Weather Updates

Thinking small brought big results for South Side’s Sharonda Cook

SharondCook 235.8 pounds lighters.  |  SUBMITTED PHOTO

Sharonda Cook, 235.8 pounds lighters. | SUBMITTED PHOTO

storyidforme: 61696386
tmspicid: 22345234
fileheaderid: 10618921

Updated: March 14, 2014 6:16AM

The experts say we often don’t realize how many pounds we have packed on. A previous — and slimmer — version of ourselves exists in our minds.

Sharonda Cook says she certainly didn’t realize just how large she’d become until Christmas 2010, when she was going through photos to take another look at a new baby in the family. That’s when she happened upon some photos of herself.

“I was unrecognizable to myself,” the 30-year-old South Sider says. She looked at those photos and “I didn’t see myself living much longer.”

In January 2011, using money given to her as a Christmas gift, the 5-foot-4 Cook joined Weight Watchers. She weighed in at 381.8 pounds. By Nov. 18, 2012, she had lost 235.8 pounds and reached her goal of 146, her weight today.

Cook recently was named the grand prize winner of the Weight Watchers 50 Years of Success contest. Her success landed her an appearance on “Good Morning America,” a dream come true for Cook.

Here are her tips on how to lose weight, even when you have a lot to shed, and how to keep it off:

Determine the “why”: Figure out why you want to lose weight. If it’s for someone else or an event, success may be temporary. When Cook decided she was “investing in her health,” her attitude and determination were different. “Do it for yourself and you’ll always be pleased.”

Big’s not always better: When she was starting out, Cook followed her Weight Watcher leader’s advice and set her initial goal at losing 5 percent of her body weight. When she had accomplished that, her next goal was to trim 10 percent of her body weight. This process “was easier for me to digest,” says Cook. “It seemed attainable.”

Eat real food: Cook didn’t want to exist on packaged diet food. That’s why the portion-control strategy of Weight Watchers works for her. “Who would have thought I could eat brownies and lose weight?” she asks.

Embrace cooking: Some behaviors definitely had to change if Cook was going to “adapt a healthier lifestyle.” That meant her days as a “drive-thru queen” had to end and she needed to cook for herself more. Now she tries to use foods that “can keep you satisfied longer,” she says, citing leaner cuts of beef, brown rice and other whole grains.

Discover new foods: The calorie-rich, nutrition-poor food choices Cook had been making had to go. So give new foods or those you didn’t eat before a tryShe never ate vegetables before. And now? “Who would have thought that I would like vegetables?”

Exercise: Cook was out of work when she started her weight-loss journey, so initially a gym membership was out of the question. Tae Bo and “Biggest Loser” DVD workouts she had purchased were still in the package. When she started following Weight Watchers’ eating plan, she opened them both. Later, a family friend gave her a gym membership and she’s been going ever since. Now, “exercise is a really big part of my life.”

Know you’ll have setbacks: Instead of dwelling on the negative, when she hit a plateau or ate too much of something, Cook learned to focus on how far she had come. “Don’t let one week ruin your journey.”

Accept that it will take time: “We’re a quick society,” says Cook. “Everything is quick.” But weight loss isn’t. “It takes time.”

Don’t give up: When Cook was on “Good Morning America,” she was on with entertainer and Weight Watcher spokesperson Jessica Simpson, “an amazing person.” If she had given up early on, “I wouldn’t have known this prize was awaiting me.” So keep going!


Twitter: @SueOntiveros

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.