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Alcoa woman loses 70 pounds hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains

A doctor's appointment made Melissa Coatney realize she needed a healthier life, so she took to the mountains and never looked back.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Three years ago, Melissa Coatney weighed 200 pounds.

Since then, she's lost 70 pounds and it's in large part thanks to mountains she could see every day from her Alcoa home.

It all started in a doctor's office.

"She'd asked me what my hobbies were, and I had none," said Coatney. "I was a mom, I was a wife, I'm a sister, I'm a daughter, co-worker, friend, but I wasn't doing anything for me."

It hit her later that day at the grocery store.

"I stood there in Walmart, had my buggy full, and I had that ah-ha moment of, what am I doing? I'm giving myself the possibility of diabetes by what's in my buggy," said Coatney.

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She left her full basket of junk food and made a complete lifestyle change.

"I took up hiking and I've loved it ever since," said Coatney.

The first few months were hard. There were sugar withdrawals.

"Like I literally wanted to lick chocolate off the floor," she said.

The hikes were strenuous.

"It hurts so bad you say you're never going to do it again, but then a couple weeks later, it feels so good and you saw all this amazing stuff and it's like you forget how bad it hurt and you do it again and again," said Coatney.

Coatney has now hiked all 900 miles of trails in the Smokies.

She's covered more than 2,000 miles over all with trails she's repeated, like Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte.

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"When I first started hiking it took me four and a half hours to summit, and the last time I went up I did it in an hour and 45 minutes," said Coatney.

And all the hiking is making Coatney her favorite version of herself.

"My goal was never skinny, I think skinny is stupid," said Coatney. "My goal was never to be a certain size. My goal was always about being healthy."

She hopes others can find the same motivation.

"You're gonna have days where it's hard," said Coatney. "But don't give up. Because you can do it. You're worthy of it. Be the change that you deserve to be."

RELATED: 'My heart noticed': Tennessee couple gets married where they met in Smokies

LeConte Lodge in the Smokies will celebrate it's 100th year in 2026.

Coatney's goal is to hike Mount LeConte 100 times before that anniversary.

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