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I’m a Marine, but a year ago, none of this described me.

After a combat deployment, hopping across the globe a few times, and proudly serving my country for five years, I found that I had let my standards slide; I weighed 236 pounds, 50 over my weight limit, had 33-percent body fat, failed my Physical Fitness Test twice, and, if I didn’t get my act together, was on the verge of being kicked out of the Corps I loved.

They gave me six-months to show progress to getting back to “Marine standards;” it was a dark time; full of embarrassment, disappointment, and anger. How did I let myself get to this point in my life? I wanted to blame someone, something.

It was eating an excess of double-bacon cheeseburgers with chili-cheese fries, large meat-lovers pizzas, sodas and beer. It was because I was “too busy” and I couldn’t find the time to go to the gym; even when I did, I was intimidated and felt out-of-place. Working out was “a waste of time” because I was hopelessly out of shape and my deadline was fast approaching. It was easier to stick to the status quo then stick to a workout routine.

I blamed the Marine Corps for their “unfair” and “overly-strict” standards. I blamed work and school for taking so much of my time and adding so much stress that I couldn’t hit the gym. I blamed society for being superficial and shallow and not being able to see past my physical appearance.

Then I realized that I was the only one to blame, that all my obstacles were self-inflicted, that no one else can control or could care about my body, my health and my well-being except for me. It was only then did I decide to dig deep to find the strength, desire and dedication to change my life. So I started slow; walk-run intervals on the treadmill. I was embarrassed to go to the gym, but I got over that, I had to.

But it seemed that, every five pounds I lost, I’d gain three back. It was an endless cycle for me; I would go hard in the gym then find some way to justify eating unhealthy. Or I’d eat healthy for three days, then binge out on the weekend. I was making progress, down to around 200 pounds, but was still over my weight limit and tip-toeing the line of being truly “fit.” I was continuing to get administratively punished in the Marine Corps and it looked like my military career was at a stand still.

People described me as “the fat guy,” and no one trusted me to go into battle with them, thinking that I’d be a liability rather than an advantage. I couldn’t go anywhere without being self-conscious; I didn’t dare to dress up, I didn’t want to be mistaken for a beached whale on vacation; I was trapped in my skin. The secret, that isn’t so secret, finally hit me around this time last year; eat right and stay active and you will get fit. So I did that; going to the gym, when I didn’t feel like it and even when I didn’t have time. I weaned myself off processed foods, beer and excess. I took it slow, but in a couple months it got to the point where I was looking forward to the gym, it became my break from the day and not a task to complete.

My thinking switched automatically; I no longer just looked at a cheeseburger, I also thought about how much I would have to run or lift the next day to burn it off. My life slowly went from small changes to completely calculated and working out became something I would rather do than waste time watching television. That’s when I knew I made it; when choosing the right choices, never making excuses and taking responsibility for my health became automatic.

Now, I can say I am the fittest I’ve ever been in my life; I wish high-school Tatum could meet me because I’d kick his a**. I record almost perfect Physical and Combat Fitness Test scores, dropped and kept off almost 50-pounds of weight for more than a year, and cut my body fat by more than half. I’m stronger, faster, “flexier,” and more endurance than ever. More importantly, physical wellness has bought me positive mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. I’ve learned quite a lot; not just nutrition and workouts but how to be “whole-fully healthy and happy.”

I want to spread the knowledge from my experiences. I’m not a personal trainer, a fitness model, or genetically advantaged; I’m just a normal person, a Marine even, who fought and found insights for happiness through fitness. I hope I can inspire some people that these goals are not hard to get to; once you get there, it’s become such a part of your life that you’ll never make another resolution about your weight or your fitness again. You can bring positive changes that transcends to your emotional, professional and social life as well. Thanks for reading my story and be sure to come back; I will be programming workouts, tips and inspiration for anyone interested in finding happiness through fitness.

Be fit, be well, be happy.

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