Marcus Cook was born to a Southern Baptist preacher in Houston, Texas in 1972. He was also born with a great singing voice and a natural talent for music. Marcus, along with his older brother Paul, became an asset to their father as they took integral parts in the church’s music programs. 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.
During the week, his parents were teachers at a school in Liberty, TX. As the family of four made this hour long commute, they would treat themselves to a coke to and from school each day. 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’ parents began to have marital issues and left their post as pastors of a small church in Votaw, TX. They moved the family to Houston where Marcus 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.
After graduation, he enrolled at a junior college but the only thing he really learned was that he absolutely hated school. He dropped out after one semester. Deciding to use his God-given talents, Marcus went to work at a summer camp where he sang and played bass for thousands of teens and children. Still 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.
Big Boy 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.
Big Boy tanked leaving him goalless and apathetic to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But one thing hadn’t changed, and that was his ability to make something out of nothing. He landed on his feet and acquired a position at the leading pipeline supply company in America, PSS, where he currently sits as the VP of business development. During his time at PSS he tried dieting and hired a trainer who he saw twice before throwing in the towel. This short venture into losing weight was not a loss, however, as Marcus learned his trainer had previously undergone a gastric bypass surgery, lost 180 pounds, and was now a very fit man who had competed in a Half Iron Man twice.
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.
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 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.