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Former Soldier discovers fitness requires ‘lifestyle change’

Army spouse rededicates herself to healthier living

Published: 09:26AM January 10th, 2013
Former Soldier discovers fitness requires ‘lifestyle change’

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Diana Mickleberry participates during a recent cardio kickboxing class at Jensen Family Health and Fitness Center on JBLM.

With the new year comes new resolutions, and often the resolution is to get in shape. Diana Mickleberry believes if a person truly wants to be healthier, it takes more than just setting a resolution.

“I wouldn’t call it a New Year’s resolution because it will only last for the first couple weeks,” she said. “It’s got to be a lifestyle change. It will last longer. You can’t go from one side of the track to the other side of the track in one day.”

Mickleberry understands the importance of committing to a lifestyle change to make a difference in personal health. The former Soldier and now Army spouse stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord wasn’t always exercising five days a week, two to three hours a day as she does now. Even when Mickleberry was in the Army from 2001 to 2008 she was fit, but not healthy, she said.

The 29-year-old wife and mother dedicated the year 2012 to a healthier lifestyle after blood work revealed extremely high cholesterol and borderline diabetes. At her heaviest — 230 pounds — Mickleberry’s arms and legs would fall numb even if all she was doing was sitting in a chair.

“When my blood work came back, that’s when it hits you in the face that you need to do something,” she said.

Mickleberry was active and in shape for most of her life until she had a baby almost five years ago. She shed the baby weight while the Mickleberrys were stationed in Colorado, but when they PCS’d to JBLM, Mickleberry found it difficult to remain active in the rainy Washington weather.

Mickleberry kept busy as a wife and mother, as well as a college student and organizer of a JBLM coupon group, but her physical activity level was zapped and she gained about 60 pounds.

Determined to get healthy on her own, Mickleberry began to eat healthier and work out by herself. She started to lose a little weight, but not enough to turn around her blood work results. Mickleberry consulted with Madigan Army Medical Center doctors about a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, a surgical procedure to resize her stomach to about the size of a banana. She spoke to a nutritionist, attended support meetings and classes before making the final decision to go through with the procedure six months ago.

“At first I said no,” Mickleberry said. “I was a Soldier and was fit for most of my life.”

But Mickleberry wasn’t using the surgery as an easy way out. She viewed it as a tool to assist in her lifestyle transformation. She knew she would have to make other changes if she wanted to benefit from the procedure. While recovering in the hospital Mickleberry walked 17 miles during her three-day stay. Thus began her physical fitness change.

Since her surgery Mickleberry can be spotted at any one of the fitness centers on JBLM. When she started to attend fitness classes she hid in the back row, but it took no time at all for her to be front and center next to the instructor.

“She’s done a great job,” JBLM fitness instructor Sharon Morejon said. “She’s very, very motivated.”

Morejon is encouraging Mickleberry to become certified to start teaching classes on her own.

Whether sweating it out in a cardio kickboxing class, cycling, lifting weights or running, Mickleberry is working out almost every day of the week. Her husband, a Soldier with the 17th Fires Brigade and her 4-year-old daughter are behind Mickleberry 100 percent, remaining active with her and cooking healthier food options.

“I’m setting a really good example for my daughter now,” she said. “I’m a better mom, I’m a better wife, I’m a better friend because I’m happier and I’m healthier.”

In the last six months Mickleberry has shed 75 pounds and counting. She holds herself accountable on Facebook, where she posts her workouts and motivational quotes multiple times a day. She has inspired others to pursue a healthier way of living.

Mickleberry continues on her path to fitness and doesn’t know where it will lead. She might venture toward fitness competitions, maybe become an instructor or even a personal trainer. She just knows she wants to give back to help others.

“There’s no point in setting a limit,” she said. “I’m just going with it.”