Tamara Walcott will never forget when she stepped on the scale and read 415 lbs. “I don’t know who I am,” Walcott, 39, told PEOPLE this week Beyond Scale features. “I really stopped looking in the mirror a long time ago.”
Growing up she was always bigger than her peers, but was athletic, playing volleyball and softball and throwing shots in the US Virgin Islands in St. Croix. “I was always the heaviest – my sisters were toothpicks compared to me,” she said. But it wasn’t until after he came to the United States to start a family. “I didn’t explode after having my child, but after I had my child it started to get really bad. I became a food addict.”
Walcott was in an unhappy household and often ate late at night when everyone else was asleep. “I gained a lot of weight and became morbidly obese,” said the property manager from Laurel, Maryland.
Looking back, she realizes that one of her biggest mistakes was not making herself a priority. “Working 9-to-5, weekends are about spending time with my kids,” she says. “At the time, I couldn’t figure out the balance.”
In 2017 he decided “enough is enough” and started weight training with dumb bells. Little did she know that in a few years she would become one of the most powerful women in the world. He ended up joining a new gym, where people were lifting heavy weights. “They’re screaming, they’re squatting, they’re doing deadlifts. And I just love it,” Walcott said. “I got a trainer and decided that this was something I wanted to do.”
Since then, he has focused on powerlifting and creating his new love – along with himself. “Nothing or no one can stop me from my goal if I set my mind to it,” he said. “It’s really empowering to take control of my life and do something that feels like it’s just for me.”
In September 2021, she broke the world record for the world’s heaviest raw deadlift by a woman – 636 lbs – and then broke her own record earlier this year, lifting 639 lbs. He works out 3 to 4 days a week in the prep season and enjoys a lighter training schedule during the off season.
For this week’s “Beyond the Scale” story PEOPLEpick up a copy on newsstands there
Along the way he has lost more than 140 lbs., but he does not focus on it.
“Even from the beginning when I started my journey, I never mentioned weight loss – I called it fat loss,” she explains. “I have a picture of me at 275 from two years ago that doesn’t look like what I see at 275 now. My body composition because of the muscle I put on looks completely different.”
As she trains for her upcoming competition this spring, she continues to be a role model for her children, Masjahlee, 16, and Bryce, 10. “I’m living my life without fear now,” she said. “I live life in a place, it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay not to know the right way to do something, because that’s how you learn and grow.”
And his own trajectory continues to evolve. She is not only the strongest woman in the world but has added motivational speaker to her resume.
“I don’t feel like I’m just lifting heavy weights,” he said. “I feel like it’s a lift.”