A few years ago, a normal meal for Cody Morrison included four fast-food sandwiches, two large fries, a 20-piece chicken nugget and a large drink. Working various jobs to stay afloat, he never really had the choice but to eat on the go. This also included filling up his 100-ounce mug with soda at least four times a day.
In his mid-twenties, after rapidly gaining weight since high school, he was also in near-constant pain. “My feet . . . always hurt,” Cody remembers. “I pretty much had flat arches. I had high blood pressure. I had acid reflux.”
But Cody was no stranger to struggle. He survived childhood abuse from his stepfather and endured bouts of depression and anxiety, as well as job loss and financial hardship. Through it all, even at his heaviest of 432 pounds on his 5-foot-9 frame, he fought to exercise though discomfort and limitations, partly because he continued to carry a dream that he had first had as a boy: to some day work in law enforcement.
Then, in the fall of 2014, after getting laid off and having to move back home with his mom, he decided enough was enough. “I had to start making important life decisions,” Cody said. He went back to school to study criminal justice. He also started researching bariatric surgery and attended an informational seminar. He was inspired by the success stories, but not ready to commit to the program.
Used to doing things on his own, Cody went to some St. Luke’s cooking classes and then stepped up his exercise program, regularly visiting a gym. Even before he consulted with a doctor, he was practicing a new way of eating and living. Though he lost weight, he knew it wasn’t enough. “I would do good for a period,” he said, “and then I would relapse and overeat for a week . . . and move backward.”
Struggling with his health and self-esteem, Cody finally decided that a sleeve gastrectomy would offer him the help he needed to lose the weight for good. At the same time, through his classes, he met many people involved in law enforcement who encouraged him to pursue his dream. Coincidentally, the College of Western Idaho was launching a Law Enforcement program in the fall of 2015.
In May of 2015, at 26 years old, Cody had the surgery. He weighed 393 pounds and knew he had a long, hard road ahead of him if he wanted to succeed in his goals, both to lose weight and to complete CWI’s 11-month program, which would push him physically and mentally.
At first, he worried that he had made a mistake. He didn’t know if the required eating changes would allow him enough stamina to workout hard and build muscle. He felt weak on the initial liquid diet and corresponding dramatic drop in his usual regular calorie intake. Just when he found himself making excuses not to enroll in the program, his bariatric surgeon, Dr. Jim Valentine, gave him the encouragement he needed.
“Dr. Valentine [told] me that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Cody remembers, “and it couldn’t have happened . . . at a better time.”
When classes started in August, Cody had already lost about 60 pounds—but the first day was still harder even than he had imagined. Students were required to complete a 1.5-mile run, 100 pushups and 100 sit-ups. “I was the slowest runner, and I was also the person not capable of completing 100 of anything,” he said. Instead of giving up, though, “I made it my goal that day that by the time of graduation . . . I was going to be the best.”
For 11 months, he attended classes and trained hard, with his fellow students and on his own. “I was not only exercising at the academy,” Cody said, “I was going to the gym every day after class.” Instead of eating huge meals, which were no longer physically possible, he focused on consuming quality food along with protein drinks and vitamins. His work and dedication paid off. When he earned his law enforcement certificate in July of 2016, he weighed just 170 pounds. He was stronger, healthier and back in control of his life.
“I don’t consider my past experience as a flaw,” Cody said. “It is what made me the man I am today.”
Though he still worries about gaining the weight back, he is confident that he knows what he needs to do to stay fit—and he has the discipline to get it done. He credits St. Luke’s for teaching him about nutrients and food, which allows him to enjoy things like cauliflower pizza and black bean brownies. He still lifts weights and hikes and jogs. The 1.5 miles that used to take him 26 minutes to complete now takes him eight.
He appreciates life in more ways than he ever thought possible when he was struggling with depression, his weight and his health. Today, at 29, he is working in private security, is a few classes away from earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology and hopes to someday pursue a master’s degree—maybe even a doctorate—as he continues to explore a possible career in law enforcement.
“I’ll just never be the same person,” Cody said. “I want to be something great before my time is up.”