No one can accuse Dr. Michale “Mickey” Barber of not walking the walk, literally and figuratively.
I first met Barber, an anesthesiologist by training who specializes in “age management,” in 2003 when she was 48 years old and training for her first-ever figure contest, the National Physique Committee South Carolina Excalibur Contest.
No matter what your opinion is of body building and physique contests, training hard and eating lots of vegetables and lean protein for weeks before going out on stage in a skimpy bikini to be judged against women who are generally 10 years younger than you takes guts.
Despite her age, she won second place in the category for women age 35 and older.
Fast forward a decade to Aug. 10 and Barber, yes, at 58, was back on stage for the annual Excalibur at the Sottile Theater. And while she didn’t win a trophy, she may have been the most memorable competitor in the contest.
Barber didn’t wait 10 years purposely to compete again.
“I’ve always wanted to do it again, but life got in the way,” she says. “A lot of things happened.”
Indeed, they did. Her practice at Cenegenics Carolinas took off and she opened an office in Charlotte. She got married. And tragically, two siblings died. Her sister died from breast cancer at age 46 and her brother from a heart attack at age 53.
Six months ago, she was sitting in a consulting room with a patient at her office at Majestic Square and decided it was time to compete again.
Three months later, she was training twice a day and eating body builder-style, a half dozen small, super lean, low-carb meals a day, as advised by local, longtime bodybuilding guru Tres Bennett.
Even though Barber eats well and regularly exercises, the regimen shed 17 pounds off her 150-pound, 5-foot-5 frame and dropped her body fat down to 20 percent. But the 10 years of age, notably being post-menopausal, did have an effect.
“I didn’t notice changes in my body as fast as before (in 2003),” says Barber, noting that she was even eating 300 fewer calories per day less than when she was training in 2003.
And while Barber didn’t finish in the top three, Bennett, who puts on the contest, called her back on stage at the end of the show to give her some deserved props.
In an email, Bennett told me that Barber is a “testament that age is just a number and with hard work and dedication, you can achieve your goals not matter what your age.”
Ultimately, Barber says she did the contest to set an example for two reasons.
First, as a doctor whose focus is on slowing the physical declines of age, she wanted to be an example.
“I can’t stand, frankly, when I hear or see a doctor who is preaching to their patients to lose weight and they aren’t doing it themselves. To me that’s so hypocritical that’s just not in my comfort zone to do that,” says Barber.
“I tell my patients all the time that’s not one single thing that I’m asking you to do that I won’t do myself. And, that I fall off the wagon just like you do. That’s OK because it’s not falling off but getting back on that really counts.”
Second, she wanted to send a message to women age 50 and older.
“A lot of women who hit 50 feel like they cannot get ahead of the speeding train, that they are just going to get fatter, more out of shape and less attractive. My message to them is that is not true. It doesn’t have to be that way. You are in control. Now, if you want to be in control or not, that’s the question.”
Will she be hitting the stage again before she turns 68?
“It’s been a lot of fun,” says Barber. “I’d do a bunch more, if it weren’t for my husband and family, because they have to put up with me. ... I don’t know, maybe.”
Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postand courier.com.