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'Time for life to be better'

By Susan Shinn

Salisbury Post

On April 25, 2006, Dave Cook got himself a whole new attitude about weight loss.

It was, he says, the day he decided for life to be better.

At 426 pounds, he was too heavy to weigh on his doctor’s scales.

By June 2006, he’d lost 40 pounds. Like his friend Jayne Petrea, he’d started using a C-PAP breathing machine for sleeping.

But he’d also changed the way he was eating.

His new mantra: No meats, no sweets, no all-you-can-eats.

He was beginning to see results.

Along with the changes in his diet, he started walking.

He now walks two miles at a time. More if he wants.

When he met with the nutritionist on Aug. 17, 2006, for more consultation about surgery, he was shocked at the smallness of the meals he’d soon be eating.

“My goal in life is to have more and more freedom,” he says, and the thought of such a diet was limiting to him.

He and wife Beth decided to postpone the surgery and see how he could do on his own.

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Since Dave changed his eating habits, Beth has also lost weight. The chorus teacher joined a support group at Erwin Middle School and has lost 20 pounds.

She’s 5 foot 8 inches tall, so she carried the extra weight easily.

But, she says, “It just creeps on. I just had to stop the creeping.”

“We’ve just changed our lifestyle,” Dave says.

He hates the word “exercise” — and the word “diet,” too, come to think about it.

Instead, he says, “We do our fun activities.”

On Aug. 17, 2006, he and Beth walked around the lake at Dan Nicholas Park for the first time. That path is almost a mile.

“That was pushing it,” Dave says.

He and Beth recently hiked the park’s Persimmon Trail, which is more than two miles.

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Jayne enjoys the outdoors more, too. She’s also gone hiking, and was overjoyed when she squeezed through a tight space she’d have never gotten through before.

“I didn’t realize what I was missing out on,” Jayne says. “I thought I was happy. Now that I’m here, I wasn’t happy. My weight did bother me more than I thought it did.”

Sitting down to dinner recently with Jayne and her husband Chuck, Dave points out this is the first time he’s been able to sit in a chair with arms.

“It’s gonna get even better,” Jayne tells him.

“Something gets better every week,” Dave says.

He used to ache all over when he woke up in the morning. Now, he’ll just take some pain relievers and go.

“I can get on the floor with the children at school and that means a lot,” says Jayne, who teaches kindergarten at Morgan Elementary School.

“My weight interfered with my job more than I thought,” she says.

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Jayne didn’t lose the weight as quickly as she was told she would. She did not lose 100 pounds in the first six months. She hit a “lull,” and then picked back up with her weight loss.

“Each person’s different,” Chuck says. “With David going through the procedure to get ready for surgery — that clicked for him, and he’s been successful.”

Dave’s theme for 2006 was “Time for life to be better.”

That theme continues into 2007.

“I feel like I’ve had virtual gastric bypass,” he says.

He even lost 15 pounds over the holidays.

“You’ve gotta make it livable,” he says of the changes he’s made.

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Dave was a normal-sized baby, but was taught not to waste food.

By the time he was 6, he weighed 98 pounds.

“I grew up poor,” he says. “I’d mow a yard and the first thing I’d buy would be a bag of cookies and a quart of milk. When you give up food, it feels like you’re losing out.

“I’ve been on lots of diets. But this time, this has been the simplest it’s ever been for me.”

You replace what you’re losing, he says, with something better.

For example, on their “no sweets, no meats, no all-you-can-eats” plan, he and Beth no longer eat ice cream with chocolate syrup and sprinkles.

Instead, Dave fixes himself a milkshake made with a banana, nonfat milk and cookies-and-cream protein powder.

This past Thanksgiving, he chose not to be with his family, a difficult decision.

“Thanksgiving is all about food,” Dave says. “This year, I needed to make it different.”

Not all of his family took the news well, but now they understand.

“You can’t do things the same way…” Dave says.

“And expect different results,” Beth says, finishing the sentence.

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Jayne and Dave have had to get used to being “lost in the crowd” — or have friends do doubletakes.

“People will think, ‘Who’s he with?’ ” Chuck says. “It’s cool.”

“It’s so fun,” Dave says of the second glances. “I can’t tell you it’s not fun because it is.”

“I didn’t think I could get much bubblier,” Jayne says.

But she has.

On Sept. 27, Dave and Beth went contra dancing for the first time ever. He admits he was a little self-conscious and only danced a few times.

When they went back in December, he says. “I danced ’til the band stopped playing.”

Jayne and Chuck mention a local dance club that offers shagging lessons.

“Let’s go!” Dave says. “Let’s do it!”

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Just like Chuck, Beth has been thrilled with Dave’s progress.

“I had decided that I’d probably be a young widow,” Beth says.

She told Dave as much about a month ago, when they were talking out in the garage.

“I told her how much I loved her, and I hadn’t realized all the months she’d been wondering if I’d die,” Dave says.

Dave says he’s losing the weight for both of them. He also says he’s not going anywhere.

“There’s no way I’d leave someone who’s loved me through thick and thin,” he says.

He’s also looking forward to doing some of the things he couldn’t do with his sons, Chris, 24, and Tim, 21.

“I was sitting out in the hot tub early one morning when I couldn’t sleep, and I had a vision of me and the boys outside tossing the frisbee and building sandcastles,” Dave says. “But we never did that.

“I’ve never had a panic attack, but I’ve never cried so deep as I did that night.”

Dave sat down and looked at a map, and realized that the mileage from Granite Quarry to Carolina Beach was 213 miles — exactly the amount of weight he wants to lose.

“We’re gonna take the boys to the beach this summer, and we’re gonna take shovels, and we’re gonna build some sandcastles,” Dave says.

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Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com.

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