Name: Eric West
Hometown: Paducah, KY
Weight Before: 246 lbs
Weight After: 175 lbs
Body Fat Before: 23.8%
Body Fat After: 9.5%
It's not that hard to stay in shape while serving in the Army. Someone designs your grueling workouts, prepares your meals, and keeps you on a strict schedule. Without that rigid routine, however, it's also easy to pack on additional weight.
Take former U.S. infantryman Eric West of Paducah, Ky.
He gained 50 pounds after being honorably discharged in 1999. If that wasn't bad enough, on what was supposed to be a routine visit to the doctor, he got some even grimmer news. "[He] told me I was a Ding Dong and a Twinkie away from diabetes," says West, 32. The words hit home—West had a family history of the disease. At nearly 250 pounds, he was resigned to contracting it too—until he arrived at home and saw his wife and two daughters. "That's when I realized I wanted to be healthy for myself and for them," he says.
Though he now had the motivation, West wasn't well-informed about what to do next. Initially, he tried fad diets. "I would lose weight briefl y," he says, "but it would come right back when I began eating regular meals again." West was as clueless about fi tness as he was about his nutrition. Although he joined a gym and began lifting, he went too heavy, too soon, and ended up with a hernia.
"I didn't know what I was doing when I first started," he recalls. "It was like I just kind of grabbed stuff and lifted it."
Surgery repaired the injury, but West was laid up for eight weeks, which he spent on the Internet and buried in fitness magazines, like Men's Fitness. "That helped me probably more than anything," he says. "It kept me pumped up, so when I was cleared to get back into the gym, I was ready to go."
Empowered with knowledge, West fi rst swore off foods like pizza in favor of protein shakes made from yogurt, oatmeal, skim milk, and peanut butter. He stopped snacking, worked more veggies and chicken breasts into his meal plan, and also gave up smoking.
In the gym, he kept his reps to no more than 12 per set and focused on good form. He also used downtime at work to burn off extra energy by shadowboxing. He even started running (something he hadn't done since his military days), covering two to three miles a day, a few days a week.
By last July, West had lost more than 70 pounds and dropped down to 9.5% body fat, and he was stronger than ever. "Even in the Army, I'd never been able to bench 100 pounds over my body weight," he says. "The fi rst time I put 315 pounds up, I was like, 'alright, let me get a calculator because this can't be right.'"
Today, the threat of diabetes has disappeared, but West is more proud to have come through for his family. "The other day, my daughter reminded me of why I do this," he says. "She called me her superhero daddy."
Eric's Tip for Success:
"Never give up. In order to get into shape, you have to keep yourself moving. Don't ever stop. If you do, it's too hard toget moving again."