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MAY 20, 2013

The Comeback Kid: Sailor lost weight to join Navy By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher A. Liaghat, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (May 20, 2013) — After the recent Physical Readiness Test, some Sailors onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) who either failed to make weight or came close to failing may feel like giving up. For those who think putting in the effort to lose those extra pounds is impossible, Aviation Maintenance Administrationman Airman Joseph J. Hickey is walking proof of what hard work can do. Hickey lost 118 pounds total before joining the Navy in July 2012, and he is now on his way to becoming TR’s assistant command fitness leader. “I got bullied a lot when I was a kid for being fat, and since I wasn’t able to do anything about it, the way I dealt with it was to eat,” Hickey said. “I figured if they were going to call me fat, I might as well stay fat.” Hickey experienced his first weight-related health problem while attending community college. “I was sitting in class when I started having bad stomach pains and I didn’t know why,” Hickey said. “The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the nurse’s office. They said I had an ulcer on my stomach, which was caused by stress and my diet. They said I was eating too much fried food, and if I continued to eat the food I was eating, it could get worse and cause other problems in the future.” The health scare was a wake-up call to make some major changes, Hickey said. He started his path to lose weight on his 19th birthday when he decided to adopt a vegan diet. “That was the last time I ate meat,” said Hickey. “I went strict vegan cold turkey. No dairy, no meat. It kept me away from junk food.” The choice was also in part due to Hickey recognizing a history of obesity in his family. “My dad served in the Navy in the 70s, and he was in really good shape, but when he got out he started gaining weight,” said Hickey. “He got up to 400 pounds. My grandmother was diabetic,

and my grandfather had knee problems because of his weight. I thought it might be a genetic problem, and I didn’t want to worry about my health at an older age.” Hickey stuck to his new diet and began practicing better portion control and exercise. In just four months, he lost 75 pounds. “At my heaviest I was 260 pounds,” said Hickey. “I lost a lot of weight from January to April of 2008 and got down to 185 pounds. I first noticed the difference it made when I was running up and down the stairs at my college and I wasn’t out of breath.” Hickey was able to maintain his new weight for more than two years, but he started gaining back the weight he worked so hard to lose in college. “In 2010, I was back up to 215 pounds,” said Hickey. “I gained it all back while I was joining a fraternity because my eating habits and workout routine got off key.” After realizing he had started to gain back the weight he lost, a depressed Hickey decided to go for a drive. It was on this drive that he saw a military recruiting station. “The Navy recruiter gave me some brochures and two weeks later I was talking to my hometown recruiter,” said Hickey. “He told me that to join I needed to be 186 pounds, and he wouldn’t even consider recruiting me until I lost the weight.” Determined to join, Hickey told the recruiter he would lose the weight and be back in three months. The recruiter doubted he would see Hickey again. “When I wanted to lose the weight, all I had was people doubting me” said Hickey. “I often times found myself doubting me too, but at the end of the day I had something to prove. Not just to my recruiter, not just to the people who thought I couldn’t do it, but to myself.” Three months later, when Hickey stepped on the recruiter’s scale it read 172 pounds. “They always tell you to take off your sneakers and extra clothes to avoid adding extra weight,” Hickey said. “I went on fully clothed just to mess with him.” Today, Hickey is a runner and a mixed martial arts fighter. He is sponsored by, a community website for vegan athletes, and More Than Ink, a clothing line that endorses an alcohol, tobacco, and drug free lifestyle. “Every day I’m trying to find a new challenge—a new journey to better myself—and help bring the people around me to that same level,” said Hickey. “Sure, I’ll hit speed bumps along the way. I might get chewed out at work for something, or have a bad running day, but the bumps in the road are all a part of the process. It’s what helps me grow, helps me learn and makes me a better person inside and out.” Join the conversation with TR online at and For more news from USS Theodore Roosevelt, visit


AZAN Hickey Feature  

By MC3 Christopher Liaghat

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