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NEWS | Feb. 28, 2018

Sailor inspires shipmates with weight loss journey

By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Sharry Schuller Naval Health Clinic Charleston

Nathaniel Mims, a small-town boy from Moundville, Alabama, had struggled with his weight for as long as he could remember. By second grade, he had already weighed 105 pounds and was often bullied for it. Middle school was rough for Mims; not feeling comfortable in his own body, he mostly kept to himself. As a junior in high school, he reached his heaviest weight, 350 pounds.


During his senior year at Hale County High School in Moundville, he joined the football team and subsequently lost 60 pounds. But after graduating in 2014, Mims still struggled with his weight. By the spring of 2015, he had had enough and vowed to finally do something about it. He decided to join the Navy.


“I knew I would have to get in shape and healthy to join the military,” Mims said. “I didn’t want my weight to stop me from achieving success in life.”


Mims sought to better his life and wanted to honor his two uncles. One was a Vietnam veteran who served as an Army infantryman and the other a Navy information specialist technician; both inspired him by their own service.


At 19 years old, Mims needed to lose 40 more pounds before he could enlist.  He could barely do what was required to pass the first Physical Readiness Test.


Mims began setting his alarm for four o’clock in the morning. As soon as the alarm went off, he jumped into pushup position on the floor. He would do pushups, sit-ups and tricep-dips until muscle failure. For a cardiovascular system workout, he would jump rope 200 times and run two miles. He clocked his first, timed, two-mile run at about 20 minutes.


A year later, Mims had lost a staggering 120 pounds. He went from 45% to 20% body fat, a pant size of 50 to 38 and dropped four shirt sizes. He ran his best two-mile in 11 minutes and 42 seconds, leaving the old version of himself behind. He celebrated by raising his right hand to swear the oath of enlistment to the Navy.


“Not only had I lost the weight, but now I was making my family and myself proud by serving my country,” Mims said.


When Mims first began physical fitness training with his recruiter and fellow enlistees during the Delayed Entry Program, he realized he still had work to do. Working out on his own was difficult but working out with the military was even harder.

“So many times I wanted to quit,” he said, “But when I reminded myself, if I stopped, I’d go back to being overweight, with knee and back pain and probably a shorter life span, quitting was no longer an option.”


Mims knew he had a long road ahead of him if he wanted to achieve his goals. Fortunately, the more he trained, the more passionate Mims became about physical fitness. Not only did he do what was required of him physically at Basic Training in Great Lakes, Illinois, but while other recruits were sleeping, Mims was doing more pushups, sit-ups, and squats to get in better shape.


When he got to A-school in San Antonio, Texas to become a hospital corpsman, he began weightlifting at the gym. He and a fellow shipmate became known as “the lifting brothers.”


“It was one of the best times of my life,” Mims said. “My friend and I were helping each other achieve our goals and people were noticing. I had been a fat kid, he had been a skinny kid; now, we both had guns.”


In December 2016, he arrived at his first duty station, Naval Health Clinic Charleston, where he provides health care to military dependents. As soon as he arrived, he continued his fitness regimen.


Mims has maintained his weight loss and hopes to lose 30 additional pounds in the next year and eventually become a Command Fitness Leader. He also has some massive weightlifting goals. He hopes to improve his deadlifting maximum from 610 to 700 pounds.


Mims enjoys being healthy and immersed in the fitness culture. His biggest motivation, he said, is inspiring others by his accomplishments and still being humbled by other Sailors’ fitness journeys. “We all feed off of each other for motivation,” he said.


Fellow Sailors at NHCC say they are impressed with Mims’ drive and tenacity.


“His resilient spirit and love for fitness is something I’ve personally witnessed and admire,” said Hospitalman Wendell Adams, general duty corpsman.


“As I watched him take his most recent PRT, the heart and grit he displayed was unparalleled by any fitness enthusiast in the room, said Hospitalman Brittaney Edwards, general duty corpsman.


“He has pursued his goals relentlessly and persevered,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jack Stansbury, family nurse practitioner. “He is a true example of overcoming any obstacle standing between you and a dream.”


Mims offers words of encouragement for people struggling with losing weight.


“It takes time, but it’s worth it,” Mims said. “Don’t ever give up and know you’re not alone.” 

Reflecting on his own journey, Mims said, “At the end of the day, it was a rough road but it was all worth it. I wouldn’t change a thing.”