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Weighing the future: E-6 loses 56 pounds to save Air Force career

Jun. 16, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
AFTER: Tech. Sgt. Patrick Kennedy lost 56 pounds and 8 inches off his waist by changing his diet and walking two miles a day.
AFTER: Tech. Sgt. Patrick Kennedy lost 56 pounds and 8 inches off his waist by changing his diet and walking two miles a day. (Photos courtesy of Patrick Kennedy)
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BEFORE: Tech. Sgt. Patrick Kennedy before losing 56 pounds and 8 inches off his waist. (Photos courtesy of Patrick Kennedy)

After four failures on his physical training test, Tech. Sgt. Patrick Kennedy knew he needed to change. He had been active for five years, and has been in the Reserves for another seven. The avionics technician with the 920th Maintenance Group at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., had health issues with his ankles and back.

“I kind of let myself go,” he said.

Up to 258 pounds and failing the tests, he was faced with the possibility of separation.

“It hit me that it was something I needed to do, to better myself,” Kennedy said. “I am a tech. sergeant; I needed to be a better example.”

About three and a half months later, he’s down to 202. His waist measurement dropped from 42.5 inches to 34.5 inches. His last test — with exceptions for pushups and situps due to his injuries — was an overall score of 100 percent after he did well on his run and passed the tape test. Airmen must have a waist circumference that does not exceed 39 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women.

And unlike many of the stories of airmen losing weight, it didn’t include harsh workout regiments such as Crossfit. It was a simple diet change and lots of light exercise.

His model is several light meals throughout the day, including snacks of fruit. He cut out soda completely. After he started counting calories and walking about two miles a day, the pounds began to fall quickly. His ultimate goal is to be down to about 170 to 180 pounds, and be healthy enough to stay in the Air Force “as long as they’ll have me,” he said.

Since then, his commanders have taken notice of his change. Co-workers are using him as a model to get healthy. If he can do it, anyone can, he said.

“Since living healthier, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say ‘wow,’ ” he said about his change in appearance.

A major focus of his failed PTs was the waist measurement, a hot topic among current airmen. Last year, 1.9 percent of active-duty airmen failed their body composition test, with more than 1,300 discharged in fiscal 2012 for failing to meet the standards.

Kennedy said while he doesn’t completely agree with the tape test method because a taller airman could fail the tape test while still being in shape, it is the system the service uses. Air Force leaders are expected to announce soon whether a review of the tape test will result in its removal from the PT test or a change to the rules.

The Air Force has turned weight loss into a priority, with bases and even deployed wings holding “Biggest Loser” contests and keeping track of how many airmen are losing weight. Master Sgt. Shane Sullivan, deployed from the 81st Training Wing Equal Opportunity office to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing in southwest Asia, recently won his deployed contest and wrote a message to airmen saying how he did it.

Before leaving Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., he promised himself and leadership he would lose 40 pounds. Through diet changes and an exercise regiment, he was able to drop the weight and lose 7 inches off his waist.

“I set a specific goal, set my mind to it and stuck to it,” Sullivan wrote. “I know I am not alone. Miracles do not happen overnight; they can take days, weeks or months depending on the goal.”

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