PHOENIX — A lot of women wince at the idea of having their picture taken, but for Katie Archer it was a life-changing moment.

"My brother announced he was getting married, and I knew there would be pictures," said the 33-year-old Tempe, Ariz., mother of two boys. "That's when it just snapped for me."

"I had plenty of padding on me," she grins. "I was always lightly plump."

But food became too powerful in her life. She looked in the mirror and realized she had to change her life.

"I just woke up one morning and said, 'This isn't me anymore,' " she said of that day in 2008. "It took me about a year, but I lost 95 pounds. As you're losing weight, you gain this confidence."

The weight loss meant looking better in those wedding pictures, but it also allowed Archer to handle a much more serious threat to her family later that same year. After marrying James Archer in 2001, Katie stayed home to raise their two sons.

But when her husband's business began struggling, she was forced back into the corporate world.

"You are judged on your appearance," she said. "I didn't have great skills, or at least that's what I thought."

When she went back to work in August of 2008, she'd lost about 55 pounds. To her surprise, she was able to juggle motherhood, working and exercise, thanks in part to the support of her husband.

"He pushes me out the door to run," she laughs. "He works a 75-hour week, but he knows how important it is for me. He knows how good I feel about myself afterward. He sees what a different person I am."

Archer found the hectic life of a working mother actually helped her re-evaluate her priorities.

"I was really a snob before," she laughs. "I wanted to use the fancy dishes all the time. When I started to go back to work, suddenly I had to prioritize things. I have learned I can be a good employee, a good wife, a good mother. I can even be a good athlete and keep up my running. I just had to give up the stupid things, like using real plates."

Archer now works for her husband, whose business, Forty, is thriving. In some ways, their lives have gotten busier, but they've also gotten healthier.

"I've really gotten a lot more relaxed about the stuff that I thought was important," she said. "James has lost about 60 pounds. We all try to eat differently. It really did start because I'm the cook and the shopper in the house."

They have rules about food: no seconds, and after dessert there is no snacking.

"That helps us balance how much we eat," she said. "We don't want our kids to go through what we went through."

Like Katie, James felt judged by clients because of his weight issues.

"He's the owner of our business," she said. "If you're overweight, you don't look like you're in control enough of your life to be the owner of a business. It was important for our family to get in shape for all of these reasons."

While James controls his weight almost exclusively through diet, Katie needs to run, as much for mental health as for fitness. She does that by signing up for races with friends, including last weekend's Del Sol Ragnar Relay, which started in Wickenburg, Ariz., and finished in Tempe.

"That's why I love Ragnar so much," she said of the nearly 200-mile relay race. "It forces me to keep fit. It gives me a goal I can focus on and keep working. I need that. If I didn't have something, I might gain it all back."

The fact that the Ragnar races are 12-person relay teams makes a difference to Katie.

"I know these guys," she said. "They're my buddies. If they can do it, I can do it. It also pushes me not to let them down."

Running the two-day races with her friends only cements the affection she feels for them.

"I just love them more," she said, flashing a grin at her teammates. "I feel like I'm closer to them and their families."


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