Body Transformation: A Soldier's Sojourn

Jocelyn fought through divorce, a fractured femur and two wars before she finally found peace with her body. See how she lost 60 pounds and found a new life!

Name: Jocelyn Shaw
BodySpace: nacersusaf

Jocelyn Shaw Jocelyn Shaw
AGE 25
178 lbs
AGE 27
119 lbs

Why I Got Started

My journey has definitely had its ups and downs over the past 7 years. I first became interested in getting in shape early in 2005, after a rather frank discussion with my then husband; I had become frustrated and unhappy with the "honeymoon pounds" I gained after we got married, but didn't have a clue what to do about it.

One day after moaning to my husband about how unhappy I was with my appearance yet again, he simply said, "Well, do something about it." It made so much sense! Why hadn't I thought of that?!

After that I took some "before" pictures, and began to devour every bit of training and nutrition information I could get my hands on. I hired a trainer and nutritionist to work with me on a diet and workout program and quickly started to see some amazing results. Within a year, I was much leaner and much happier with the way I looked and felt.

In September of 2007, my husband told me out of the blue that he was unhappy and wanted a divorce. I was suddenly on my own, trying to look for a new place to live, pay the bills with a single income (and a low-ranking military income at that) and make new friends to spend my time with.

The combination of my new social life and its heavy involvement of alcohol, financial stresses and the challenges associated with my first deployment to Iraq found me on a precarious cycle of overeating and over-dieting to compensate. I couldn't seem to stop myself from constantly binge eating, and would then feel like a failure after doing so, restricting myself to a pitiful amount of food until I could no longer stand it and wind up binging again.

It didn't take long before I had ballooned up to a hefty 180 pounds. When I returned home from a trip overseas and could no longer squeeze myself into my size 12 jeans in March of 2009, I finally stepped on a scale and saw how heavy I had gotten. It was definitely a wake-up call that I needed to do something and stick to it.

I began the process of losing the weight by going back to what I knew; eating 6 clean meals a day, lifting hard and heavy, and doing moderate amounts of cardio. I started to come to terms with my divorce, and with the help of some of my close friends and a solid routine of lifting and cardio to relieve stress I was able to find better ways to cope with my emotions.

Within a few months I had dropped down to about 150 pounds and hovered there until around October of 2009. I was actually fairly content at that weight, and liked my feminine curves. I was healthy and happy, and had begun dating again and making new friends.

Another deployment to Iraq in October of 2009 left me with nothing to do aside from work out, so I watched my diet carefully and kicked things into high gear during the trip. When I returned in January of 2010, I started having some acute pain in my right hip during my workouts. I saw several doctors about it, and each one diagnosed me with something different. I was losing weight and was probably around 145 pounds, so I kept working out and did my best to ignore the pain.

Finally, in April of 2010 a specialist submitted me for an MRI and discovered that I had a severe stress fracture to the head of my right femur. The smallest adjustment could have separated the two halves of the bone! I was immediately put on crutches and went into surgery to pin the pieces of my femur together just two days later.

The road to recovery was long, painful and frustrating. Getting up the stairs to my third floor apartment, depending on others to drive me to and from work, and a myriad of medical appointments could have been enough to undo all the progress I had made. After all, it would have been easy to bemoan my situation on the couch with a pint of ice cream.

Instead, I managed to keep my weight in check with a clean diet, and doing whatever I could to work out. I would get down on the floor in my apartment and work my abs, use resistance bands for my upper body, and find any excuse to get off of the couch and schlep myself around on my crutches. After 9 weeks on crutches, I was given the green light to walk on my own, and I began intensive physical therapy and slowly worked my way back into the gym.

In November of 2010 I was medically cleared and deployed to Afghanistan. While there I once again kicked my workouts into high gear and got serious about my training, this time listening to my body and employing a wide variety of training methods in order to avoid overuse injuries.

Since then I have deployed to Afghanistan a second time, and maintained all of my progress and then some. Today I maintain my weight at about 118-120 pounds at about 12% body fat relatively easy, and I never take it for granted. The road has been long, but each setback has only made me stronger.

How I Did It

After I recovered from my surgery, I employed a wide variety of techniques to challenge my body without overdoing it in any particular area. I learned how to do more dynamic workouts like CrossFit, started taking more time to stretch and recover, and traded up my long runs for HIIT cardio, rowing, stair climbing and using the elliptical.

I also employed a much more moderate approach to my diet; no longer did I view foods as "bad" or off-limits, but rather allowed myself to indulge in everything in moderation. I realized I could have my cake and eat it too, and it was what I ate before and after the cake that mattered. Not restricting myself finally allowed me to break that cycle of binge eating and extreme dieting.

Not only am I happier, but my body has responded in ways I never thought possible. I still see myself in the mirror, or put on a pair of size two pants and I can't believe it! Overall the key for me was teaching myself moderation in my life, be it my diet or my workouts. I never feel deprived of anything, and because of the variety of my workouts I always look forward to them. Each day is different and exciting!

