Amelia Hicks, 35, dropped about 40kg of post-pregnancy weight in under a year.
Her formula? She was determined. That's it. "I want to be able to crawl around on the floor with my children; I didn't want to lose that time when they're young," she said.
"And when I got married, I was 125 pounds (57kg), and there I was at 207 (94kg). I knew (my husband) Charles would love me no matter what I looked like, but I wasn't what he married. I wanted to be in better shape for him, and healthier for me."
She gained the weight, she said, because at 5 feet, 3 inches (1.6m), she had a bone condition that required a lot of bed rest and little activity during both of her pregnancies since 2010. That was torture for a former athlete, she said.She gained the weight, she said, because at 5 feet, 3 inches (1.6m), she had a bone condition that required a lot of bed rest and little activity during both of her pregnancies since 2010. That was torture for a former athlete, she said.
Hicks, who is from South Africa, came to the United States in 1997 on a golf scholarship to the University of Missouri-Columbia. She earned a degree in education, then toyed with the Ladies Professional Golf Association but said she didn't like the hassle. She hardly ever plays any more.
She began teaching elementary school in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, where she met her husband, Charles Hicks, also a teacher. At the time they met, she was 118 pounds (54kg).
But her pregnancy in 2010 brought about some unexpected problems. She developed a hormone imbalance that caused her bones to soften.
"I already had tiny bones, so this made it worse," she said. "They would bend and there was fear they'd break."
Because of the sudden inactivity, she gained a lot of weight. After first boy Beau, now 3, was born, the weight started coming off, but during her second pregnancy with Josias, 18 months, she put on 60 pounds (27kg). While the hormone imbalance that caused the bone problems went away after Josias' birth in 2013, Hicks weighed 207 pounds.
She began working out and trying to adjust her diet, but changes were too slow, she said.
While visiting a karate practice with her husband's teenage daughter from a previous marriage, she met Daniel Nobel, then owner of Max Muscle Sports Nutrition in Brentwood.
Nobel offered services including personal training, nutrition counseling and nutrition supplements.
For Hicks, her program took some tweaking because she was a vegan. Vegans eat nothing that comes from meat. That includes dairy products and eggs. Protein supplement powders can include animal byproducts.
Nobel found vegetable-based products. Some were exotic, such as green coffee beans, which are said to have beneficial health effects.
Being a working mother, she exercised when she could. "Like after I put the kids to bed," she said. "It's so easy to fall asleep right after that. But I'd get on the treadmill."
She also began visiting the South City YMCA and made a point of exercising every day at home or the gym.
"It's so easy to skip one day, and that becomes a week, and then you're not exercising," she said. "That's the difference between success and failure."
The acceleration began when she joined a fitness challenge sponsored by Nobel and his store.
"I didn't win, but I got down to my wedding weight (125)," she said. "That was my first goal."
She said her supplements helped her eat better, rebuild her muscles faster after workouts and supplied nutrition she might have missed with meals.
She still uses supplements. Her next goal is to get back to her competition weight, under 120. That's because she wants to compete again. This time in running, swimming and bicycling events.
Already she has run one half-marathon and wants to run a second soon, and then a marathon in October. She has started swimming, although she says she's better at running. Next, she plans to purchase a bicycle.
The ultimate goal is to compete in triathlons, she said.
Despite the return of her figure and health - she had almost zero problems with excess skin after the weight loss - and regaining her athletic prowess, the most rewarding part has been watching her co-workers get the message.
"We bring breakfast into the school and we used to bring boxes of doughnuts and bagels," she said. "But they were watching me; I transformed in front of them."
One day doughnuts were brought in, "but everyone else was bringing granola bars and the like. By the end of the day, most of the doughnuts were still there."
She still faces challenges, she said. "I can be an emotional eater," she said. And she's "tempted to use my children as an excuse" to not to put in the work.
"I'll still eat chips," she said. "But I'll look at a serving, count out 12 chips. I don't eat the whole bag and end up with 500 calories."
She's not shy about giving advice:
The work comes in making new habits, she said. "It's so easy to quit," she said. "But if you're determined, it's hard to quit."
To her sadness, she learned that Nobel, 64, died in December.
"I learned that life is short," she said. "Daniel dying made me realise, enjoy this moment and take care of yourself. That's the one thing I have control over."
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