VICENZA, Italy - "I'm going to die."

U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza's Michelle Miller was certain of that after a high cholesterol diagnosis last year was tacked on to her other health issues. At 240 pounds, with high blood pressure and low self image, she decided-once and for all-to shed the pounds.

"Both of my parents passed away from heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol," explained Miller. "At age 41, I had been on blood pressure medicine for over 10 years."

Days after her high-cholesterol diagnosis, Miller cut out fast foods and sodas and began exercising. Fifteen pounds and a few weeks later, she met girlfriend and Army veteran Shannon Reynolds, who Miller said enjoys working out.

"Shannon told me that whenever I got serious about working out, I should let her know. I saw her again one day, then we started meeting at the gym," said Miller. "We were working out three to four hours a day Monday to Friday, doing everything from lunges to the exercise bike. It was like boot camp for me."

Miller said the weight continued to come off, and she continued to work out daily.

Reynolds also introduced Shannon to the garrison Wellness Center, where a 10-minute test showed her that her metabolism was extremely low. The Wellness Center staff created a personalized meal plan for Miller and advised her, based on a fitness level assessment, on how to reach her goals.

She continues to visit the Wellness Center for monthly weigh-ins. Miller said she is 52 pounds lighter, dropped 10 dress sizes, been taken off blood pressure medicine, decreased her cholesterol levels and feels good about herself again.

"Instead of walking, now I can run," she said. "Instead of grabbing fast food to eat, I learned how to eat and prepare healthier meals for me and my family and be full afterwards. I learned how to intake the right kinds of calories from the right kinds of foods. But most important, I love me."

"I've always been that thick girl with large hips," said Miller, "but I still thought I looked pretty. I just couldn't find clothes to fit my body and I didn't like the way I looked in the clothes. My husband and daughter love to go places, but I would find excuses not to go because I just didn't feel comfortable, didn't want to be seen.

"My family has been very supportive and always loved me no matter what I looked like. It was just me who had the problem with the way I looked."

Problem solved, said Miller.

As she continues to drop pounds, along with a low self-image and what she considered a weight-related death sentence, she's happier than ever.

"Being healthy is a lifestyle. It's the way to go," she said. "I just hope I can motivate someone else."

Soldiers, family members and civilians who are interested in weight loss or performance enhancement can contact their local Wellness Center.

Indeed, programs offered by installation Wellness Centers help people like Miller achieve the goals visualized under the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, said Lacy Wolff, Vicenza Wellness Center director. CSF, based on 30-plus years of scientific study and results, uses assessments and training to help Soldiers, family members and civilians face the physical and psychological challenges of sustained operations, according to http://www.army.mil/csf/.

The program aims to help individuals achieve balance in the physical, spiritual, emotional, family and social aspects of their lives.

"The Wellness Center supports the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness initiative through health education in the physical and emotional domains," said Wolff. "Michelle is a great example of someone who has taken the tools that are offered and is applying them to create a healthy lifestyle that crosses over into total wellness, mind, body, and spirit."

Page last updated Fri March 26th, 2010 at 09:51