I'm also much happier in my life, which helps me immensely to be able to stick to my workout and nutrition regime; I recently got engaged to an amazing man who shares my love of fitness and healthy living. We challenge each other and are each other's biggest supporters.

He is currently dealing with an extremely difficult recovery from an accident he had in June 2011, and my past experience with my femoral injury helps me to understand his frustrations and to show him that it takes time, but you can bounce back.

Suggestions For Others

There are a lot of sayings out there people toss around so often that they have become relegated to clichés, but I think that some of them bear repeating.

    1. Listen to your body!
      I know it's hard when you are just starting out and don't know what you are listening for, but keep a few simple things in mind; if you feel too tired to workout (physically exhausted, not just a little sleepy in the mornings) ask yourself if you are pushing too hard and need to take more time off to rest.

      If you experience pain that differs from that of a good lactic acid burn in your muscles, or the feeling of sucking a little wind during your HIIT stop and seek medical attention! Don't let your pride keep you from taking care of your body and risking a more serious injury. I sure learned that one the hard way!

    1. You can't see where you're going if you don't know where you've been.
      Start today ... start now! Take some honest pictures of yourself, hop on the scale, or take some measurements and really see where you are currently.

      If you don't know where you are, you can't very well map out where you want to go. Now that you have a clear picture of what you're working with, set up small incremental goals that are measureable; e.g. "I want to lose 1 pound this week" or "I want to work out 5 times this week" and go from there!

    1. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
      I am one of those people who LOVES to make to-do lists and plan things out, and my workouts and meals are no exception. Each weekend I set aside 1 hour or so to plan my workouts and meals for the week, and that way I can almost shift into auto pilot once I hit the gym or the kitchen.

      I simply walk into the gym, open up my notebook, and get to work doing whatever is written down. Half of the time I don't even remember what it was I had planned, so it's like a little surprise each time I start a workout!

      Planning my meals and workouts also lets me see where any potential training imbalances might crop up, or where I might need to adjust my meals to make sure I'm getting enough calories for the day.

      Not everyone works well with that sort of planning, but at the least take the time to start a food journal or workout log. You might be surprised at how much you are eating unnecessarily, or how imbalanced your workouts are.

    1. Everything in moderation, including moderation.
      Oftentimes people assume that I "can't" have a certain type of food, or that I won't engage in social activities because they're centered around food and drinks … not true!

      I firmly believe that in keeping my diet and workouts up 80% of the time, I can fully enjoy special occasions and all the food and fun that goes along with them without having to feel guilty about it.

    1. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
      Getting fit takes time, it takes effort, and above all else it takes consistency. For me it has taken years to get to the point where I can live my life with moderation and can set up my own workout program in order to get the results I'm looking for.

      I've experienced my fair share of setbacks and disappointments, but I always keep coming back for more. Maybe you indulged a bit too much over the holidays or on vacation. So what? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going. You deserve better than to give up on yourself.

Aside from the aforementioned clichés, I have some additional suggestions that have been helpful for me over the past couple of years.

    1. Find what works for you and build a program around that.
      Don't like tuna? You don't have to eat it! There are plenty of other sources of lean protein that are just as nutritious. Hate running? You don't have to!

      Lifting with intensity, using the rower or stair machine and jumping rope are just a few other amazing ways to torch calories and get your cardio fix.

    1. Be your own biggest fan.
      If you are trying to make positive changes and are just starting out, it isn't uncommon to find your friends and family are less supportive than you had hoped they would be.

      It might be that they are afraid you'll no longer be able to go out and have fun with them, they might be intimidated by your new lifestyle, or sadly they might be envious that you've taken the steps to change yourself for the better that they themselves have not yet been able to make.

      Whatever the reason, be patient with them and don't let naysayers get you down. I experience my fair share of comments and am often subject to others' assumptions of me; "Gee, I would ask if JOCELYN wants to go to lunch, but you KNOW she won't eat a burger …", (also untrue!) but I try not to let it get to me.

      I keep my chin up and do my best to show everyone that you can be healthy and social at the same time, but at the end of the day I have to remind myself that not everyone understands my choices, and I'm the only one who needs to be okay with them.

    1. Take time to reward yourself.
      Life is meant to be enjoyed … so take the time to do that. Did you lose that one pound this week? Treat yourself to a few new songs for your iPod! Didn't quite lose that pound? Who cares?!

      You gave it your best effort and chances are you're healthier because of it … so get those new running shoes you've been eyeballing and use them to push yourself harder next week.

      I like to treat myself to a massage every couple of weeks. Not only is it relaxing and indulgent, but it's a way for me to thank my body for putting up with all the hard workouts and to give my muscles a treat so I can continue to perform at my best.

Photographic Credit

Desiree McCombs, Indigo Peaks Photography [ Website - Facebook ]