– Triathlete, Entrepreneur, and Motivational Speaker –
“”Use My Finish as Your Start””
Marcus Cook was born in Houston, Texas in 1972. He was also born with a great singing voice and a natural talent for music. The formative years of his childhood were spent raised in the Big Thicket National Preserve in East Texas. The cultures and customs of this part of the country, or world as Texans tend to see it, initiated this preacher’s kid (PK if you were in the know) to a multitude of traditions and weekly events like Dinner on the Grounds, potlucks after service, and a standing invitation for chicken n’ dumplings on Sunday evenings at the Vanya’s house. These times of gathering and fellowship all had a common denominator which centered around home cooked meals and eating, as most things in the south tend to do, but it was also beginning to form a foundation of constant access to food and an encouragement to eat. This was the start of a horrible addiction to caffeine, sugar, and carbonated beverages that Marcus would battle with for years to come.
In his teen years Marcus and his family moved to Houston where he attended a private school. Not being athletic and already showing signs of being mildly overweight, he thrust himself into the fine arts where he quickly excelled, winning several competitions and leading roles in school plays.”
At a junior college he was till battling an addiction to food and sugar. Marcus was now larger than he had ever been. His parents divorced, which gave him yet another reason to overeat. His Christian upbringing allowed him to resist indulging in drugs and alcohol, yet a voice deep inside told him that his need for sugar was just as dangerous an addiction.
Marcus was 21 when he married the love of his life, Mandy. At that time, he weighed around 280 pounds. Together they tried numerous diets but could never manage to make any of them stick. Soon, their first daughter Ciara was born followed by Zachary, Jackson, and Emma and as each year passed, Marcus could not keep his weight from climbing.
After his short run at trying to make it in the Christian music industry, Marcus held various jobs including a jailer, working the shovel for a water well driller, a welder’s helper, vending machine rep, a youth pastor, and a maintenance coordinator for a pipeline contractor. Trying hard to find his niche, it seemed his weight was his primary hindrance in life. After all, the odds of making a successful life having been born a country boy who didn’t graduate college and with no trust fund to rely on, are relatively low. But Marcus had a gift to make things happen. He seemed to have a knack for finding things that others couldn’t, and people liked him. His charisma and tenacity led him to become a salesman for a pipeline supply company. As he quickly discovered, this new role demanded his presence at a constant influx of dinners and happy hours, which ultimately caused his weight to balloon out of control.
After some time, he borrowed 10k from his parents, borrowed his brother’s Jeep to be used as a delivery vehicle, and founded Big Boy Supply, which serviced pipeline contractors across the country which put Marcus on the road a lot. Time on the road meant high calorie drive-thru meals and a sedentary lifestyle which translated to a general state of lethargy and an ever-growing waistline. While his overall health took a decline, his business skyrocketed and within four years, Big Boy had a net worth of over 8 million dollars. He was living high on his success but he knew it was time do something about his weight.
In 2008 Marcus finally saw a weight loss surgeon to discuss his options. At 440 pounds, his surgeon advised him to have the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass but Marcus declined and instead underwent a laparoscopic adjustable gastric band, or lap-band. This became one of his greatest regrets. After the procedure he lost around 70 pounds in 8 months, but a hostile political climate and a now failing business caused him to regain every pound he lost, plus an additional 50 pounds.
Everything came to a head one day when a close friend and business mentor told in tragic news that he was dying of cancer but Cook was dying because of his choice. The same week he had a picture taken at a company function. Up until then he wouldn’t allow himself to be photographed because he hated the way he looked. With all of his business accomplishments Marcus still knew he had not conquered the demons that he saw in the mirror every day. The picture was posted to a social media platform where he immediately had it taken down. He couldn’t help but look at the picture in disgust and knew it was time for something drastic. He believes that one incriminating picture saved his life.
After searching for the best weight loss doctors in his area, one surgeon stood out among all others: Garth Davis, M.D., a Bariatric Surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, and Assistant Professor of Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. Dr. Davis met with Marcus and agreed to perform a revision surgery which would include a lap band reversal to gastric bypass but only after Marcus made a successful effort to get in shape for the procedure first.
