Rita Barrafato, 57, feels the healthiest physically and mentally she’s ever been
If you’ve found yourself at your heaviest after having children, Rita Barrafato can relate. The Montrealer was her heaviest at age 36 after having had her second child. She was 155 pounds–25 pounds over her normal weight four months after having given birth. But after about four months of dieting and biking at home, she lost that extra weight and became fit inside and out.
A Change is Coming
After she had her kids, Barrafato found that her workout preferences changed. Whereas before she loved hitting up high-impact aerobics three days a week, after having her second child, she couldn’t get mentally back into going to the gym. ”I tried and every single time I had to stop. I just was not motivated,” she says. Finally, at the age of 49, she decided it was time to make a change. “I signed up for the gym and decided to do some weight training and fitness classes.”
What inspired her to make that change at age 49? “I was not happy with my pre-menopausal belly bulge and my lack of energy. I did not like what I saw in the mirror and more importantly, how I felt,” she says. She joined some classes, including Zumba. And when her husband asked her to weight train with him, she gave it a go. “We weight trained together, and I had found my passion!” she says. Between weight training and her fitness classes, she was working out five to six days a week and lost that belly bulge she’d been intent on losing and regained energy.
Motivation to be Fit Inside and Out
To keep motivated with her health and fitness journey, though, we all know we need new goals, and for Barrafato last year, that was having a photo shoot with Paul Buceta. “After following his Instagram page for four years, it was a dream of mine to shoot with him and look like his models. That had been on my bucket list for a few years,” says Barrafato.
To prepare for her photo shoot, she created her own weight training program and worked with a nutrition coach to prepare a meal plan. She followed both diligently for three months. And it paid off–she lost 12 pounds and increased her muscle mass. ”I was lean and strong and had never felt better in my life! I rocked that photoshoot and had the most amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience!” says Barrafato.
Life is not Always Easy
It hasn’t always been a smooth journey, though. Six years ago, she started experiencing symptoms that appeared to be a urine infection. including a painful bladder, frequent urgency, and bloating, but test after test at clinics would have a negative result. Barrafato got online to do some research and then made an appointment with a urologist, demanding a test for interstitial cystitis, a chronic condition for which there is no cure. Her gut feeling was spot on. She tested positive.
“With some changes in my diet and medication, I was able to feel better and continue my training. I still have flare-ups and days where training is very hard, but I try and keep going. I rest and listen to my body when I get the flare-ups,” she says.
Be an Inspiration
For Barrafoto, she is a strong believer that there is indeed a magic formula to being fit. “Exercise is very important but so is nutrition. We can’t have one without the other. Both are needed in order to see fat loss as well as lean muscle growth. The formula is simple, honestly: Nutrition + Exercise = Change!” she says. She recalls when she used to train but didn’t follow a meal plan–she only ever saw results once she changed her diet.
As someone who once looked in the mirror and was unhappy with her reflection, Barrafato shares that women in the same boat need to find an activity they love and then do it consistently. Next, take small steps in swapping what you eat for healthier options. ”Replace heavier milk and creams with low-fat or almond milk,” she says. When you’re ready to take a step further, track your foods. “not so much for the macros, but just so they realize how much calories you are consuming in a day,” she says.
While she feels the healthiest she’s ever been, Barrafato doesn’t consider her journey over. “Fitness is a lifestyle for me. I feel physically stronger which in turn makes me mentally strong to face all challenges in my life. I firmly believe a strong body equals a strong mind.”
Favourite healthy snack: All-Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter…I can eat it by the spoonfuls right out of the jar!
Favourite splurge food: Any kind of pasta with a glass of red wine!
Go-to, easy recipe: Sauteed shrimp, veggies, and rice.
Best form of cardio: In my opinion, HIIT has to be the best form of cardio! Not only is it lots of fun, but it has been known to lose fat and keep your muscle mass. It’s really the only form of cardio that works for me. However, I have been dealing with lower back issues recently and I have had to stop that right now.
Fitness idols: I have so many fitness idols but a few I really follow are Stephanie Sanzo, Jaclyn Cordeiro, Michelle MacDonald and Chontel Duncan.
Personal mantra: “It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger!”
What I eat in a day:
Breakfast: One egg with 1/3 cup egg whites, a whole-wheat English muffin and all-natural crunchy peanut butter.
Lunch: Brown rice, mixed veggies and a protein like shrimp, tuna or salmon.
Snack: Half an apple and Greek yogurt with berries.
Dinner: Depending on the day–always a carb like potatoes or rice, a protein like chicken or pork, and a vegetable like broccoli. On certain occasions, I also have pasta, which I absolutely love!
Photos by Paul Buceta