Weight loss makes army career possible

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One local young man is now on a path to future success in the military because he is such a good loser.

Jaquan Bennett, 22, has lost roughly 130 pounds since he moved to the Rocky Mount area in 2014. When he came as a senior to Rocky Mount High School, he weighed at least 303 pounds. Now, as he completes his associate degree in business administration at Edgecombe Community College, he weighs roughly 175 pounds and is headed off to train as a dental specialist in the U.S. Army at the end of August.

Capt. Charles Thomson, a commander of the Army Recruiting Company based in Greenville, said he is impressed with Bennett and his inspirational story.

“Mr. Bennett is a great young man with a great story,” Thomson said. “He is intelligent and a hard worker, and we feel he will do really well with a career in the Army. It is refreshing to see someone work as hard as he has to conquer his weight loss and qualify to join the Army.”

Many teens think of the Army as a fall-back career, but Thompson said it is actually quite hard to qualify.

“Only about 30 percent of applicants actually get in, and weight issues are one of the reasons people fail to qualify,” Thomson said. “Bennett was mature enough to get out there and do the hard work so that he could prove that he had what it takes to make the cut.”

Bennett’s work ethic is clear in the jobs he holds. He works as an after school counselor employed by the city of Rocky Mount during the school year and as camp counselor with the city in the summer. He also works as a cashier at the Rite-Aid Pharmacy on West Raleigh Road in the evenings.

However, his weight loss efforts have marked him as a real man of determination. 

Bennett, who is originally from Washington, D.C., said he was always on the heavy side. He weighed about 250 pounds when his mother died in 2014. Her death, however, caused his weight to spiral even more out of control.

“I was depressed and I would just sit around and think about her and eat,” Bennett said. “I know I reached 303 pounds. I was probably even bigger than that, but that was the highest I saw on the scale.”

It was the desire to become a better athlete that caused Bennett to rethink his weight.

“I used to play pick up basketball outside the the YMCA and I saw how it was affecting me. I was not a help to my team because it was like I was just half a player. I just couldn’t move down the court the way I wanted,” Bennett said.

Bennett did not really have a mentor or guide on his weight loss journey, so he began to research weight loss methods on the Internet. He managed to garner some good advice about exercise and healthy eating and went down a path that changed his life for good.

“I learned that fried food is not really good for you, so I learned to bake stuff, and my grandma began to bake food for me to when she saw how serious I was. I used to add salt to everything before I even tasted it, and I learned that was bad — so I cut down on the salt. I cut out sodas and started drinking water. And I eat a salad almost every day for lunch. I don’t eat a big supper usually, because I learned it was better to eat before you move and not before you lay down at night,” Bennett said.

Bennett also began to incorporate more movement in his life by walking regularly and joining Fit for Life, a 24-hour gym.

“Sometimes me and my friends will go to the gym at 11 p.m. or midnight to play ball or lift weights, so that works best for me,” Bennett said.

The recruiter told Bennett that cardio exercise would be beneficial to training so Jaquan bought a bike in June and has used it for transportation since then.

“I figured this was a good way to get cardio exercise and provide my own transportation so people wouldn’t have to take me places,” Bennett said. “In a little over a month, I have logged over 200 miles on the bike.”

Bennett said the weight loss has changed his life for the better in many ways. But he does have friends that don’t always understand the food choices he makes when they go out.

“It doesn’t really bother me,” Bennett said. “I am my own person and I make my own choices. If they want to eat all that fattening stuff, it is fine with me. But this is my body.”

Bennett offers sound advice to others who may be facing the same weight issues.

“If you persevere and stick with eating right and exercising, the weight will come off and you can change your life,” Bennett said.

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Weight loss makes army career possible

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