Two weeks before his surgery, Marcus weighed 489 pounds. Two pounds shy of the heaviest he had ever weighed. Getting into action, he reached out to his old trainer to help him with his journey. He was placed on a strict pre-op diet and with the combined help from his trainer he lost 30 pounds in 2 weeks. Marcus underwent gastric bypass surgery on September 14, 2015.
Marcus Cook started his journey by walking 20 minutes a day, and eventually moved up to a sprint triathlon. He is today an Ironman Triathlete and a three-time Marathoner. Marcus is training for two full Ironmans including the 2018 Ironman World Championship. The 45-year-old oil and gas executive continues to find ways that to use his story to impact those he knows and those he hasn’t met yet.
Dr. Davis, an accomplished triathlete himself, challenged Marcus to use this surgery as a tool to aid in a lifestyle change. What seemed an insurmountable goal, he turned into a reality by taking the words of his surgeon to heart: “Do something new every day.” While some patients see this surgery as the final chapter in their story of weight loss, Marcus saw it as the introduction. He realized it was a tool to aid in his decision to change his life forever with a healthy lifestyle. Marcus has raised US$100,000 for the Ironman Foundation. He also race for an orphanage in Haiti called Coreluv. For more information, please visit www.coreluv.org.
Marcus hopes that his story will be motivation for others who are overweight or are too intimidated to set such lofty goals for themselves. He wants to show that by applying hard work and doing something new every day, they, too, can achieve triumphs that never before seemed possible. “I hope someone will hear my story and say, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ I was nearly 500 pounds, and I made a change.” Marcus’ surgeon gave him an opportunity to get his weight and his life back into his own hands and it is merely the beginning of his amazing path from big to little. For more information, please visit his website at www.bigtolittle.com.
Marcus in his own words
How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?
You know growing up in church and with a musical talent you have dreams of singing infront of thousands of people never in a million years would I have ever believed I would be reaching thousands of people with inspiration without a bass guitar in my hand instead of now with me swimming, riding my bike and running.
Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?
I believe that it stems down to we all are putting in the work. For me to put in 16:40 to complete a full ironman I know and pros know its the same grit it takes them to compete at a 8 hour finish. I respect those fast finishers as well them respecting me.
When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?
When I started my journey I can remember my mental coach tell me to get a goal that I could only do with a lot of hard work. So I remember seeing a world champion premiere and thinking how awesome the sport was. How the guys and girls racing had been training for months. So I chose to do a olympic in Miami with my doctor. To ramp up I started off with a Super Sprint called the Bucket list Tri in Bryan College Station. I felt so accomplished after that 400 yard swim, 8 mile bike and 2 mile run. I was hooked.
What motivates you in life?
The words spoken from my friend that told me he was dying from cancer and I was dying from my choice rang a bell in side me. It woke up something that drives me everyday. I keep doing impossible things in hope that I can wake up something inside someone that may think they are in a hopeless situation. You may not have a weight issue but, you may have 500 pounds of problems. YOU CAN CHANGE!! IT IS ACHIEVABLE!
What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?
I think that a lot of people that need to change set out to change it always seems to be starting tomorrow or on Monday lol. I would say just start. Dont set out to change everything all at once. Make small changes. Small changes bring big rewards on down the road.
Who inspires you? Why?
In life Im inspired by life itself. The life I see in my children. The life I see in my marriage. Im inspired by the possibility that my life may have meaning to someone that needs something to believe in.
In racing Im inspired by anyone who shows up to race. From the fast to the slow I know the work you all have put in and I want what you want.
How did you deal with obstacles in your life?
Lol oh yeah Fat Marcus may be gone on the out side but he still lives in my head. He tries to get me to eat stuff thats bad and do things the lazy way. But the more I stick to the plan the more he knows he has no control of the new and improved Marcus.
What do you like most about Triathlons?
I love the spirit of the triathlon family. I love that no matter what race you go to you all can talk shop and understand the struggles we all face in every discipline.
Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons
I believe my write up has all this.
Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations?
I have raised US$100,000 for the Ironman Foundation. I also race for an orphanage in Haiti called Coreluv. Everybody can help raise support for the orphan. For more information, please visit www.coreluv.org.