1 year and 100 pounds lighter: Local woman defies odds with weight loss

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By Molly Haines

Thirty-two fast food restaurants separate Liz Hopkins from her driveway on Cull Road and her office in Lexington. Each day that she resists the urge to pull into one of the many drive-throughs is another small victory in a year-long journey that has left the 40-year-old registered nurse 100 pounds lighter.
While Hopkins freely admits that she has struggled with her weight since adolescence, her unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyle began catching up with her while in her 30s.
“I had developed high blood pressure; I had osteoarthritis in both of my knees, but the back surgery really scared me,” she explained. “That was rock bottom.”
In November 2016, Hopkins consulted with a back surgeon for a herniated disc. Before going under the knife in February 2017, the surgeon warned Hopkins that if she did not lose a significant amount of weight, she stood a 96 percent chance of repeating the surgery.
“But (the surgeon) also said she didn’t think I could lose the weight,” Hopkins said. “She didn’t mean that in a nasty way, she just meant I don’t think you’ll be able to lose the amount that you need to lose not to have chronic issues.”
Following recovery from the surgery, which Hopkins said provided near instant relief, she began seeing Facebook posts by Master Fit, a local gym and physical fitness center located on North Main Street.
One morning while scrolling through her Facebook news feed, Hopkins noticed a reply to one of Master Fit’s posts with details on a morning workout group by her friend, Audra Perkins. Hopkins chimed in, “I’m really tempted to join you ladies.” Perkins invited and encouraged her to join, and on May 19, 2017, Hopkins weighed in for the first time at approximately 250 pounds.
“I was scared, intimated by the gym,” she admits. “I figured they were all skinny and that they would probably judge me.”
What she found was the complete opposite.
“When I started I was welcomed by everyone,” she recalled. “The atmosphere is so positive, and I’ve made some really good friends since joining because everyone wants everyone to succeed. There’s no competition, we all want each other to succeed — whatever success looks like for you individually.”
For Hopkins, success was the idea of losing 100 pounds by her 40th birthday March 19.
With her newfound friends cheering her on, Hopkins joined the morning workout group at Master Fit, creating a schedule for herself that would not disrupt time spent with her husband, Willie, and daughter, Emily.
She begins each day at 4:30 a.m., getting into her workout clothes and driving to Master Fit, where she works out from 5-6 a.m., with 30 minutes focused on cardio and 30 minutes weightlifting, focusing on a different muscle group daily.
“Willie and Emily are still asleep, so I don’t feel like I’m taking time away from my family,” Hopkins said. “That’s why mornings work for me. I can get up while they’re still in bed, and I’m not missing out on time with them. Initially, that was a big part of why I didn’t want to go to the gym because I didn’t want to take the time away from my family. I realized that was stupid in retrospect. Getting up that early and doing that, I realized what I had invested, and that helps me make better food choices throughout the day because I don’t want to sabotage the hard work and effort that I put in at 4:30 a.m., getting up, and 5 a.m., working out.”
Once her morning workout is complete, she returns home to clean up and prepare for the workday ahead.
A registered nurse, Hopkins is currently an outpatient education coordinator at Fresenius Kidney Care, responsible for staff education in nine clinics.
She admits that her high-paced, stressful job likely added to her weight gain.
“I have committed my life to taking care of other people, but somewhere along the way I forgot to take care of Liz,” Hopkins said. “You wake up one morning, you’re not even 40 years old, and they tell you, ‘We’ve gotta cut your back open.’ That’s when I realized; no one else is gonna do this, you have to do this. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself first. The stress of the job absolutely contributed to (the weight gain) and the physical demands of the job.”
Since beginning her weight loss journey, Hopkins finds herself taking 15-minute walks after nearly every meal, including during her workday. She also attends a Zumba class at Owen County High School on weeknights when her schedule allows her.
Despite missing her goal of losing 100 pounds by age 40, on June 1, Hopkins weighed in before her morning workout 100 pounds lighter — the difference a little over a year can make, she said, is daylight and dark.
“I feel like I have come back to life,” she said. “Before I had no energy, I had high blood pressure; I had to take Zantac for indigestion and heartburn at least twice a day. I had to take Ibuprofen and Tylenol for knee pain, back pain — my back hurt, I didn’t feel like doing anything. I came home and sat in a recliner, that was my life. Now, I have so much energy, and I feel like not only am I better at my job, I’m more active physically at work and at home.”
With the weight gone, Hopkins has also shed the need for her blood pressure medicine, as well as the various over-the-counter medicines she once took daily for various aches and pains and has just begun a landscaping project at her family’s home — something she said she would have never thought of a year ago.
“A year and a half ago I would’ve said, ‘You’re crazy, I’ll pay somebody,’” she said. “There’s no way I would’ve ever put my hands in the dirt. That seems kind of silly and unrelated, but I have confidence overall now. I feel better; I feel like I’m a better mom, a better wife, I’m a better housekeeper, I’m better at my job because I feel like doing it, I feel like going the extra mile and I overall have more confidence.”
Today, Hopkins said her goal is to maintain the weight loss while continuing to strengthen and tone her body and to keep her current lifestyle “forever,” while looking forward to trying new things.
“The other thing I’m looking forward to is rollercoasters again,” she said. “I had gotten so huge that it was a struggle for me to get strapped into the seat, so this summer I’m looking forward to riding rollercoasters because I’ll be able to fit in them a little bit easier. Just being more active, feeling good, being a good wife and mom and trying to continue to be an inspiration for anyone that’s interested in it, and thinks that they can’t. I know it’s cliche, but if I can do it, anyone can do it.”