After dropping 65 pounds, Luling woman gets award from American Heart Society

November 22, 2013 at 9:01 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

(Left) Cooper at the Color run in 2012 and (right) Cooper a year later after losing 65 pounds.
(Left) Cooper at the Color run in 2012 and (right) Cooper a year later after losing 65 pounds.
Last New Year’s Day, Luling native Leslie Cooper made a resolution that she was going to make a change in her life.

The 38-year-old mother of two had been struggling with her weight for the past decade and was tired of being out of control of her body image and worrying about her health. Looking into the mirror one day she said the necessity to change came to her.

“Over the course of the past 10 years I have done a lot of diets and going up and down and up and down,” she said. “I just looked at myself and said I am done. I am ready to win this time. I am ready to say I did it for real.”

Cooper, who is office administrator for Gardner Realtors, said a big factor in making the decision was her maternal genetics.

“A lot of the maternal side of my family is overweight and they have different health issues like high blood pressure and bad knees and all of that stuff. It just clicked that I can’t continue the cycle,” she said.

Cooper admits an impending 20-year high school reunion was a motivating factor as well.

After doing some research, Cooper decided to take up the Dukan diet.

“It is very similar to the Adkins diet except you can only have lean protein. It has four different stages that you follow. It starts off with lean protein and after the first week of just lean protein you move on to adding vegetables,” she said.

Due to limits on carbs and vegetables, Cooper started off her workout routine by taking 20 minute walks every day. 

 “I also started off by walking because I wasn’t very physically active for a long time,” she said.

She also did a 5K early on in the process and said it was an exhausting effort, but she stuck with the diet and exercise and pretty soon the weight started coming off and she began to push herself harder.

Cooper said it was a big change in her life.

“If you would ask any of my friends I used to always joke about how exercise is bad for you because it hurts your body. Physically it hurts. So now they are all making fun of me because I am going to the gym,” she said.

Now she is up to five to six hours of exercise per week, which includes weight lifting and group classes.  

Cooper said it is sometimes hard to stay focused on her diet and exercise regime, especially given that she has a very active social life.

“I have lots of things on the weeknights and it is easy for me to say, ‘oh I am not going to go to the gym,’” she said. “It’s very easy to come and relax and then holidays are coming and people are bringing baked goods they’ve got this and this. Right now it is to the point where it is a little tougher.”  

Although Cooper said she occasionally slips up, she is quick to get back on track and keep her mind on her health.

The change in her life has also spilled over into that of her family’s as well.

“I do want to be an inspiration to my family. I hope they can catch onto to it and get inspired to get healthier too,” she said.

Cooper said her husband Terry has been very helpful throughout the ordeal.

“He did the program with me and he lost about 20 pounds. He helped support me and he cooks a lot,” she said.

Cooper said her 21-year-old son Tyler remembers her when she was smaller and, although he is currently living in Baton Rouge while attending Louisiana State University, he has continued to encourage her.

“He used to always say, ‘Don’t do like you’ve done before where you’ve lost weight and then put it all back on.’ But then again when he comes home and looks in the refrigerator he says, ‘There is nothing but meat and eggs here. Where is all of the good stuff?’” she said.

Cooper said she has been very pleased with how her 14-year-old son, Landon, has handled the changes in the family’s diet.

“He has been real supportive too. In the very beginning when we were eating lean protein and I couldn’t have any carbs and stuff he never complained once about what we had to eat for dinner. I think he actually lost a little weight and was motivated,” she said.  

For her efforts, Cooper was recently awarded with a Change of Life award from the American Heart Association for losing and keeping off 65 pounds.  

“My aunt Priscilla Horn was the one who secretly nominated me to get the award. She has heart issues and when she went to sign up for the American Heart Association walk she saw where you could nominate somebody who has recently changed their life over the past year,” Cooper said. “She went in and wrote a little story and they accepted it and I was one of the winners for changing my lifestyle.”

While Cooper used to dread exercising and running, she just participated in a 5K and it was a much different experience than the one she ran in the beginning of the process.

“This 5K was easier than when I did it a year ago. Now it is just fun,” she said.

View other articles written Kyle Barnett

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