Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- A young man from New Orleans decided he was tired of living in an obese body. That's when he used the same skills and determination to lose weight, as he did to build a successful business when he was only 14 years old.
He was only a teenager, yet his weight climbed to nearly 400 pounds.
"It felt like I was carrying another person. It really felt like it. You know, I would see my friends who were much smaller than me and you know here I was, you know with all this weight. You know, it really killed my self esteem," said Darrin Cook.
Cook was Little Darrin. His father by the same name was Big Darrin. Soon the names were no longer about age difference, but size. Young Darrin became known as Big Darrin.
"People can be cruel. You know, I'm 13 years old (at the time). It really hurt my feelings," he said sadly.
But today at 225 pounds, Cook is 175 pounds lighter and well on his way to his goal weight of 185 pounds.
He remembers the day he said enough. He was 16, graduating with nearly straight A's from NOCCA and St. Augustine High School, when his family went on a trip.
"And that was when I had my life changing moment. And I remember we went to swim with the dolphins and I had this life vest that was about just say (size) 5X, and even though it was this large it was still skin tight and I was like, 'Darrin this is enough. You know no more lying to yourself,'" Cook said.
Cook knew he could do it, the same way he became a successful business man at the age of only 20. At 14 he has started and ran Internet companies, shopping sites. He's got 65 clients from coast to coast who he consults on logos, branding, websites, graphics and marketing.
His business, My Mogul Media, is growing so fast he's hired an office manager and is moving it out of his parents' home in New Orleans East to an Uptown office.
It is with that same drive he began searching the web for nutrition help.
"I'm going to go and cut out the fast food the fried food, the soft drinks, the sweets, the cookies, the snowballs, everything," he remembers. "And when I came home, I was determined no more wearing a size 56 waist pants."
He was tired of being "just friends" with girls and there was fear of the future.
"When I was that size I was on the verge of having diabetes. I didn't want to have to deal with having diabetes, hypertension, have to deal with dialysis, and getting your limbs amputated," Cook said. "You know that was nightmares for me and what encouraged me to keep going on."
Today the same passion he feels for his clients he now feels for himself.
"And still to this day, I have yet to drink a soft drink and I've gone from a size 56 waist to a 34," he said excitedly.
"Would you run your health the same way as you run your business? Could you afford to run your business like you are managing your health? If most people who own a business ran their business like they take care of their health, they'd be bankrupt," said East Jefferson General Hospital Fitness Expert Mackie Shilstone.
Cook wants to be as successful in health as he is in business. What started as a 400-pound man determined to walk once around the block alone, grew to a man able to run three miles. Now he regularly meets with a trainer, Joshua Casimier, who has become a friend and reminds him of his goal when he wants to skip a session. He lifts weights, boxes, runs and does floor exercises.
Scientific evidence shows that if you invest your hard earned money and your sweat equity, sacrificing your time and have an encouraging person around, you are more likely to value the workout and stick to the behavior change.
"A lot of people need that motivation from an outside source and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just getting a consult for something else that you need," said Dr. Kim Edward LeBlanc, the head of the Family Medicine Department at LSU Health Sciences Center.
And this professional consultant is smart enough to know when he needs advice.
"I did have the cravings and still do to this day. You know it's still a day-to-day struggle because what people don't realize, I basically had an addiction to food and you know a food addiction is no different than someone who's addicted to alcohol or drugs. It's a constant day-to-day battle," said Cook.
Mackie Shilstone believes a food addiction is even harder to overcome than drugs and alcohol because no one can live without food.
Cook is so passionate about helping others he wrote a book called "The Weight of New Orleans." It's online as an e-book but now he wants to get it published in a hard cover.
On May 7, Cook graduated from Xavier University in finance. He said even with all of his academic and business accomplishments, weight loss is the one people notice.
"I feel like I'm alive now. You know, people recognize me and it's like it's a funny feeling because I've been here all along," he said.
To get in touch with Darrin for information or speaking engagements, his e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org