • She is also moving into motivational speaking to inspire others.

Barbie’s inspiration comes from this statement someone once told her, saying that “You know you cannot win.” And Barbie says that these words, to this day, “…light a fire under me like you’d not believe. Because when someone tells me that I cannot do something, I’d bust my buns to prove them wrong.

Watch this short four-minute video where she shares her fitness routine and her inspiration:

(If you can’t see the video above, watch it here:

As Barbie says at the end of the clip, when people say they “can’t” go to the gym, it’s not that they can’t, it’s that they won’t.

Barbie’s story speaks for itself, so I’m not going to add much here. While some may draw inspiration for fitness from her story, I feel she inspires in all aspects of life. Barbie Thomas embodies drive, passion, persistence, diligence, and self-confidence when most, if caught in such a devastating life circumstance, would have given up hope. She is a true example of someone who lives life to the fullest whereas there are many who have the luxury of an able body but don’t even appreciate it or destroys it with bad eating and bad habits.

Take a cold, hard look at your life now. My questions to you are:

  1. Are you living the life you’ve always dreamed of?
  2. Are you making the best out of your days?
  3. Can you be doing more?
  4. If “no” to Q1 or Q2, or “yes” to Q3, how can you turn things around, starting from today?

Change doesn’t happen immediately — it is a culmination of small steps taken every day. It all starts from today. For Barbie Thomas, it started when she was two and a half years old, when she was lying in her hospital bed after the accident. As she saw her mom in the room, Barbie reached out her legs and gave her mom a hug — hence starting her life journey of using her legs and feet in place of hands to accomplish what she wants in life.

How about you? What’s your starting moment going to be? And how can you carry this forward?

Get started here:

Learn more about Barbie:

PS: Special thanks to PE reader Sam Chong for sharing Barbie’s story with me and giving me the opportunity to share it with the rest of PE!

Images: Barbie Thomas