By Master Sgt. April Lapetoda
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
I never used to push myself physically. Even as a high school athlete, I didn’t feel the drive to push harder. I spent my first 10 years in the Air Force getting by just fine as a smoker who barely exercised. I steadily gained 10 pounds per year during the first four years.
Then, I got pregnant with my first child and gained 70 pounds, and I lost all but 10 without trying.
I hovered around the same weight until four years later when I gained 70 pounds again while pregnant with my second child. This time, the weight didn’t come off. I looked at the scale and realized I had to lose 100 pounds to return to a healthy weight.
I stared at the number each time in disbelief. “Where do I even begin? It’s impossible,” I would think to myself. I didn’t believe in diet pills, and I thought a little bit of physical activity would do the trick.
I hated for people to see me in my Air Force uniform. I was embarrassed. I knew I didn’t meet standards, and at six months postpartum, I failed my fitness test miserably with a score of 51.
Everyone at work gave me sympathy and assured me I was a “good Airman.” I hated it. I just felt fat and knew I needed to change. The fitness test failure and the desire to show everyone that I didn’t need their sympathy proved to be my turning point.
Fortunately, I was provided with extra gym time. I started going four days per week using my co-workers’ sympathy as fuel. I soon started making time to jog on the weekends as well.
I began to see a change in me. Not just in weight, but in energy and self-esteem. I passed my next fitness test, but I wasn’t done. I knew I could do much better. I began to count calories and practice a more portion-controlled diet. I pushed myself harder in the gym too. On my next fitness test, I scored a 93.8 percent – an excellent score.
There was no turning back at that point. I knew I had to maintain that excellent score, but also find new ways to challenge myself. I did so by running farther — first the Army Ten Miler, then half marathons, and I started incorporating weight training into my routine to increase my strength.
Now, almost five years after I began the change, I’ve kept that 100 pounds off for two years. But, more importantly, I’m in the best physical shape that I’ve ever been in and feel better and healthier. I continue to set new goals to challenge myself.
I’ve maintained an excellent score on my last four Air Force fitness tests. During my deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, I quit smoking. During my current deployment, I was afforded the opportunity to train for and complete a full marathon, which I did. My next goal is to get my half marathon time to less than two hours.
For me, finding new goals and signing up for races helps me stay committed to fitness and allows me to set goals to continue to challenge myself.
I found it within me – not in a pill or weight-loss surgery. Once I began challenging myself, I met every single challenge. I have proven myself to me. There’s no going back.
PHOTO: A before and after photo of Master Sgt. April Lapetoda, who lost 100 pounds and has since completed a marathon and several half marathons. She is the superintendent of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs office. (Courtesy photos)