Success Story: This Iraq War Vet Went From Tub to Trooper
101st Airborne Sergeant William Ramos is back in fighting shape after dropping 45 pounds.
Hometown: Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Weight Before: 205 lbs
Weight After: 160 lbs
Most guys have enough trouble trying to lose weight in their day-to-day lives. So imagine trying to get fit while fighting in a war halfway across the world. If you want to talk about no excuses, start with Sergeant First Class William Ramos, of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division.
After coming back from his second tour of duty in Iraq in 2008, Ramos, a 16-year Army veteran, reported to Fort Hood (TX), and reunited with the fast-food restaurants and Mexican takeout spots that quickly became his biggest vice. “I was working out, somewhat,” he says. “Mostly doing cardio on my own, but not a lot of weight training. And I just kept eating.”
Most of his exercise came solely from physical training such as push-ups and sit-ups. “I was just trying to stay fit for the Army’s tests. That’s what I was shooting for,” says Ramos. He hardly made the cut. At just 5'9", Ramos weighed 205 and barely looked like a soldier.
Focus on Today, Not Tomorrow
“You always hear that good nutrition is the key to losing weight, but you never realize it until you go through it yourself. Everyone has a six-pack in the abdominal area. Nutrition and exercise are what helps it come out, but nutrition is the most important factor.”
His wake-up call came in November 2009 when he was transferred to Fort Campbell (KY). Like all soldiers, Ramos was “smoked,” or forced to do body-weight exercises and run obstacle courses, with no rest, until failure. After that, there’s a two-mile run that everyone must finish in 18 minutes.
Ramos failed. “I’m a platoon sergeant, and I’m leading 26 soldiers, telling them to run, but I can’t do it myself,” he says.“That opened my eyes.”
He passed the test the following February but had to starve himself and run every day to lose the weight, only to gain it all back with junk food. Two months out from a tour in Afghanistan, he was out of shape and out of ideas.
But as crazy as it sounds, Ramos also felt as though he had an opportunity to finally lose the weight while overseas.“It was a goal I set before I left,” he says. “I knew I needed to do something about it.” First, he sought out the most jacked soldiers he could find.
“I had a couple of big bodybuilding guys, and I asked them, ‘What am I doing wrong?’” They explained how out of whack his nutrition had become. He wasn’t eating nearly enough, and when he would eat, he was taking in the wrong foods. Ramos consulted with an Army nutritionist and filled out a food diary for a week, soon realizing one big mistake. “I was going too low with carbs and too high with protein,” he says.
To get his diet back in balance, he started working in granola bars as snacks between meals. He mixed up shakes too, and thanks to friends back home, he ate clean at meal time.
“A lot of people would send me packages of salmon and chicken,” he says. “They’d send brown rice I could microwave. That stuff helped a lot.” His body still clung to its fat, but once he switched from lifting light weights for high reps, to heavy weights with low reps of no more than six per set,everything changed. “Within two and a half months, I was down to 180 pounds,” he says.
Slowly but surely, the rest of the weight melted away. Ramos started off with 24% body fat, just over the Army’s limit for soldiers, but by the time he made it back to the U.S. this past April, he’d cut that in half.
Today, Ramos is 160 pounds with 12% body fat. And even though lots of other guys would have found reasons to give up, he never did. “I got workouts from your magazine and kept working at it hard. Before I knew it, I’m looking in the mirror saying, ‘Where did my gut go?’”