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From ‘mindless’ to mindful eater

Cole Oaks, 17 Pounds lost: 100

Good nutrition came with a learning curve for Cole Oaks.

As he prepares for his senior year at Lake City High School in Coeur d’Alene, he looks forward to finding his calling, which he thinks might be the ministry or work as a personal trainer, or some blend of both.

He hopes to land an internship at the gym that helped him change his life and to take nutrition and fitness classes in college.

In elementary and middle school – 100 pounds ago – Oaks looked forward to food. After school, he said, he couldn’t wait to go home, turn on the TV and eat “mindlessly.” Corn dogs. Hot Pockets. Chips. For dinner, he’d often dig into his mom’s pasta-heavy Italian dinners and follow up with ice cream.

“Eating was a comfort thing,” he said. “It was something I just did because. I didn’t think about it.”

At the same time, he hated how he looked in his clothes, and his weight limited his activities.

“Being big, I cannot tell you enough how much it hurts,” Oaks said. “You just wish you were different. You wish you could be like that skinny kid.”

At his heaviest, Oaks, who is 5-foot-11, weighed 280 pounds.

It took help from the right people – and an overhaul in his approach to food – for him to lose weight.

In August 2011, before Oaks’ sophomore year, an aunt introduced him to a trainer at Coeur d’Alene’s Fitness on Fourth, where he said he found a second family. The owners waived his fees, he said, taking him on as a “gym project,” and he worked with a trainer and nutritionists.

Besides building up to a workout routine totaling six to eight trips to the gym a week, Oaks learned he had to do more than exercise to lose weight: He relearned how to eat.

His nutritionists asked him to eat six meals a day, which came as a shock. But they were small, nutrionally sound meals, planned and packed for school. To feel full and healthy, he learned, he had to keep his body fueled with the “good stuff.”

As assigned, he recorded every morsel he ate.

“On top of all the homework I had, I made this a homework assignment for me every night,” Oaks said.

It’s been more than a year since Oaks met his 100-pound weight loss goal. He’s still working out and building muscle, and he still eats about five small meals a day. His days of recording each bite are gone. Journaling trained him to remember what he’s eaten and plan his next meal accordingly.

“Nutrition is easy for me now,” Oaks said.