Darlene Cox holds up a shirt that she wore when she was 180 pounds heavier at her home in West Point Monday. Cox used to weigh 356 pounds, but after numerous surgeries and an obesity induced coma, Cox lost weight through eating well and exercising regularly. Photo by: Sam Gause/Dispatch Staff
August 8, 2012 10:00:29 AM
WEST POINT -- At 356 pounds, Darlene Cox's body gave up.
After spending three days in a coma, followed by weeks hospitalized in an intensive care unit, Cox knew she had to make big changes, if she wanted to live.
And a 2004 visit to her doctor put her on the path to success.
"My doctor advised me to lose weight," she recalled of her initial conversation with a West Point physician, Dr. William Billington. "He said, 'You're just absolutely too heavy.' He didn't sugarcoat it."
A Chicago, Ill., native who moved to West Point in 1997, Cox ate a pound of bacon, six eggs and fried pork sausage for breakfast every morning.
But Cox knew those days were over.
"It was devastating to me," she said of her former lifestyle. "I decided I don't want to live like that no more."
She reduced her sugar intake and began counting calories consumed.
Cox also started walking.
And two years later, she had lost more than 180 pounds.
How she did it
Cox, who has maintained her weight loss since 2006, began by just moving, then walking.
At 356 pounds, she couldn't go far or fast, but she kept going.
"I couldn't do exercise like everyone else," she explained. "I started off slowly, in my house. I'd do sit-ups, first five a day, then 10 a day, then 15. And I'd walk half a block. Finally, the pounds started coming off," she continued. "Finally, I'd start getting encouraged with my doctor. I lost 20 pounds and I was so happy. Then I lost 50 pounds. Oh, I was so energetic!"
By the time she lost 60 pounds, Cox was walking five to 10 blocks a day and her doctor was calling her "skinny."
"He was so encouraging with me," she said of Billington. "All the other doctors, they would just give me medicine. He would tell me, 'You need to get out and walk and cut back from the table.'"
Additionally, she was encouraged by her physical transformation.
"It was reaching that milestone every time I stepped on the scale," she said of her motivation to continue with her new lifestyle.
"That's not doing it real fast," Cox added of the weight loss. "Just nice and easy, it was just a healthy lifestyle and (way of) eating. It was small portions, watching my calories and making sure I stayed under my doctor's care."
And it was perseverance.
"Never give up," she said. "You're gonna have your good days and bad days. You may gain 20 pounds in the midst of it and then lose 40 pounds, but never give up!"
Cox also changed other eating habits - eating in moderation and not eating after 7 p.m.
And she learned to stop eating in response to her emotions.
"Trust your brains, not your stomach," she said. "The refrigerator is not your friend. The same thing in that refrigerator was in there the last five times you looked there. That's your worst enemy, that refrigerator. Now, if I'm stressed, I'll walk it off. Before, I used to go to that refrigerator and eat up everything."
Losing weight led to a better life for the mother of three, who once was so heavy she had to walk with a cane to support herself.
"I started feeling energetic and exuberant when I lost weight," Cox said. "Before, all I wanted to do was just (lie) down. All the time, I wanted to stay in bed. But now they can't keep up with me!
"When I was full-figured, I never did get called to a lot of functions," she continued. "Now, I don't have to worry about people inviting me to events."
Cox also developed a new appreciation for exercise.
"I grew to love it," she said. "I did not like it at all. But when you start praying, it starts being a joy and you start seeing the results of it."
"You get off 30 years of your life," she concluded of her weight loss. "You look so beautiful when you shed pounds. I looked like a totally different woman. It takes off 30 years of your life (in appearance) and it's adding some more years on to my life. I always wanted to be normal where I could go (to a clothing store) and pull (clothes) off the rack and slip something on. I'm at that level now where I'm happy. I just wanted to be a size 12 and be happy and healthy. Deep inside, I'm still me. I just changed for my health. It's not about the weight. It's about living a healthy lifestyle."
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