April Cook of Columbia began a journey in October 2018 that she is still on, and along the way she has managed to lose 200 pounds. As she has been losing her weight, she has been enjoying a new hobby: hiking in the Smoky Mountains.
The 45-year-old said she lost the first 50 pounds drinking loaded teas from Sweet Magnolia Nutrition. She also took advantage of working out at a local gym when it offered a free week of training.
After that she made the decision to either pay for the teas or work out. She decided to keep exercising with her sister Stacey Cavanaugh. At first it was hit and miss; she had a really hard time developing a routine. She would walk some then stop, lose a few pounds and add it right back. She finally made her mind up and started going daily last September.
At first all she could do was a treadmill and a bicycle. One day she eyed an elliptical and tried it. After five minutes, she got off and nearly fell stepping down because her knees were shaking so badly. But in May, she was able to work on the elliptical for nine miles.
Being a natural morning person, training in the afternoon was difficult, but once she started in the morning, she was able to establish a more consistent routine.
She started with M & L Bodyshop in October and does weight training for three days a week and cardio one day. However, before she could really even begin working out, she had to lose a lot of weight first.
Cook said anyone who is on a weight-loss journey needs to find a motivation to be successful. For her she had a great niece born in June 2018, and Cook realized she couldn’t get down on the floor to play with her, to stretch out her legs for the baby or really to even hold her.
“I realized I would never make it to enjoy my grandbabies,” she said.
Now she’ll be able to realize her goal as her first grandchild is due in December.
One of the other things she has always wanted to do is go hiking in the Smoky Mountains. Her grandfather was raised in that area of Tennessee and lived there until it became a national park. “I wanted to hike in the area he grew up, and they were difficult trails,” she said.
She went on her first hike after losing 100 pounds. She did not complete the whole trail that time but did not give up. Labor Day weekend she went back and hiked 15 miles with her husband, Luke. Last Thanksgiving she went back with her husband, two daughters and son-in-law and hiked again. For their 25th anniversary, they spent a week hiking, going some 27 miles.
Cook’s calculations has them at 74.5 miles overall, and at 100 miles they will receive a pin.
When it comes to hiking, Cook said she plans the trails out months in advance and will tell herself when exercising she is doing this so she can get to the end of the trail.
Her family has been very encouraging. Her sister works out with her, and her husband has been with her on every hike she has taken. Cook’s boss, real estate broker Fred Buhrer, has also been supportive, eating healthy lunches with her and providing a listening ear.
Thinking about how supportive her husband has been makes Cook teary-eyed: never has he pushed her, just encouraged her. She believes neither her family nor her really realized just how much she had gained.
“I think the people around you love you so much that they see past that you are that big. I think my family did that with me,” she said.
For Cook the right meal plan for her has been the Keto/low carb diet. A lover of sweet tea, she started drinking half and half and slowly weaned herself to unsweet. She has been eating a lot of green beans, grilled fish and grilled chicken strips.
“I probably could have lost it faster if I hadn’t taken so long with the tea,” she said.
She is constantly looking for ways to improve. She discussed supplements with her trainers and a good friend recommended adding yoga to her regiment. She keeps a binder of her hikes to remind her of her accomplishments and show her how much more she needs to do.
Being overweight is something she has battled her entire life. She said she started working at her job with Buhrer eight years ago and stays stationery most of the day. Previously she worked at a convenience store where she did a lot more moving. She feels she became her biggest around 2017 until she began losing in 2018.
“I’m the smallest I’ve been my adult life,” she said.
Her health has greatly improved. She is no longer using a CPAP breathing machine at night, and her blood pressure is normal. She donated blood about two months ago for the first time in years, having been prevented by a high heart rate.
“It was such a great feeling. I can’t remember the last time I had been able to do so,” Cook said.
She has had an increase in energy and is grateful that she is able to move around much easier. She goes back and forth on how she sees herself in the mirror but says she has started to see a difference. Her husband had taken a picture of her while on a hike, and Cook said she did not recognize herself at first. After being heavy for 35 years, she feels mentally it may take the rest of her life to truly to see herself at a smaller size. Her goal is to lose about 30 more pounds.
In a way it has increased her self-confidence, but it has also increased her self-consciousness, especially with hanging skin from the weight loss. She believes people treat her differently now.
“I feel like fat shaming is really a thing, and people respect me more because I am smaller,” she said.
People look at a person, she believes, who is overweight and think they are lazy or a slob because of their size and that can keep the person from making progress. In the end, Cook said if she can inspire anyone, it will be well worth it.