By Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentMay 13, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., May 13, 2011 -- When Staff Sgt. Brett Michael stepped off a scale in summer of 2008 and realized that by Army standards he was overweight, he wasn't all that surprised.
It was when he failed a tape test to determine his body fat percentage that he began to critically reevaluate his current physical condition. That was the moment the motor sergeant, now an instructor at the Henry H. Lind Noncommissioned Officer Academy, realized how severely he'd damaged his career.
"I failed tape at a key point in my career," said Michael, who, at the time was a company motor sergeant for 593rd Sustainment Brigade. "I was a promotable E-5 (sergeant), and they took away my promotable status. I had to come to the realization that I would now be at least two years behind my peers."
Michael said it happened slowly. He'd put on a couple of pounds here - a couple there - and before he knew it he was ten pounds overweight. Nonetheless, something had to change.
"I had to pick up the pieces and fix it," he added.
That's when Michael, who says he's always been in decent shape but pushed the envelope when it came to weight, got serious about losing some of it - to the tune of 67 pounds over the course of a 12-month deployment to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and an additional 10 after he returned.
"While we were deployed to Kuwait, I really buckled down," said Michael, whose weight loss journey began in early 2009 as soon as he arrived overseas. Then, he weighed 250 pounds.
Michael ran 25 or more miles every week. He ran in every 5 or 10-kilometer race. He even trained himself for half marathons.
He quickly discovered that while he was putting in plenty of road time, dieting would ultimately play the largest role in his successes - specifically portion control, which was something he improved once he arrived in Kuwait.
"I thought I was eating healthy before, but in fact I was eating too much," Michael said. "Even though I weighed 250 pounds, I could beat a lot of people on the physical fitness test run. The muscle and aerobic fitness were there. I just wasn't eating right."
In the states he had been used to overeating - something he says plagued him when, while at home with his wife, he would go back for seconds and in some cases thirds for his evening meals.
He was eating healthy, he says; he was just eating too much.
Michael says his wife, an Air Force master sergeant stationed on McChord Field and an athlete in her free time, kept him on track when it came to eating right.
"My wife has always encouraged me to eat healthy," he said. "She's a tri-athlete and in very good shape."
Michael said his wife has a vast expanse of knowledge on healthy eating and she continually brings that into the home, whether in the form of organic foods, fruits or vegetables.
In March, Michael - now an avid runner who frequently competes in foot races across the installation and abroad - took top honors for his gender and age bracket in the JBLM St. Patty's Day 5k race, something clearly indicative of how far he's come.
Ask him, and he'll tell you without hesitation what got him there and how it's possible for other Soldiers to do the same.
"Moderation is key," he said. "You can have a beer, but when it turns into six beers, then it becomes a problem. You can eat a hamburger, but when it turns into two or three, or a double with cheese, it's a problem."
It's moderation that has Michael looking as fit and lean as anyone, and it's moderation that has allowed him to keep his weight down. It's also to this that he can attribute credit for landing his dream job eight months ago as an Army instructor, working at the academy.
"I've wanted to be an instructor for years," Michael said. "I feel like I have a huge wealth of experience and knowledge."
Now, Michael has added his battle with weight loss to that arsenal.
"I feel like I can really relate a lot to the guys in my classes," Michael said. "My experience I have from being out of shape allows me to tell them what they need to do when they have guys who are overweight."
Sgt. 1st Class Victor Koryavykh, a senior small group leader at the academy and Michael's superior, says Michael's passion for teaching is evident.
"It reflects on his students quite a bit," he said, "just because, with his positive attitude, they enjoy the classes so much."
"Anything's possible with a positive attitude," Koryavykh says of the very same attitude that allowed Michael to exceed Army standards where he once didn't even meet them. "He went from being overweight to being a competitive runner. He runs in all the races on JBLM."
Koryavykh says losing close to 80 pounds in just more than a year is quite an incredible achievement. But no matter how one gets there, Michael says there's one thing that must be understood from the get-go.
"You have to make a life change," he says. "If you can't make it your life, you're continually going to battle with it."