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How a Parachuting Injury Almost Sent James into a Free Fall

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How a Parachuting Injury Almost Sent James into a Free Fall

Welcome to our “Moments of Will” series, where we’ll feature community members who have faced adversity on their health and fitness journeys, only to come back stronger and better than ever. While they could have let their challenges keep them from their goals, each of them found the will to fight for their physical, emotional and mental health.

James Henderson is used to being hard on his body. Having worked physically demanding jobs in the military and private security since he was 16 years old, pushing his limits and muscling through physical challenges is almost second nature.

In high school, Henderson ran competitively in the United Kingdom and carried that competitive side with him when he joined the armed forces after graduating. He won the physical training test — a brutally intense course that tests stamina and strength — to earn his Red Beret, the signature of the Parachute Regiment in the U.K., he says.

A few years later, he transferred to the Royal Military, where he became a physical training instructor, beefing up his fitness resume with highly physical specialist training courses. In short, “fitness was my life,” he says.

Then an accident changed everything.

DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Despite being “fit as a butcher’s dog,” Henderson injured his knee during a parachuting operation, leaving him crippled with pain. Eventually he had surgery on the injury, but that only knocked him off his game further. “I took a very long time to recover and as such, my fitness declined and my diet took a turn for the worse. Junk food became my comfort,” he admits.

Soon after, he left the military and things got worse. “I ended up with a massive eating disorder — I couldn’t stop comfort eating,” he says.

The more weight Henderson gained, the sorrier he started feeling for himself. “I resented fitness,” he says. “My joints hurt; I couldn’t run more than a half-mile without stopping; I was depressed and I started drinking a lot.” It became a vicious cycle — the more out of shape he got, the worse he felt about himself and the more he turned to unhealthy habits to handle the frustration.

FLEXING HIS MOTIVATION MUSCLES

Henderson had entered a danger zone. “The joke in “Austin Powers,” ‘I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I’m f