PITTSBURG — Overcoming the odds and proving doubters wrong is what bodybuilder Elizabeth Head has been doing her entire life.

What started out as a workout plan turned into lifestyle when the Pittsburg-resident Head decided to enter a bodybuilding competition in Kansas City.

“A few years ago, I heard that there was going to be a competition in Kansas City and I really wanted to do it, but I didn’t have the money and I wasn’t very educated on it,” Head said. “I was working out a little bit, but wasn’t very disciplined. Later, a good friend of mine, who was a trainer, had been posting a lot of his training photos online and that inspired me to do it with him.”

The success Head had in the competition and the joy she experienced from the workouts motivated her to dive into the training head first.

“The contest in Kansas City was my first show and I ended up placing first in both categories I competed in, which was Bikini Athletic and Bikini Athletic Challenger,” Head said. “Challenger is for the beginners, but the commissioner of the Nspire Sports League said that I looked good enough to compete in Elite. So, competing and placing first in Elite was what earned me my pro card. Now, when I enter my next competition, I will officially be competing as a professional bodybuilder.”

Maintaining strong muscles and staying fit is difficult for all competitors, but more so for Head, who has been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.

“When I was diagnosed with IBS, I wanted to prove that I could overcome my own health issues and be a motivator for someone else,” Head said. “I want to inspire others to get out of their way and realize that they can do whatever they want to do if they put their mind to it. Everybody in my life is my motivator because they’re fighting cancer or dealing with a personal challenge. My dad never gave up and never settled.”

Her family has a history of battling through illnesses, so Head said it’s important for her to carry on the legacy.

“One of my grandfathers who passed away is with me every single day,” she said. “He wasn’t a quitter. He was a farmer with a sixth-grade education, but we could talk for hours. His birthday past not too long ago and it was an emotional week. It happened to be the week of my competition and the week I had to buy my wedding dress, but he was with me the entire time and he’s with me every single day.”

Head said her humble upbringing in Parsons is what shaped her for the challenges she faces today.

“I come from a really poor background,” Head said. “We were extremely poor for a family of five. My house growing up was so drafty that my brother and I would have to sleep in a twin bed together with four blankets on top and a heating pad so we would stay warm. I work extremely hard for what I have and paid for my own college tuition. I never thought I would ever get to college once, but I actually went twice.”

To help overcome her medical condition while staying in shape, doing well at work and having the energy for a personal life, Head is particular about what she eats.

“What you put into your body matters,” Head said. “You have to feed it and fuel it. Sure, I can’t have a cookie when I’m craving one or I can’t have a piece of pie, but what I do fuels my body and makes me feel really good. With my schedule being so rollercoaster at work, my body has to be on point at all times, no matter what I’m doing.”

Head doesn’t see her eating habits as a diet, but as a way of life.

“It’s not punishing yourself, it’s a change of mindset,” Head said. “It’s a change of lifestyle, not a diet. Because you don’t want to go back to what you were, you want to change and progress. If you want to quit smoking, it’s a change. If you want to sleep better, look better or be able to play with your grandkids, it’s all a lifestyle change. You have to have a plan and turn that into action.”

Getting her nutrients from natural food is something Head is adamant about, as she says many people go to the wrong sources for energy.

“One of the things my trainer is really strict about is supplements,” Head said. “If I have protein shake, it’s one a day at the most. I get all of my nutrients from food. You shouldn’t starve your body or hurt yourself in any way. People think that if they give in and have a cookie that they have to starve themselves, but that’s not the case. When you have setbacks, you just move on and make your next choice a better one.”

With the passion she has for working out the knowledge she has of nutrition, Head said she would be interested in being a personal trainer, but if nothing else, wants to inspire people any way she can.

“I would love to be a motivational speaker if I don’t become a personal trainer,” she said. “It doesn’t even have to be about fitness, you could just hear a piece of advice from someone talking about something completely different and easily apply that to what you’re going through.”

Although Head isn’t sure if she will continue to enter bodybuilding competitions, she said she always want to stay in shape.

“It would be awesome to do it for a living because I love doing it so much,” Head said. “If I win in Houston, it’s a possibility that there will be a cash prize. The compensation of the top female bodybuilders isn’t comparable to what I make now, so I probably won’t ever do it for a living. Some people might like to croche, collect coins or work on cars as a hobby, but I enjoy working out.”

Regardless of what the future holds, Head said she ultimately wants to help others achieve their dreams.

“To anyone who is struggling in any aspect of their life, I would tell them to find that one thing, that one person, that one song or anything that has your heart,” Head said. “Because if you can latch on to that and use that as your motivation to keep pushing and never give up, you can do whatever you want.”

 — Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor at the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at jbuckamneer@morningsun.net and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer