ST. LOUIS • To serve his country, David West had to cut his servings.
West was sworn into the Army on Tuesday at the Robert A. Young Federal Building downtown after shedding more than 100 pounds over the last nine months.
"It's what I've always wanted to do pretty much since I was kid," said West, 20, of Plato, Mo. "The only way I was going to do it was to lose the weight."
West carried 283 pounds on his 5-foot-10-inch frame when he began a crash diet and exercise program.
"I decided not to ease into it. I just decided to cut everything bad and start working out as much as possible the first day. I wanted to shock my body into losing weight."
He walked four miles a day. He started P90X, a popular workout program. He ate more salad and oatmeal and replaced red meats with turkey and chicken.
"I never really ate junk food," West said. "My main thing was proportion. Oh man, steak and hamburgers were the big ones. I'm big on southern food."
By the time he walked into an Army recruiting station in St. Robert, Mo., in mid-October West had cut his weight to 234 pounds.
Even then, the station's commander, Staff Sgt. Shawndelin Hall, recalled thinking, "He's got a lot of work to do if he wants to make it happen."
Army standards required a person of West's height to weigh no more than 189 pounds or carry 26 percent or less body fat. He hoped to meet the body fat measurement standard. He got down to 210 pounds and then took the Army physical Nov. 8. His body fat measured 29 percent.
At that point, another recruiter suggested it might just be easier to lose the additional 21 pounds. So West did, and then some. When he took another physical Jan. 5, he was down to 178 pounds. Since then he's lost another seven pounds.
"He's definitely the caliber of soldier you want in your foxhole," said Hall, his recruiter. "You want someone with that tenacity to do what needs to be done."
West said he plans to continue his new health regimen until he reports in May for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, where he plans to become a combat engineer, just like his father, who served a tour in Iraq.
"For me, I don't think losing weight was hard because, I mean, yeah, I tried really hard, but with the right mental mind-set it was easy," he said. "All I had to do was stay confident and it worked."