NEWS | Aug. 4, 2020

Staying the Course during COVID-19: Losing Weight and Feeling Great!

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Debra Thomas, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the health and fitness goals of many, one Sailor at Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station (NCTS) Naples, Italy, was full steam ahead.

Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Andrew O’Brien faced unique challenges as the coronavirus affected gym accessibility and limited options for exercise. Through consistency and commitment to his health and fitness journey, however, he managed to lose 94 pounds over the past year.

“I came back from leave weighing in at 310 pounds,” said O’Brien, reflecting on the start of his journey in July 2019. “I was tired of being the size I was.”

For O’Brien, being overweight imposed limitations that caused him a lot of frustration.

“I was tired of not being able to do the things I wanted to do, of not being able to interact with everybody because of how big I was,” he said.

O’Brien’s desire to stay Navy and advance in his field were big motivators for him to make a lifestyle change.

“I couldn’t stay in [at that size], and my tour was coming to an end,” said O’Brien. “I had about a year left [at the command], and in order to reenlist you have to be within height and weight standards.” 

He said something just clicked inside of him. O’Brien enlisted the help of the fitness and nutrition team at U.S. Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples to help him reach his fitness goals. He started hitting the gym and making working out a daily routine.

“I worked with the nutritionist on base, and she suggested keeping track of my food,” said O’Brien. “I started doing that; at once you realize how much you’re eating and not really exercising.”

He found keeping track of his caloric intake an incredibly helpful tool, using the feedback from the nutritionist to determine his actual caloric needs to cut back on extra calories and start shedding pounds.

“I’m within standards and in some of the best shape of my life,” said O’Brien, who marked a year since beginning his journey last month.

During the quarantine, O’Brien’s weight loss journey faced some challenges. Prior to the base facilities closing due to COVID-19, he was working out multiple times a week in the base gym.

“It got really hard,” said O’Brien. “I went from working out every day, running and calisthenics, to not being able to work out at all.”

O’Brien said it became all about diet.

“I stuck with my meal plan; I kept doing what I was doing, and I kept losing weight,” he said.

Now that restrictions are lessening and his major hurdles are cleared, O’Brien has big goals for the future as he transitions to his next command, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102), based out of Everett, Washington.

“If you work hard enough at something there are rewards, and right now my reward is to go back to the fleet and back home to the U.S.,” he said.

O’Brien plans to become an Assistant Command Fitness Leader (ACFL) aboard Sampson and hopes his story motivates others to make a change in their lives.

“I want to help mentor other Sailors who are going through the same thing I did,” said O’Brien.

Are you looking to make a lifestyle change? There are lots of resources available! Visit your local Morale, Welfare, and Recreation fitness center, or visit websites such as the Navy Fitness website at to get started!