This article was originally published in Military Families Magazine.
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PCS moves and deployments are major changes in military life that can truly upset your health goals and routines. Many military spouses struggle to stay healthy during PCS season.

During deployment, many military spouses set goals to become healthier while their spouse is away. For some, health goals are about investing in themselves and making the most of a deployment. Others simply want to look their best by homecoming. We polled a variety of military spouses to ask about their health goals during deployment. We also asked about the secret strategies that helped them reach those goals. So, no matter what motivates you, you can learn from their strategies and crush your own health goals any time!

Losing weight by eating better

The most common goal we heard related to deployment (especially among female spouses) was losing weight. Some want to get back to a pre-baby size, while others wanted to get to a better weight for health reasons. Many of the spouses we interviewed lost 20, 30, or even 40 pounds during a deployment! How did they make that happen? Any weight-loss goal must include a healthy eating plan. There are numerous strategies, ranging from clean eating to paleo to juicing or drinking protein shakes. But it doesn’t have to be that dramatic. Spouses confessed to me that they were surprised how simple changes in their eating habits added up to big changes in their overall health. Here are some of their tried-and-true tips:

  • Jaime lost 40 pounds one deployment by portioning food, counting calories, eliminating fast food and red meat, and adding more fruits and vegetables. She also had a regular workout and walking routine while her kids were at school.
  • Karisa found healthy foods to munch on, so she could still enjoy snacking, but without consuming a lot of empty calories. Her favorites were pickles, cutie oranges, nuts, olives, cucumbers, and celery.
  • Mallory reported that she lost 30 pounds during deployment by changing the way she eats and what she eats. She is proof that little changes can make a big difference!
  • Lynn went from a size 30 to size 16 in six months by starting a low-carb, high-protein diet and drinking at least a gallon of water each day.

Food tracking programs like Weight Watchers, FitBit, or any calorie counting app can help you get your portions under control and let you eat what your body needs instead of whatever it wants.

Don’t eliminate all fats! Consuming healthy oils such as olive oil or coconut oil at most meals can help you feel full longer.

Getting toned and fit

Health is not always about weight loss. Many people don’t care about the number on the scale. They are more concerned with their overall strength, the way their body looks, or their muscle tone. For military spouses who focus on gaining muscle tone, here are some of the common strategies:

  • Danielle recommends high intensity cardio classes. Not only do they help you get toned, but she said they have improved her metabolism and overall energy levels too.
  • CrossFit is popular with many military spouses who want to strengthen and tone. The program pushes you to exert yourself, but most participants enjoy the challenge and celebrate milestones like lifting new records or completing a difficult workout.
  • Military spouses who stay home, either with young children or because they work from home, prefer a workout they can do on their own time. Video workouts such as 80-Day Obsession and P90-X are popular routines that you can do any time of day without going to the gym.

Becoming a better runner

Not everyone enjoys running, but running is an important part of many exercise routines. It builds overall strength and endurance, plus it burns a lot of calories. It was inspiring to hear running goals from a variety of military spouses. Some had never been running before a deployment, but they made small steps to improve their health. Others trained for 5K races and marathons.

If you have a running goal, here are some simple ways to make it a reality:

  • Angie recommends the Couch to 5K program. It is designed for beginners with little to no running experience. It helps you train your body slowly and gradually over the course of three months so that you can run a 5K (3 miles) by the end. The training schedule is free to download, or you can install running apps on your phone. She said following this plan during deployment helped her lose 50 pounds!
  • Meredith was an experienced runner who trained for marathons during her last deployment. She hired a babysitter during her long runs so she didn’t have to bring the stroller. That’s a great way for a mom to get some “me” time and a mental break during deployment, while improving her overall health!
  • Having an accountability partner can be a great motivation and a good reason to stay on track. Several spouses reported the benefits of joining a class or group to keep them on a routine. A popular running club on many military bases is Stroller Warriors. A similar group is Stroller Strides. These groups are designed for young moms who want to get in shape at their own pace in a friendly group setting with regular meeting times and workout schedules.

No matter the current challenge you face, there is no reason you can’t improve your overall health. Military spouses have already found ways to adapt and become healthier, despite obstacles like PCS moves and deployments. Use their strategies to make small changes in your routines, and see where it takes you.


AmeriForce Media is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business founded in 1999. The company utilizes talent from the military community to produce print and digital offerings that inform, entertain, and support today’s warfighters and their families.

Its flagship products, Military Families Magazine and Reserve & National Guard Magazine, are delivered direct to active-duty and reserve component units across the globe. In 2020, AFM partnered with the Military Influencer Conference to create a new publication called the Military Influencer Magazine.