'You Can Make It Happen': Inside One Military Spouse's Weight-Loss Journey

Military Spouse Weight Loss Plan

As a fitness writer, I often get testimonials from people using fitness programs that I have developed, and they all motivate me to continue. However, there are those few letters I receive that strike a deep emotional cord in me that I feel a need to share with others.

The following testimonial is from a former military spouse and mother of three young children. Her achievement has motivated her to help others like her -- those who had a constant battle with weight all of their lives. Erin O'Neill's story has motivated me to hire her as my "poster child" for my beginner fitness line of products.

Not only will you read her motivational story, but you can email her for more tips and suggestions on how she managed her time, got over personal obstacles and fueled herself for daily exercise and weight-loss routines. She dropped 55 pounds.

Here is O'Neill's story:

Hi, I am Erin. I was not born fat, but I achieved it quickly. If I could have been graded on weight gain/loss, I would have made the honor roll. By the age of 8, I was already overweight, embarrassed and often sad. This was the beginning of my yo-yo life's struggle.

All through school, weight controlled my thoughts and activities. It even prevented me from doing things I wanted to do. From dateless weekends to the varsity volleyball coach commenting that I had gained too much weight over the summer and would then be relegated to the B team, I slowly died inside. Self-esteem -- what was that? I had none. Each morning, the same thought dominated -- I was fat! I was hurt from years of people saying, "Wow, you have such a pretty face." That is a death sentence to a heavy girl.

In college, I was accused of always wearing the "hide the butt" jacket; which was true; that's exactly what I was trying to do. Finding my true love didn't help, for we discovered how much we enjoyed Hooters wings and beer -- 100 wings and six pitchers of beer for two people is a little much.

What made me think that I should eat as much as a man? After we married, I ate my way across the country to his new duty station, San Diego, where I "blossomed" even more. By the time he left for his first deployment, I was determined to do something about my weight. Once again. I joined a weight-loss program, which did help and I lost some weight, but it was short-lived. My husband returned from deployment, my bad habits reignited and I ate my way back to the next duty station, Rhode Island.

I then found out I was pregnant with our first child, and I really took the saying "eating for two" literally. It was my ticket to eat guilt free. My husband's second deployment was three weeks after our son was born.

This time, I found peace not in the gym but in Hershey Kisses. By the time he returned, I weighed more than I did when he left. At this point, I gave in, and the weight battle was lost. I believed that taking time for me was selfish. I thought to be a good mom, I was supposed to give up myself and put all of my time into my children. Little did I know.

Every major event in my life, I remember what I weighed, what I wore and the size of my outfit. I was tired of counting months or weeks in my head before vacation or special events and thinking how much weight I could lose to make myself feel better. Last year, when my brother was getting married, I was determined not to be known as "Joe's fat sister." He had asked me to read at his wedding, and all I could think about was when I got up, everyone was going to see my butt.

After 12 years of marriage and three children, I'd had it. I needed something completely different. So I emailed Stew Smith. I knew I needed something fast and heavy duty. The wedding was only 44 days away.

I did the 45-day beginner's workout. I got my first workout sheet. Wow, I looked at it and seriously cried. I thought "no way," but I had to do it. It was during the summer so I had the three kids home with me. We went to the track 5-6 times per week to walk. We brought scooters, jump ropes, snacks, drinks, balls, tennis rackets, anything to keep them occupied for an hour. I never did more than one hour.

If I could not get to the track, I would jump rope in my kitchen, do squats, sit-ups -- whatever was on my workout sheet, even if it was 10:30 at night when the kids were in bed. My workout sheet became my daily bible; I carried it everywhere with me.

Sometimes after I worked out, I felt like I was going to puke. It was so hard, or as Stew says, "You just tried hard, so good job. You did it, not me" I was so sore sometimes that the baby couldn't even sit on my lap, but I was determined and it became addicting. It was now my job; no, more than that, it was the start of my new life.

I achieved my goal. By the time of the wedding, I had lost 25 pounds. I felt amazing. By working out daily and drinking more water than I imagined, along with eating better, I did it. I personally love the weight loss, but I love how strong and healthy I feel even more.

I love that my children have seen me accomplish something that I never knew I could conquer. My son had his best year in football, as he would often work out with me and we would motivate each other. I know that I have taught them to work hard and to never give up.

When you want it, you will it, and you can make it happen.

I have been commended from people big and little, young and old, and from people that I did not even think they knew I existed. There have been an overwhelming amount of compliments. Everyone wants to know the secret. I truly believe that it is Stew's workouts. But Stew tells me that it was me, not him getting me to do the workouts every day. This adds to my feeling of accomplishment, and I am proud of myself. Now I want others to feel this way.

A few comments that stick in my mind are a 9-year-old boy said to his mom, "Wow, Mrs. O'Neill has really lost weight." My own grandfather said, "You lost a whole person. I never thought you would lose those hips."

One of my dear friends said I inspired her to lose her weight and get healthy again, and now she has lost 35 pounds. I have now lost 55 pounds, and I am not done. With Stew's help, I got my life back, created a whole new life for myself, my husband and my children, and hopefully one day, I can help someone else get their life back, too.

I have now started educating myself on fitness and will be getting certified in personal training and group exercise class in order to best help people who are like me. Email Stew for any answers to your fitness questions. He answers his own emails and offers ideas to "fit fitness into your schedule."

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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