January 10, 2014

Spouse stays committed, loses 115 pounds

Justine Shively and husband, Spc. Anthony Shively, enjoy a moment together. Justine credits family support for her lifestyle change that led to dramatic weight loss.

Six months after having baby, wife of Soldier became resolute about losing weight

Some say that losing weight is one of the hardest personal goals to accomplish; that starting a diet or exercise plan may be easy, but succeeding can prove a bit more elusive.

Justine Shively will tell you that, yes, a weight-loss journey can be difficult, but goals are within reach and more. She hit her target and demolished it by losing 115 pounds, 75 more than she had planned. She took those pounds off over the course of 18 months while living at Fort Irwin. Her journey included working out on her own, changing her diet, and participating in activities offered by the Group Exercise facility here.

Justine is the wife of Spc. Anthony Shively, an Army tanker. He was stationed here for approximately three years – his first duty station after enlisting – and changed duty stations this past December. The young couple had their first child in August 2011. A few months after baby Ryder was born, Justine resolved to lose weight, she said. That was around February of 2012 when she weighed 255 pounds. She felt compelled to do something, not just for herself, but for her loved ones too, said Justine from Grand Island, Neb. She is staying there with her son and other family; her husband will be serving in South Korea for a year.

“I made this change now, because I wanted to be healthy for myself, my husband and my son,” Justine stated in an email. “I wanted to be able to do everything with my son and with my family. I also wanted to model healthy eating and healthy exercise habits for our son and future children we may have. It was my choice, but it’s also a lifestyle change.”

Justine said she had always struggled with her weight and was teased in school, beginning in elementary. She was active through high school, but never really ate healthy. Her weight increased in college and she did not feel comfortable with her image.

“Deep down, I was always self-conscious of how I looked in public and worried about what other people said about me,” Justine stated. “I was told a few times that I was nice, but not pretty enough to date and that if I was smaller, I would be perfect.”

After marrying Anthony in 2009, Justine resigned to being herself, because Anthony loved her for who she was, and there was nothing she could do to change her weight, she believed. Ultimately, she transformed herself through commitment comparable to a Soldier’s.

“I would say her dedication would be very similar to a Soldier’s duty to being fit and being a professional,” Anthony stated through an email. “I say that, because it takes everything you have inside of you to be that dedicated, and if you’re not dedicated to something, you will not get anywhere in anything you do.”

Justine admits that her weight-loss challenge was one of her most arduous experiences.

“I have never worked so hard or struggled so much,” she said. “I have never pushed this far physically, mentally or emotionally and it has definitely made me a stronger person.”

When times got hard and challenging for her, she never backed down, said Anthony.

Justine Shively holds son Ryder, shortly after his birth in 2011 here. About six months after Ryder was born, Justine determined to lose 40 pounds; she dropped 115 from her weight of 255 pounds.

“She kept her head up and drove on with her heart and soul and gave everything,” Anthony added.

Justine did the opposite of what many others do in her situation – she persisted. A 2012 research study found that a large percentage of people conducting weight-loss regimens quit early.

According to a “Prevention” magazine online article from August 2012, researchers at the University of Alberta and the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Canada, found that 43 percent of participants in an outpatient weight-loss program dropped out before achieving sustainable weight loss. The article quotes Dr. Daniel Birch, the study’s lead author, as saying: “The number one lesson for anyone is to manage your expectations.”

Birch recommended making goals realistic and having a supportive team.

“I wish we had an easy fix,” Birch said. “But to reach a healthy weight, the investment of time is well worth it.”

Jasmine Henry, a fitness instructor and personal trainer at Fort Irwin, facilitates some of the Group Exercise activities here. She understands there can be several factors that contribute to a person’s success, or lack of, when pursuing individual health goals.

“There are the challenges of finding time, childcare, money, support system, and most importantly – psychological/mental games,” Jasmine said.

Jasmine saw in Justine a firm determination that originated with an unwavering commitment to her son and family.

“Once she became a mother, she realized that she needed to become healthy, not just for herself, but for her son and her new family,” Jasmine said. “She wanted to be able to play and run around with her son and not get winded.”

