Knox employee loses 55 pounds through Army Wellness Center

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Looking at the photo, it’s difficult to tell
that the 240-pound man pictured is now a much slimmer, much healthier Shirley Johnson, Fort Knox’s Suicide Prevention Program manager.


Johnson’s photo was taken last August at a family reunion.

The following month was suicide prevention month, during which time he taught people about the three areas of wellness: spirit, mind and body.

“If an individual is weak or unhealthy in just one of those areas, it affects the entire person,” Johnson said. “So we, as living beings, we must strive for complete wellness in all three of those areas. And every time I spoke about, you know, the mind, the body, when I said ‘the body,’ that picture stuck in my brain. I knew that I had to practice what I preach.”

Johnson said there are three questions that, when he’s asked himself, have always produced change: Where do I want to be? Where am I now? And how do I safely and intelligently close that gap?

“I (weighed) 240 pounds,” he explained. “I said to myself, ‘I want to weigh 200 pounds,’ and ‘how do I safely and intelligently close that gap?’ Well, I didn’t know.”

And when a person doesn’t know something, they must find someone who does, Johnson said.

“You find an expert. And that’s why I came to the wellness center,” he said.

“The mission of the Army Wellness Center is to provide standardized and integrated primary prevention programs that lead to the overall sustainability of healthy lifestyles,” said Jared Harper, Army Wellness Center project lead.

The AWC uses a number of assessments to determine a person’s wellness, including health assessment reviews, body composition assessments, metabolic testing, physical fitness testing, and biofeedback testing, Harper said.

“Through those things, we’re able to determine the full picture of wellness and try to help the individual reach those goals that they have and become sustainable on their own,” Harper said.

When Johnson visited the center in October, he learned that he wasn’t just overweight ? he was obese.

Johnson participated in the center’s assessments to help determine his next steps in getting healthy. He then worked with Jarrod Smith, a health educator at the AWC.

Smith taught Johnson about what’s involved in living a healthy lifestyle, including topics like healthy food choices, portion control, exercise choices, and how to structure a workout.

The center creates workout plans and provides counseling on the amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins clients should be consuming, although the center can’t create specific diet plans, Smith said.

“While I was here during my appointments, they gave me a workable plan, they gave me usable tools, they gave me expert advice, and they gave me data, information, and knowledge of what I need to do to be successful, to make that change,” Johnson explained.

He began working out on a regular basis and eating healthier food. By his follow-up appointment in January, Johnson had reached his goal weight of 200 pounds. Currently, he weighs 185 pounds, wears a size medium shirt instead of an XXL, is down three pant sizes, and has an improved heart rate, blood pressure, and Body Mass Index number. Johnson has set his next goal at 180 pounds and has another follow-up appointment scheduled for early spring.

“There’s few things that I learned,” he said. “First, in this arena, it takes time and effort. You’ve got to make time, and there’s sweat equity involved here.
You’ve got to get out and do what you’re supposed to do.”

People also need to be persistent, listen to their own bodies—Like slowing down or working harder during workouts—and pay attention to the food
they’re eating, he said.

It’s important for people to care about their wellness because wellness “directly affects their longevity, it affects their pocket book, and quality of life,” Smith added. “Do you want to be popping pills every day to mask a symptom, or do you just want to treat it from the beginning?”

Johnson said he now feels stronger, faster and more flexible than he did six months ago. He also has more energy and confidence, and doesn’t worry as much about getting heart disease like his father or diabetes like his mother, he said.

“There is no magic, it’s just time and effort. There is a right way and a wrong way of doing this,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely happier with who I am and how I look, which is a confidence builder for anyone.”


The Army Wellness Center also provides a civilian wellness program, which allows civilians three hours per week of paid leave time for workouts during the six-month program. Participants must also have basic biometric measurements taken at the wellness center three times throughout the program. Anyone interested in the program must talk to their wellness coordinator.

For more information, the Army Wellness Center can be reached at (502) 626-0408.