Billy is the man. He’s just the fucking MAN. I love this dude with all of my heart. I have known him since we were in 6th grade back in Jefferson but didn’t get to truly know him until we were in High School.
Normally I interview people who are into some kind of fitness but I’ve decided to mix in stories of how people overcame adversity to better their lives. Bill’s story is something I have known about since 1998 and it’s bad ass.
As he will explain below, he was a big boy back in the HS days. When we graduated I heard he was running up and down Craigmeur, an old ski mountain in Newfoundland, NJ, so he could lose enough weight to join the Marines. This blew me away because, again, he was a big boy.
Fast forward to 2003 where I was very fortunate to greet him in San Diego with his family and our good friend Beth when he returned from his first deployment over in Iraq. This was an amazing day and I am happy to say he made it back from every deployment that sent him into enemy territory to fight for our country.
Below you will learn what the true definition of determination, passion, and pure inspiration looks like.
The Road In: Will, Weight-Loss and a Dream
By: Bill Knipper
Bill is currently a government contractor serving as an Emergency Manager for a Federal Installation in Southern Nevada. He is a married, father of three and a combat veteran of the United Stated Marine Corps from ’98-’07.
The only way to say it is that I’ve ALWAYS been overweight to some degree or another. That’s not to say that I was an overly emotional train-wreck in my youth. Though some may argue that was the case. I was simply a fat kid. I had two parents who both loved me, but could NOT inhabit the same house. In my family unit I was “The baby”. In my grandparents’ house I was, at the time, the only grandson of their eight boys. In my uncles houses I was the only nephew. On the weekends my mom had me it was another party. Everything was a celebration and an adventure as a kid when I was there, and ALL of those adventures involved food.
Barbeques, Clam Bakes, fast food and cakes. It was a nonstop gravy train, in a childhood I can certainly say that I remember fondly. Being overweight did bring out the occasional mean spirited people in school. The terms “four-eyed fat fuck” or “Billy Nipples” (yes, man boobs at age 7 are not pleasant). Though, those miscreants were always outmatched by my amazing friends of which I had many.
However, my eating habits as a young child grew into a complete lack of sense as a teenager. A super-sized value meal with an additional super-sized fries was a fairly common lunch or dinner now that I was making the choices. A whole store bought cake, or pizza. Late night bagel shop runs, and of course I wouldn’t stop at one bagel slathered with something. All of that landed me graduating High School tipping the scales at 386 pounds. This was not OK by any stretch of the imagination.
This brings us to the other constant in my life as a child Service. My grandfather had serviced Patton’s tanks across North Africa and Europe in World War II, my father served in the Army’s Intelligence apparatus during the Viet Nam era. My earliest memories of “playing war” or with GI Joes with my uncle’s involved the fight against USSR aligned forces and ideas like those “commie dogs”. My father was also heavily involved in our towns volunteer Fire Department, eventually achieving Company Chief and Department Chief ranks. As a young child I remember watching President Reagan’s address to the surviving Rangers at Pont-du-hoc on the 40th anniversary of the Normandy invasions and thinking “That’s what Americans are supposed to be able to do!”. I remember seeing the immortalized image of the American Flag being raised over Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima during Memorial Day or Veterans Day television programing and all of the members of my household agreeing that such act are “What make this country great and possible”. I was taught like many that these United States were, are and always will be the “Land of Opportunity” provided you’re willing to fight to keep it. From these early influences I knew that I supposed to start out my life in the military.
Now, back to the reality I was dealing with in the mid-90s. I was looking for a service that was willing to accept me into to their ranks. My first choice, the Coast Guard. My father and I drove to Newark to the USCG recruiter. I was met with, “you’re overweight, and you had asthma in middle school, so I’m pretty sure you’ll be disqualified”. I left that meeting felling low as you can imagine. Next stop, the Air Force recruiter in Mine Hill, the first Air Force Sergeant I met was an awesome hard core cat that unfortunately rotated off post, and I couldn’t get the new recruiter to return my calls.
In retrospect, this opened the door for my initial talks with the Marine Recruiters who were in the same building as the Air Force. That initial talk in included a weigh-in that had me still at that 385 range. The Marine Sergeant’s said to me, “Bill, if we could just get you down to 350 lbs, I think we can work something with our boss”. It was the first target in a brilliant strategy, but it still left the responsibility squarely on my shoulders to begin the journey.
How do I lose 35 lbs.? Is there a pill? Can I even do it just with exercise? It seems impossible?
I knew that I could do 8 to 12 lbs if I needed just be starving myself, but that wouldn’t be enough. So at first, I did nothing, I ran through numerous jobs around town, still eating as previously, still worried for my future. Still smoking cigarettes, drinking to often and smoking weed. Hanging out with some of my classmates who were still around town at a local pool hall. Every aspiration, but no hope. With no hope, their came no will, no planning and no strategy.
Then came the tipping point. As I was coming home one night, from what had obviously been a night of debauchery, I crested the doorway of my father’s house at approximately 0400 hrs. My father was getting ready for work and he trailed me to my room for quick talk. He said, “Bill after you wake up, I want you to run down to County college and see what you have to do to get enrolled in some college courses. You’re obviously not going to do what you need to do to get in the service, but we need to start working a new plan for your future.” I simply said, “OK Dad, you got it.” And I closed my door.
