THE WAKE-UP CALL: A month before I was deployed to Iraq, I got married. On our honeymoon cruise to Mexico, I did a bit of snorkeling and a lot of eating. When I saw the photos, I realized how far I had let myself go. (Beat the five worst weight-loss traps for guys.) My deployment became a chance to turn things around: I'd be away from my routine and able to whip myself into shape.
THE FOOD: My first challenge: I had to eat my meals in a cafeteria. So I adapted. I banished white bread from my diet; if chicken sandwiches were on the menu, I'd toss the bun. I began every meal with a big salad, filling up with few calories. But I'd go crazy without some sweets, so every Sunday I added ice cream as a treat.
THE FITNESS: I won't lie—I often lost the motivation to go to the gym, especially early on. (Learn 20 ways to stick to your workout.) That's why I enlisted the help of a friend. Sure enough, on the days when I didn't feel like leaving the couch, he pounded on my door and yelled for me to hurry up. I started each workout with about 10 minutes of stretching and followed that with 2 to 3 sets of exercises, such as pullups, squats, pushups, hip raises, and reverse crunches. Then I'd end the workout with about 20 minutes of high-intensity interval sprints.
THE REWARD: I came back from 7 months in Iraq looking like a new man. Now it's time for a real do-over: I booked a Royal Caribbean cruise for my wife and me, and I'll be proud to display the pictures. I plan to eat well—hey, it's a cruise—but balance is key. I've learned that no matter where you are, there are ways to keep active. The ship has a gym, a climbing wall, and a mini-golf course. And now that I've lost the weight, I feel ready to conquer them all.
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