LINCOLNVILLE — When the pandemic put a halt to Cynthia Rainfrette-Barlow’s busy lifestyle, she used it to great advantage.

The Lincolnville woman has been named Maine’s Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) Queen for 2022. Rainfrette-Barlow lost 51 pounds since May of 2021 to claim the crown.

“It’s nice to be recognized, and a little embarrassing,” Rainfrette-Barlow said. “It’s been a journey.”

Rainfrette-Barlow has been a TOPS member since 2011. She credits her recent success to an “epiphany” she had in March 2020 when the pandemic confined her to her home.

“I was on the go all the time, living a high-stress lifestyle,” Rainfrette-Barlow said. “Being home alone forced me to really take a look at things.”

The things she looked at turned out to be excuses and rationalizations brought about by her lifestyle.

Rainfrette-Barlow worked in the social services field “for years,” and taught adult education classes nearly every weeknight. Additionally, she served in the emergency medical services field for 17 years.

“My weight gain was gradual,” Rainfrette-Barlow explained. “I’d gain a few pounds a year. I really didn’t notice. I was busy. I’d look forward to eating because I had so little time to do it.”

Rainfrette-Barlow says stress eating was her release from the busy lifestyle. The beginning of her journey really began in 2011 when a chance meeting with a student sent Rainfrette-Barlow to her first TOPS meeting.

“It was all or nothing for me,” Rainfrette-Barlow said. “I read the books, studied the program and I didn’t deviate from the plan one bit.”

Rainfrette-Barlow lost 20 pounds in 2011, but eventually an inner voice took over.

“I call her my inner-Cynthia,” Rainfrette-Barlow said. “She’s quite a character. She tells me it’s OK to eat this, or to eat that.”

As her inner voice took over, her weight loss slowed, stalled and eventually began to reverse. She remained loyal to TOPS, but looked at the meetings as more of a “social occasion.”

All the while, the high-stress lifestyle continued — until March 2020 when the pandemic isolated her.

Cynthia Rainfrette-Barlow lost 51 pounds to become Maine’s TOPS Queen for 2022. Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Rainfrette-Barlow“I used the time to really consider my life,” Rainfrette-Barlow said. “My problem was stress eating and my inability to deny myself: my inner-Cynthia.”

Rainfrette-Barlow also considered the phrases repeated at the beginning of each TOPS meeting.

“It was like I was hearing them for the first time,” Rainfrette-Barlow said. “I needed to control my inner-Cynthia.”

Rainfrette-Barlow recommitted to the program with a new perspective.

“(TOPS) has given me all the tools to lose the weight,” she said. “I’m using them, but I’m also being nicer to my inner-Cynthia

The result is the Maine TOPS crown for 2022, an honor eclipsed by the additional benefits of her journey.

“I feel so much better now,” Rainfrette-Barlow said. “I exercise, kayak, skate. I have a lot more energy and I don’t deny myself anything. I eat sensibly. I’m grateful to feel this way.”