My heart had just broken. The best man I knew in this world had just shown me that he had lost faith in my dream that we had both wanted for me.
And there it was.
NOTE FROM MIKE – This is where it get’s super awesome
WILL. Not only just will, but conviction. My mind a heart lit ablaze with a single dominating thought. NO FUCKING WAY was this going to be my story. That man has done too much for me my whole life to leave his faith in me in the gutter. The question no longer existed as to How was I going to lose 35 lbs., it was a simple statement I AM going to lose 35 lbs.
I threw myself into figuring out how to navigate this. No more drinking each night. No more weed. Limited cigarettes. I need a couple basics, strength training, cardio, and diet. With this renewed vigor, my family started to assist me with resources, the gym at the local Army base was the cheapest option, so I went there. I asked my friends what workouts were heavy on the fat burn and I started doing those. I jogged or walked everywhere around town. I bought a scale that went up to 400 lbs. (which was no small task to find at the time…not like today, but ya’know, our country doesn’t have an obesity problem…right?!).
As far as diet, The Atkins Diet had become very popular at the time, so I read on that. I attempted to follow it strictly and found that I had little to no energy for my workouts, so while the Atkins diet was at the core I started figuring out more about nutrition. How do things burn when they enter your body and in what order. More importantly. How do they burn in my body? What does my metabolic rate look like. The destination at the end of all of this was the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island, South Carolina. So having no strength training and no cardio game was simply not an option.
I found with some effort and a little bit of education I had become in tune with nutrition intake and energy output in a way that I had no idea existed. I could game precisely what was needed for my workouts and health while still maintaining slow steady pressure on weight loss. The first milestone took 6 weeks. In six weeks from stepping off I was down to 347 lbs and back in the Marine Recruiters office. The Recruiter’s told me, ”Nice work kid, but we’re going to need you to drop another 22 lbs.” Now while others may think that would be a letdown, and maybe it registered as that with me on a small scale, there was no stopping me. The battle had been joined, the mission laid out, and no force on this planet was going to stop me.
I found that right at 335 lbs I plateaued. That shook me a little, more as a frustration than anything else. So I looked for some to break the plane. I found some fad Hollywood diet that would drop 10 lbs in 4 days. It worked, though it screwed with my strength game so I knew it wasn’t going to be a long term fix. My body scrambled back for appropriate nutrition, and I upped my strength training for a more explosive burn. The steady weight loss was back on.
Another 5 weeks and I was down below 325 lbs. and back in Recruiters office. Again, I was met with a Great Job let’s let you pick your job. Now I had thought about this long over this time and wanted a profession that I could continue if I chose to get out after four years. Air Traffic Control seemed like a solid choice. Now, if that entry ever made it anywhere, who knows, but it was a hook and it kept me motivated. The next goal…we need you down below 300 lbs. So, head down, not in defeat, but in strategy, I left the office. OK, now I need a new game. What can I do. My grandmother in one of her tabloids, found this patch, like the kind people use to kick smoking, which was rumored to drop a pound a day. Now, in hindsight, whether that was a placebo, I don’t know. My nutrition game was on point. My weight and cardio routines were consistent. I’ll try whatever. 30 days of patching, and I was 30 lbs down.
Next weigh in 293 lbs. So now we’re four months in, and just shy of 100 lbs down, and I’m allowed to swear in to the delayed entry program, or DEP. Now, keep in mind, it’s a full on swearing in down at the Military Entrants Processing Stations (M.E.P.S.) in Philadelphia, so in my head it’s the REAL DEAL. Next Target is 265 lbs to get to what’s referred to as “Ship Weight”.
So what’s the next scheme? There was nothing, at least nothing signature. Just everything got larger. My runs went from 3 miles to 7+. My weight sessions went from 90 minutes to 3 hours. BURN, BURN, BURN, EAT, AND BURN. Keep driving! All hell will be unleashed to get to this target. I had another business to contend to, the recruiters got their asses collectively ripped into at the fact that couldn’t do three pull-ups, as required by Marine Corps Standards. I could run, I could hit, I could drag, I could lift, but 265 lbs is a lot to pull skyward in a disciplined Marine Corps pull up three times.
My family came through again. They built pull up bars at our house, my Uncles houses and taught me to look for anything where I could build that muscle group and to hit it. In total it would be a year long journey before I got my ‘Ship Date’ December 27, 1998. I would graduate Recruit Training at 215 lbs. on It had finally happened and I went on to make every moment of that Marine Corps career count. Five deployments overseas, three combat tours, many real world operations. An 8 year career worthy of the journey that started it.
A few of the constants through this story.
- Don’t ever Quit
- The Path is Never Found in bitching about the problem, only in crafting the solution, the ‘Desired End State’.
- When your path is blocked, craft and execute an alternative strategy, but don’t ever let up the pressure.
- Never let failure be an option.
Where do you wish to be? Now go do it!