80 pounds later, she’s an ultra marathoner, inspiration

Published 2:47 am Thursday, February 14, 2019

Rebecca Rybicki has combined the power of running with healthy eating to lose 80 pounds, run ultra marathons, and become an advocate for women everywhere.

The Ormond Beach resident,who has strong ties to Andalusia, said her health problems began after her father, Andalusia native Roy Weaver III, passed away shortly after her 18th birthday. She turned to food to help relieve the pain.

“Andalusia just brings up so many memories that we had of the love that he shared for the town,” Rybicki said. “I always feel so connected with my father, Roy Holland Weaver III. I get to see the home he grew up in with his sister, Kay Ingram, on East Three Notch, go to my grandparents’ river house on Gantt Lake, which looks identical as it did when my father was a young boy, see his high school and visit family and friends who loved him. I’m thankful for the amazing life my father had growing up in Andalusia, and his family and friends gave him that. The city will forever hold a beyond special place in my heart.”

She said that she couldn’t have done it without a support system. Her husband Kevin Rybicki also stuck with her through her weight loss journey and lost 50 pounds.

“In the beginning, he wasn’t too keen on doing it with me,” Rybicki said. “I think he started seeing the positive changes that were happening in my life and it started naturally happening where he was making small changes and those small changes add up to a transformed life.”

Not only have the races that she participates in helped her physically, but she said that they have helped her mentally as well.

“The weight loss happens naturally,” Rybicki said. “I feel like mentally, it has given me so much more power over my mind and my thoughts. It is very freeing.”

When Rybicki was training for her first half-marathon, she was still eating fast food regularly and drinking a lot of soda. She could not lose weight, despite running to train for the half-marathon. She finished the 13.1 mile course last among 10 women in her age group, in three hours and one minute.

After her doctor told her it was her diet that was the problem, and diagnosed her with obesity, she knew that she had to make changes.

“Anything that was fried or fattening, I ate it,” Rybicki said. “I was very depressed, honestly, I was felt like I was bonded to fast food. I started becoming more aware and educated about what I was putting in my body after that.”

She said that gave her the strength to make better choices.

“I felt like I was overcomplicating the whole process,” Rybicki said. “I was trying to find these healthy options, but they weren’t made by God, they were made by a person in a factory. After the doctor’s visit, I started focusing on eating one-ingredient foods. So, like the only thing in grapes is a grape, the only thing in chicken is chicken. Just eating those fresh foods and living by the motto, ‘Live food for live bodies.’”

The diet change was one of the main things that made Rybicki’s weight loss journey so successful, she said.

“Food is life changing,” Rybicki said. “And I don’t eat less food, because food isn’t your enemy. Running has definitely played a huge role, but the food gives me the strength that I need to do this. Running and my diet really go hand in hand.”

The advice that she gives other people struggling with their weight is to not give up.

“I know the struggle, because I have been there,” Rybicki said. “You just have to believe in yourself and know that it is O.K. to fail. I have been there and failed and I never knew that it was possible for me. You have to make sure that you educate yourself and take it one day at a time. Also, we need to look at eating healthy, not as a chore but as a way to better yourself.”

After losing the weight, she ran the same half marathon again, and shaved an hour off of her finish time. She also has completed several milestones such as a 50-mile race, a 100-mile race and several ultramarathons.

She sometimes combines visits to her Andalusia grandparents with running events, and in 2017 and 2016, she won the Candyland 5K.

Rybicki also has become an advocate for women everywhere. Runners World shared her story in September of last year, and she has 20,000 followers on Facebook.