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'Wake-Up Call' Leads to 100-Pound Weight Loss

By Elaine Wilson
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, May 9, 2006 – Travis Gunter vividly remembers the day he woke up, not only from sleep, but also from denial.

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Army 2nd Lt. Travis Gunter does push-ups at the Fort Sam Houston, Texas, track as part of a daily fitness regimen that also includes running and sit-ups. Photo by Elaine Wilson

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"It was Jan. 12, 2004, and I weighed 312 pounds. It was way too much," said Gunter. "I faced the truth that day and made a decision to get my weight under control."

Nearly two years later and 100 pounds lighter, Gunter is now a svelte second lieutenant attending the Army's Officer Basic Course here.

"I used to get winded walking up a flight of stairs, and now I'm helping others pass the PT test," said the environmental science officer. "I don't want to meet the bare minimum in life; I want to succeed and help others to achieve."

Gunter attributes his values -- and his weight challenges -- to his parents.

"I come from a family with weight problems - my parents, grandparents and sisters are all overweight," he said.

Although he tended toward the heavy, Gunter kept his weight under control by playing sports. He was an avid football and baseball player throughout high school in the sports-saturated town of Midland, Texas. The activity kept his spirits up and his weight down.

But when he started college at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, a challenging chemistry curriculum and a penchant for Oreos and Dr Peppers started a weight increase that wouldn't end until more than a decade later.

"I'd buy a 12-pack of soda and a box of cookies every other day," he said. "I didn't just gain the freshman 15," he joked. "I also gained the sophomore, junior and senior 15."

He graduated in 1996, worked as a chemist for five years, then headed back to his alma mater for graduate school. With two jobs and a packed schedule, Gunter's dinner table was at the nearest fast food joint. He graduated in 2003 with a master's degree and a weight gain that caused him physical pain.

"My knees hurt, my back hurt; I was too young for that," he said. "I researched my pain on the Internet and it was all due to my weight."

With aspirations in hospital administration, Gunter started work at a Waco hospital, but he was unsatisfied with his work and himself. Unsure of his future career path, he focused first on his weight. A month after he woke up and decided to lose weight, he started to exercise.

"The first day I ran, I couldn't finish a quarter of a mile; I was breathing so heavy," he said. "But I didn't let that stop or discourage me. I hadn't run for 12 years, so I was easy on myself."

With a low-carbohydrate diet combined with daily workouts, the pounds melted away. Although he became happier with his weight, Gunter's dissatisfaction with his job remained. He turned to his good friend, Ken Jones, from graduate school.

"He had joined the Army and seemed very happy with his job," Gunter said. "I saw that he was part of a team, part of something greater than himself. That interested me."

He decided to join too. The goal gave him the motivation to shed the final 20 pounds he needed to meet weight requirements.

"I'm stubborn and didn't let things get in my way," he said. "It's like smokers or alcoholics - people can try to change you, but change comes from within. You have to want it wholeheartedly."

These days, Gunter runs, does hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups a week and only occasionally indulges in Dr Peppers or Oreos. But, he said, he wouldn't trade all the junk food in the world for his newfound happiness.

"I remember thinking on Jan. 12 that I never wanted to let my weight get out of control again," he said. "Everyone has a different motivation, and my desire to do well and help others in the Army is mine. A healthy weight is part of that."

(Elaine Wilson is editor of the Fort Sam Houston News Leader.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCivilian Travis Gunter (third from left) topped off at 312 pounds when he decided to drop the weight and join the Army. Courtesy photo  
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