Winning the Battle of the Bulge

By Major James Maxwell

In Athletes, LEO/Mil

November 18, 2008

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US Army Major James Maxwell began CrossFitting to lose weight.

"Are you kidding me?" I couldn't believe it. I weighed over 200 pounds again. How is this possible? I had been in the army for over 16 years, doing daily PT, lifting weights…and was over 200 pounds. Diets, starving, taking caffeine pills…over 200 pounds. Thirty-five years old and five-foot ten inches tall…over 200 pounds.

It worked. He lost about 15lbs in 3 months, and was down nearly 30lbs a few months after that. But by the time he took his Level 1 Certification in August, 2008, and CrossFit West Point (now known as Black and Gold CrossFit) was born, CrossFit was not just about losing weight.

CrossFit really began to change for me at this point; no longer just an exercise program, it became a leader-development tool. CrossFit West Point became a vehicle to interact with cadets essentially as peers. The word started to spread on CFWP.

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17 Comments on “Winning the Battle of the Bulge”


Rich Vos wrote …

Hooah, sir. Keep up the excellent work! It's obvious that CrossFit affects more than just overall fitness and health. Great to see it's being used to promote better leadership and unit cohesion. I love doing CF with my soldiers and they (though they wouldn't admit it during the WOD) enjoy it too.


wrote …

Hooah, Iron Major. Nice article, supreme progress. Interestingly, I made faster progress on other WODs than you (Fran, others) but much slower progress on FF, Cindy, and Murph. Either way, I know the excitement and satisfaction that comes from teaching people how to use their bodies well through CF. Learning how to do that better every day. Paul


wrote …

Hell, if only I knew about crossfit when I served! Awesome story Major, and congrats on all the PR's. Most of all, thank you for serving our country and using Crossfit to make yourself the best soldier you can be. My hat is off to you sir.


wrote …

Hi!! It's great to hear the story of someone who's ahead of me. I can definitely identify with you!! years of doing "globo-gym" workouts didn't seem to shift the excess poundage I was carrying. The last two months of crossfitting has resulted in more muscle gains and fat loss (not to mention being able to correctly squat for the first time). looking forward to being able to join you in writing PRs!!!


wrote …

Crossfit West Point is a PR, keeping breaking the mold and lets get the force combat ready! Keep producing leaders that understand push ups, sit ups and run are only the PT test, not PT!!!!!!!!!!!


wrote …

Great work! No, outstanding work!!

Wow, MWR actually let you move gym equipment around to accommodate your CF WODs? Here, at an unamed base, curiously located close to Omaha, that kind of activity is frowned upon and forbidden. But it's OK to use a power rack to do barbell curls.

Best of luck at CGSC.

Another "Iron Major"


wrote …

Im feeling you sir, outstanding job. CF has also changed my life in ways I can't describe. I'm bigger, but faster, much slimmer, but WAY STRONGER. keep it up.

Semper Fi


wrote …

Hey, thanks everyone for the comments.

What I wrote I never intended to submit to the CrossFit Journal. It was a simple, reflective essay I wrote for personal reasons. On October 9th I sent it in to Tony Budding at the CrossFit Journal on a whim. I heard back from both he and Roy Wallack, the senior editor. In no way shape or form do I pretend to be a “fire-breather.” By CrossFit standards, I definitely am not. I am simply a 36-year old Army Officer that started CrossFit at the beginning of 2008 and worked hard at it ever since.

My work is not the product of just my own motivation, but it is the product of the encouragement of my wife, the smiles of my daughter, and the brotherhood of the officers I work with everyday. If you see me at the CrossFit Games, it will be as a spectator.

Since talking with Roy Wallack on the phone, I came close to balking on the publication of this as an article in the CrossFit Journal. The purpose is hardly for accolades – those in the military will probably get a chuckle out this more than anything. Admitting weakness isn’t really what majors in the US Army do, especially to complete strangers. Simply put, this is an essay on one guy that took his biggest weakness and has turned it into a strength.

Thanks everyone for the kind words. My only hope is that a few people that just started doing CrossFit read it and keep going!



wrote …

Do you still continue to eat according to the Zone diet and do you feel that the zone diet significantly affected your performance? Keep up the good work.


wrote …


Definately, but the Zone is simply a method of portioning your food, focused on quantity, that supports proper hormone levels in the body. I definately recommend following it. For me, the paleo piece of it is more important, as it focuses on the quality of food you eat. The "eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little startch, no sugar" piece from CrossFit's definition of fitness is just, if not more, important.

For me, as for many, the more crap you put in your body, the tighter you have to measure. You can eat a half pound of lean, grass-fed beef, a bunch of steamed broccoli, and a fresh garden salad - not measuring a thing, and be fine. You start bringing potatoes, beer, desert, fried food (ie high-density carbs and processed / refined food) into the mix, you not only get to eat a lot less food, but you are hormonally going to be out of wack.

What I have found out is that when I eat like crap, I essentially feel like I have a little hangover due to the imbalanced insulin response.

Check out Robb Wolf's website ( for more info. He runs the CF nutrition certs - tons of great info there.

Try this: Follow a Zone-portioned paleo diet for 30 days. If you are not leaner, if your performance has not improved, eat how ever you want.



wrote …

iron major!!! way to be a leader by example! i enjoyed your article! keep up the good work major. would love to get you to one of the oly certs!!

coach b


wrote …

Iron Major - Outstanding read. The greatest takeaway from your story is you not only changed your life positively but are using your experiences to postively change it for others and mold our future leaders! From one DAT to another I salute you!


wrote …

Incredible read Major! I found many parrallel's between your story and my own. I found CrossFit as a 1stLt and have trying to forge myself into an 'Iron Captain' since Fall of 2005. From weighing 191 at 5'8" to a steady 165 with many PRs and 'OMFG I never thought I'd do that' type of events since.
Congratulations on your success story, and I totally agree that each soldier whose life you touch will transfer that success. That's true leadership; transferring your success into their success.
Semper Fi from CrossFit Fort Meade


wrote …

I've been CrossFitting with my students since January and haven't showed the gains that you have because I have been cherry-picking my workouts to stuff I like or can actually do. Today was my first day of following the main page WODs since I am officially a full-time staff weinie now. Looking forward to improving all of my weaknesses starting with pull ups. Thanks for the motivation. Hope the Black and Gold can eventually influence MWR to quit wasting money on Globo Gym equipment and start stocking CF boxes for us...


wrote …


thank you for the article. As a '99 Grad, I understand perfectly well the stigma attached to a commissioned officer admitting weakness and not fitting the "perfect" physical model. I just found Crossfit in February and have been making steady progress - adopting the Zone is my next step. Being in Iraq and eating at KBR, I'm hoping I can find the resources and the dedication to make the lifestyle change it will take to truly see the results I want, and honestly, my health needs.

Thanks for sharing your story. I sincerely wish Crossfit West Point had existed during my years in the Corps! Here's to spreading the word to the rest of the Long Grey Line and throughout our great military and country.



wrote …

Hooah Sir! Lead the way, I will follow!


wrote …

Hooah Sir! Lead the way, I will follow!

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