- Alaskan woman joins roller derby team at 260 pounds
- Skating helps her find the motivation to adopt a healthier lifestyle
- Daily exercise and diet changes helped her lose 100 pounds
On the track, Regina Frazer is known humbly as saBOBtage.
The pre-school teacher is co-captain of the Fairbanks Rollergirls in Alaska. As a jammer, it's her job to get past the opposing team's blockers to score points. Frazer's size, strength and speed make her ideal for the position.
That wasn't always the case.
When Frazer first joined the league in September 2009, she weighed close to 260 pounds. She could barely complete 25 laps on the track without feeling sick. Since then she's lost 100 pounds and 75 inches from her 5-foot, 7-inch frame.
"It's been incredible," says Frazer's teammate Kristen Thomas, a.k.a. Qwerty. "She went from an overweight asthmatic who was on the slower side... to become one of the fastest skaters that we have."
When Frazer and her husband, Steve, first moved to Fairbanks 14 years ago, they lived in what's called the bush. It's a term used to describe rural portions of the state where transportation and other modern conveniences are spotty at best.
In the bush, residents rely on packaged food and whatever they can hunt. Frazer had just given birth to son Morgen. On a diet of Ramen noodles, spaghetti and caribou meat, she had difficulty taking off the pregnancy weight. Over time she and Steve packed on more insulation against the cold.
In 2009, 65% of adults in Alaska were overweight or obese, according to the state's Department of Health and Social Services. And more than three-quarters of adults did not consume the recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Food has to be shipped to Alaska, making fresh produce expensive, even in metropolitan areas. And with subarctic temperatures that often drop below zero, staying active outdoors is out of the question.
Moving to Fairbanks opened up healthy opportunities for Frazer's family. But it wasn't until she put on her first pair of skates that she realized just how much her weight was slowing her down.
"My teammates liked my size -- I could use my weight to move people and be in their way," she remembers. "But I couldn't move very fast."
In the fall of 2011, Frazer's teammates voted her co-captain of the roller derby team.
"It just kind of hit me," she says. "I needed to be a leader, and I felt like I needed to be an athletic leader. That was kind of the turning point."
Frazer talked to her husband and the pair did a complete overhaul of their diet. They reduced the amount of sugar they were eating, swapped white bread for whole grain and started planning high-protein meals with lots of vegetables. They cut out fast food and added daily exercise to their routine.
On the new plan, Frazer's husband and son also lost weight. Steve has now dropped more than 90 pounds. They've also supported Frazer in her journey on the track, adopting derby nicknames: Steve as bench coach "Burley" and 14-year-old Morgen as "Trucker Chuck."
Frazer has gone from a size 22 to a size 8. She can now skate 100 laps with no problem and no longer feels clumsy on her feet.
"I think she's always had fun," her teammate Thomas says. "Now she feels empowered to do whatever she puts her mind to. She doesn't feel as limited. She's faster on her feet. She's more comfortable in her body."
She's also inspired her team and her community. Thomas' partner has lost 50 pounds with Frazer's help, and "she's inspired a lot of members of our league to take care of themselves."
Frazer has noticed the difference in her day job too. As a special needs teacher, she moves around a lot during the day -- crouching down to speak to a child then standing back up to take charge.
"I would go home at the end of the day feeling so tired," she says. "Now it doesn't even faze me. My energy level is so outstanding -- I love it!"
Roller derby is kind of like football on wheels. The hits can be hard, but the camaraderie is stronger. After events the competing teams often go out together to socialize with beer and bar food.
This could have been Frazer's downfall.
"[I'd hear] 'Why aren't you eating? You should have this. It's OK,'" she says. Instead of indulging, she carried around a cup of hot liquid, be it coffee, tea or chicken broth. For some reason, the hot beverage quelled her cravings.
Still, Frazer credits her weight loss to the supportive roller derby community. She says she loves meeting new women whom she otherwise wouldn't know. Being a skater brings out the best in people, she says, whether it's a competitive spirit or a slimmer self.