Woman who lost 100 lbs. gives message of hope to the 68% of Kentuckians who are overweight: ‘If I can do it, anyone can do it’

It took back surgery and the very real chance that she would eventually have to have it again to motivate a 250-pound, 40-year-old Kentucky woman with a list of health issues to decide to lose 100 pounds — and she says if she was able to do it, then so can you.

Liz Hopkins, a registered nurse from Owenton who works in Lexington, toldMolly Haines of the The News-Herald in Owenton that she had struggled with her weight since she was a teen, but it wasn’t until her 30s that her unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyle caught up with her.

“I had developed high blood pressure; I had osteoarthritis in both of my knees, but the back surgery really scared me,” she told Haines. “That was rock bottom.”

Hopkins had her back surgery for a herniated disk February 2017 and told Haines that her surgeon told her that if she didn’t lose “a significant amount of weight,” she had a 96 percent chance of having to repeat it.

“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.’”

Fast forward to June 1: Hopkins is 100 pounds lighter.

How did she do it? In addition to resisting the urge to pull into one of the 32 fast-food restaurants that she passes daily between Owenton and her job in Lexington every day, Hopkins told Haines that she joined her local gym and started exercising every morning from 5 to 6 a.m., with 30 minutes focused on cardio and 30 minutes on weightlifting.

Hopkins said she was encouraged by a friend to join the gym and said that while she was initially “intimidated” and worried that she would be harshly judged, what she found was the opposite.

“When I started I was welcomed by everyone,” she told Haines. “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.”

Hopkins noted that getting her workout in early works for her because it doesn’t take time away from her family or work, and also helps her to make better food choices throughout the day.

“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.

Since beginning her weight-loss journey, Hopkins told Haines that she finds herself taking 15-minute walks after nearly every meal, even at work, and also attends a Zumba class on weeknights when her schedule allows.

“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 told Haines that she no longer needs her blood-pressure medicine or the over-the-counter medicines for her aches and pains. She added that her goal is to maintain the weight loss while continuing to strengthen and tone her body.

“The other thing I’m looking forward to is rollercoasters again,” she told Haines. “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.”

Hopkins’ story of being overweight, with a long list of health issues, could be told over and over in Kentucky, where 68 percent of adults are overweight and 34 percent of those are obese. The difference is that she did something about it, and her story can serve as an example and an inspiration.

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