Everybody has a weakness, and for Vickie Adkins, it was butter pecan ice cream.
"I would get bowls of ice cream and not just one," she said. "I would go back for seconds and thirds. I would go back until I couldn't eat any more."
But those days of binging on sweet treats are over for Adkins, and her husband, Jeff, who have lost a total combined weight of 124 pounds. By eating healthier and exercising at the Lincoln County YMCA in Lincolnton, and more recently, Sally's Y in Denver, the couple has made a complete lifestyle change.
Their journey has not been easy.
In 2008, Vickie was struggling with her weight, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. She went to a doctor to explore knee-replacement surgery, but the doctor gave her some shocking news. Fifty pounds needed to be shed before she could have the surgery.
"That doctor told me, 'Your legs are just too big,' " she said. "He just came out and said, 'You are too big. I can't operate on you. You need to lose some weight.' I thought I have to do something. That was the straw that broke the camel's back."
Immediately, Vickie and her husband joined the Lincoln County YMCA, not far from their home in Iron Station.
Jeff Adkins was not as consistent as his wife about going to the YMCA. However, an annual physical in 2011 gave him motivation to work harder. Doctors wanted Jeff Adkins to take medicines to control his blood pressure and cholesterol. He chose exercise, instead.
When Sally's Y opened last year, the Adkinses started working out there instead of in Lincolnton. Vickie likes water aerobics, while her husband prefers using the gym equipment. Jeff works out a few times week, using an AMT machine - a treadmill, elliptical and stair climber rolled into one - and an abdominal machine. He typically burns more than 1,000 calories on the AMT machine alone. But Jeff wanted more of a challenge and now he can leg-press 1,700 pounds.
"He's strong as an ox," Vickie said. "That's what I say. Those legs might be short, but they're strong."
Terry Matthews, operations director at Sally's Y, said she was not aware of any other member that could leg-press as much weight as Jeff Adkins. Watching him and his wife transform their lives has been amazing, she said.
"Vickie and Jeff have both made a lifestyle change that will benefit them for many years to come and the YMCA appreciates being given the opportunity to help them meet their goals," Matthews said.
Diet is part of the Adkinses' lifestyle change. They eat two nutrient shakes a day and then one full meal, usually dinner, consisting of chicken, beans and salad. Every so often, they will include a baked potato or sweet potato. Meals do not include anything fried - only grilled or baked - and exclude sugar, carbs and cheese as much as possible. Also, soda has been cut out of their diet. It's only water, tea with Splenda or the occasional glass of juice.
Vickie may still have ice cream, but now she knows how to control her sugar cravings.
"You think, I don't want to get back to that again so I better get busy, eat right and exercise," she said.
So far, 55-year-old Vickie has lost 84 pounds; 59-year-old Jeff has dropped 40 pounds. Vickie has another 40 pounds to go before she meets her weight-loss goal. She has gone from a size 24 to 16. Her husband, who owns a temporary employment agency in Charlotte and a home-based health and wellness company, hopes to get rid of 35 more pounds. His pants size has decreased from a 44 to 38.
It's easy to get discouraged when you are trying to lose weight, but the Adkinses suggest setting small goals, finding a support network and seeking help from the staff at Sally's Y or any of the other YMCA of Greater Charlotte branches. Not only do they both feel physically better and have more energy, but Vickie no longer needs knee-replacement surgery.
"I think everybody knows what's good to eat and what's not," Vickie said. "I did a lot of reading, talked to people and learned to read the labels. We'd like to do anything we can to encourage other people because if we can do it, they can do it."
The Adkinses, along with other Sally's Y members, will hopefully inspire others, Matthews said.
"The stories (of our members will) show that you can do anything that you put your mind to if you are given the tools to be successful," she said. "The YMCA just provided the right tools to help motivate the Adkinses to a healthier lifestyle."