If you bumped into Eva Nicho, the blond, cheerful general manager of SouthPark’s Yafo Kitchen, you wouldn’t think she used to be more than 150 pounds heavier. Or that she and her vibrant, smiling husband, Patrick, who works with Charlotte Water, had lost 450 pounds combined as a couple.
But that’s their story, and it’s intertwined with their love story.
They hit their heaviest weights when they were dating each other. Eva, 5 feet 4 inches tall, got up to 310 pounds. Patrick, 6 feet tall, got up to 520 pounds.
Feeling heavy was nothing new to them. When they met online 10 years ago, in their early twenties, Patrick had always been overweight and Eva was still battling a combination of an old injury, lack of motivation and depression.
“I had really big self-image issues, so for me it was just easier to meet people online,” Eva said.
They were living in different parts of Georgia at the time, but she took a chance and drove to meet Patrick.
They had a nice dinner, went back to his house and watched a movie. They started talking on the phone constantly and developed a long-distance relationship.
“I tell him all the time, I fell in love with him on the phone,” Eva said. “One hundred percent. My cheekbones would hurt because I was smiling so hard. He just made me feel so good that eventually I was just like, this is it. I love him.”
With their love, weight didn’t matter.
“I’m very thankful that we fell in love when we were at that point because I know he loves me for the person that I am,” Eva said. “One hundred percent, no doubt in my mind. And vice versa. I fell in love with him. I fell in love with his personality.”
Around age 24, Eva made the choice to turn her life around. To get ready for a wedding, she had to shop at plus-size retail company Lane Bryant, and she felt like nothing would fit her. It hit her that she didn’t want to ever marry Patrick looking the way that she looked in a wedding dress.
She went to a doctor for consultations, she got a gym membership, and she started to make it happen.
“It just clicked for me. It’s now or never,” she said.
Patrick jumped onboard and, on top of juggling a long distance relationship before they settled together in Charlotte in 2016, the couple juggled diets and fitness regimens. They were on the path together.
Patrick started walking and Eva started running half marathons.
“I think we all kind of build up in our head who we want to be,” Eva said, “so in my head I always wanted to be a runner.”
By the day of their wedding in 2013, Eva had lost 70 pounds and Patrick had lost 90 pounds. “At the moment we felt great,” she said.
But they were just getting started.
Their biggest turning point as a couple in their weight-loss journey came in March 2017, when they started using the Transform app. It allowed them to eat certain foods they loved, while prompting them to dive into a mix of workouts from weight lifting to CrossFit.
Suddenly, their goals shifted. They had always been about the numbers, with Eva moving toward a goal of 145 pounds and Patrick moving toward a goal of 220 pounds.
And they are getting there, but they are also setting deeper goals. Eva, now 30, and Patrick, now 32, have lost 450 pounds together. Eva has run about 14 half marathons and two full marathons. Patrick has run two half marathons.
They don’t want their weight-loss to define or control their relationship.
“We’re learning that balance now of how to live life and be happy, but also to be healthy and hit the goals that we want to hit,” Eva said. “So it’s a medium that we’re working on.”
“That number doesn’t define who I am,” Patrick said. “I know I’m gonna get there, I just have to be patient. My ultimate goal is to see what I’m capable of doing next.”
Eva would consider running a 50K race, while Patrick has a full marathon on his list of goals. They customize their workout and meal plans with the help of the Transform app, but also with knowledge from their own nutritional research.
Both are getting certified as personal trainers with a desire to pay it forward. They dream of building a home gym to train people for free who can’t afford it.
“I think that’s the best thing you could get out of life, is to leave a footprint,” Eva said. “To do something good. And if I can help people live a happy life and a healthy life, that’s what I want to do.”
Patrick will be right there beside her.
Photos: Courtesy of Eva Nicho