Armless bodybuilder Barbie Thomas has the rippling physique of a typical female weight-lifter — except she has no arms. Still, Thomas has not let being handicapped keep her from her dreams of being a professional bodybuilder and fitness model.
Thomas, 37, says being positive and pushing forward despite being armless has fueled her professional success and personal happiness.
"I realize it inspires many people, and not just those with physical challenges," she told ABC News Sept. 18. "Follow your dreams and keep pushing. Where there is a will, there is a way. We all have our own stuff to deal with and our own limitations and handicaps. Mine are just more visible. There's always someone else out there who has it worse."
Barbie lost both her arms in an electrical accident at the age of two, when she got entangled in some wires while climbing onto a transformer outside her apartment building. The electric current surged through her tiny body, completely burning both her arms.
"They were like charcoal," she recounted on her website, Fitness Unarmed. "They were completely dead and had to be amputated at the shoulders."
Rather than focus on the loss of her limbs and feeling sorry for herself, Thomas is grateful to be alive and is the mother of two boys, ages 13 and 17.
The divorced Thomas, who has been athletic all her life, began aerobic weight-lifting shortly after her first son was born. She got hooked, and began competing in 2003. Her competition fitness routines involve lots of dancing and gymnastics. Because she has no arms, Thomas has to compensate when doing moves like a back flip.
"I have to compensate and use my upper body more and my leg a lot," she said. "My core is pretty strong. The reason I keep going is to prove to myself that I will get on stage and do my damn flip. I know I can, and I will."
Thanks to her relentless efforts and determination, Thomas placed fifth at the 2013 IFBB North American Bodybuilding Championships last month. To stay in competition shape, she does cardio exercise every day and weight-lifts five days a week.
While most people would have let being armless keep them from pursuing their dreams, Thomas says focusing on the positive has made all the difference in her life.
"I was always taught to focus on what I can do, not what I can't do," she said. "It probably has a lot to do with my personality. I can't imagine being a negative Nancy all the time."