Since high school, Christian Montijo had wanted to join the army. Instead, the 28-year-old personal banker from Kissimmee, FL, had gotten a sales job, working long hours that left him little time to stay healthy. He ate fast food for lunch, followed by plenty of soda, and then again for dinner. He spent eight years that, as his weight slowly increased; he’d wake up tired, go to sleep tired. “I would sit down to watch tv and would breathe heavy and sweat just by sitting down,” he says. His weight topped 350—as high as his scale could go. He was 27.
At the end of 2018, he re-evaluated his career. Realizing he didn’t want to spend the next five years where he was, he resolved to join the Army in 2019. He knew he needed to get in shape, so he started small: walking. “I started walking around my neighborhood until I got tired,” he says. “Little by little the walks got longer and I didn’t get tired as much.”
He focused on his diet, too. Instead of soda, he started carrying a gallon of water to drink during the day. A calorie-counting app helped him get a better sense of his actual nutritional needs. He started meal prepping with lean proteins such as chicken breast and ground turkey; fresh vegetables and fruits pushed out the daily fast food.
Six months in, he started hitting the neighborhood gym. His Army recruiter let him know what weight he’d need to hit, which helped keep him motivated. His confidence grew as he could see how little changes were paying off.
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The pounds dropped pretty quickly, he says. In just under 12 months, he’d lost 165 pounds—nearly half his bodyweight. “I feel amazing!” he says. “I have energy throughout the day and to know where I am compared to where I was last year is a surreal feeling.” His friends and family are all impressed at how much he’s changed, and proud of his transformation. “The fact that I can keep up with my kids and do more things with them is the biggest and best thing about this,” he says.
Now he’s in it for the long haul, changing not just his body and career, but how he wants to live. “From the start, I didn’t want this to be a diet but a lifestyle change,” he says. “I knew that losing the weight is just half of the battle, and keeping it off is the other half.” He’s still working out and eating healthy, and now he’s focused on completing basic training.
Looking back, he has some advice for anyone looking to shed some pounds. Set small, realistic goals you can achieve day after day. Progress will keep you motivated, as long as you remember that you’re changing your lifestyle, not just slapping on a quick fix. “One day at a time,” he says. “Nothing happens overnight. You didn’t gain weight overnight so you won’t drop it overnight, either.
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