Jennifer Hester, a military spouse here, befriended Jasmine during her own weight-loss pursuit and acknowledges that Justine’s dedication to a healthier lifestyle was family oriented.

“Justine had so much love for her son and husband, and that is what I saw that made her so determined,” Jennifer stated via email.

Justine included new baby and carriage in her initial goal to shed 40 pounds, she said.

“I decided to start my journey with walking and pushing the stroller every day, twice a day,” Justine said. “I walked six miles daily with our son.”

The first year of Justine’s plan was mostly exercising on her own, she said. During that time she also conducted 60 days of the workouts “Insanity Program” and “Body by Vi.” After that, she got involved at the Group Exercise facility here. She participated in cycling, kick boxing, and a hip hop exercise class. The program that provided a huge boost was the “Mommy and Me Stroller” class, she said.

“I wanted to tone my body after losing weight, and this class was perfect for me, because I could take my son to a fitness class and he could play with other children while I worked out,” Justine said. “Through class, I have met some amazing women.”

Justine credits her exercise partners and Jasmine for providing support and for having empathy. She was able to share with her new friends, who understood, about the rigors and milestones associated with the push to lose weight, and about body image issues.

Mothers and their children participate in a “Mommy and Me Stroller” exercise class at the Group Exercise facility here. The women in the class became part of a support group for Justine Shively during her weight-loss journey.

“Unless you’ve been there, you don’t really know what it’s like to struggle, and how you look and how people see you,” Justine said.

A support group is very important, said Jasmine.

“If you don’t have it at home, you need to find it in friends or at the gym … somewhere!” Jasmine stated. “You have to know that there is someone else on your side.”

Jennifer, along with other moms from the stroller class, became part of Justine’s support network. The ladies in the class motivated each other, even using social media to continue encouragement and to send reminders about meeting for exercise sessions, said Jennifer. The support from the group was amazing, she said. She received inspiration from Justine’s individual journey as well.

“Justine really taught me just to keep going, there will be days that won’t be great, but to always keep moving forward,” said Jennifer, who reached her goal of losing 30 pounds. “She kept me motivated with her beautiful story of how she has been able to not only lose weight, but transform her entire lifestyle.”

For Justine, getting healthy also involved making changes in diet as part of her lifestyle modification – an adjustment that some would consider drastic.

“I ate fast food, cakes, cookies, pop, and overate often,” Justine said. “I knew that I needed to cut all of these things out of my diet in order to be healthy, [but] instead of cutting everything out at once, I stopped these habits a few at a time. I first cut out pop and fast food. I replaced those things with water and cooking at home. Then I stopped eating cakes and cookies and other junk food by replacing them with fruits and vegetables. I cut my portion sizes and started measuring what I ate. We now eat whole grains, lean meats, a lot of fruits and vegetables, dairy and a lot more healthy food. That doesn’t mean I never eat at restaurants and it doesn’t mean I never eat junk food, but I rarely do so.”

Jiustine feels more confident and much happier with herself, she said. She has more energy and feels healthier. She has grown to love exercising and running. She participated in several 5K runs here during and after her weight loss. Her family leads a healthy and active lifestyle. And, she now weighs 140 pounds, going from a size 18 to a size eight.

“I love seeing myself in the mirror and I love to shop too!” Justine stated. “I was very shocked at how different I looked. I don’t even resemble the person I was before this achievement! I feel I am now, who I was supposed to be.”

Justine demonstrated that it doesn’t take a small amount of work or effort to lose weight – it takes going beyond previous attempts to reach a goal. It takes a solid commitment, dedicating time, and receiving support from friends and family.

“I pushed myself very hard,” Justine said. “I pushed myself to my limit and sometimes pushed harder, so I could see what I was capable of. It was very hard and there were times I wanted to just give up, but I kept going – for my son and for my health. My husband and my family were a great support system. We are all very close and without them, I don’t think I could have accomplished that goal I set for myself. Having completed my weight loss journey, I can say it ranks with one of the most important moments in my life.”

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