"You can choose to be bitter, or you can choose to be better," said Noah Galloway of going from hopeless former soldier to super-fit cover star.
Photo by Peter Yang
Nearly 10 years ago, Iraq war veteran Noah Galloway was lying in a hospital bed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., grappling with having lost an arm and a leg due to a roadside explosion. His extensive injuries plunged him into depression. And as recently as five years ago, Galloway says was spending the majority of his days smoking, drinking, and sleeping. Today, the inspiring, super-fit 33-year-old is on the cover of Men’s Health—the first reader in the magazine’s 26-year history to score that honor.
Men’s Health received nearly 1,300 entries in its search for the “Ultimate Men’s Health Guy” to be featured on the cover of the magazine’s November 2014 issue. “There were so many amazing men, narrowing the pool down from 1,300 to our three finalists was torture,” said Men’s Health Editor in Chief Bill Phillips.
Ultimately, one line in Galloway’s video entry set him apart. “He said it was his choice whether to be bitter about what happened to him in Iraq, or to be better—and he chose to be better,” Phillips told Yahoo Health. “That’s a lesson we all can learn from. Every day, whether it’s your job or your relationship or somebody Tweets something nasty at you, it’s very easy to become a negative person. Noah reminds us that when we choose to be better, we can quite literally change our mindsets—and our lives.”
A Vet Spirals Downward—and Pulls Himself Back Up
Galloway was born into a military family, but never had much interest in joining the service; The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, changed that desire. As a fit 20-year-old, Galloway felt that enlisting was just something he needed to do, he said in a Men’s Health video.
During Galloway’s second tour in Iraq, he was driving the lead Humvee in a convoy on a night mission through an area known as the “Triangle of Death” when the vehicle hit a trip wire, causing an explosion.
Photo courtesy of Noah Galloway
Galloway survived, but woke up to discover he was a double amputee. Once home with family and friends, the father-of-three tried to put up a brave front but was struggling to cope with his new body and life, he told Men’s Health.
One day almost five years later, Galloway looked in the mirror and decided he didn’t like what he had become—out of shape and indifferent. Too embarrassed to go to the gym and face the stares of curious onlookers, he joined a 24-hour facility and began working out at 2 a.m.
Within months, Galloway was seeing and feeling results. He gained confidence and started hitting the gym at normal hours; He began running 5Ks, then marathons and obstacle-course races. “Noah has said that he wouldn’t change anything because he’s a better man because of what happened to him, which is really amazing to say because he’s been through so much,” Phillips said, adding, “and it wasn’t an easy transition—it took five years, and those years were really dark for him.”
Becoming the Ultimate Men’s Health Guy
The cover search was an exhaustive eight-month process. “It wasn’t like you just had to send us an email—it was like applying for the college boards,” Phillips said.
Editors narrowed the 1,300 entrants down to a group of 10, who then had to submit videos and answer questions. The November issue includes profiles of the three finalists—Galloway, Finny Akers, and Kavan Lake—and tips from the top 10 finalists. (The digital edition of the magazine features two additional covers with Akers and Lake).
“From where he was in 2010 with his drinking and depression, he’s made an incredible journey,” said Phillips, “and he has a lot of that journey left. He’s eager to get better at everything, and that’s what this is really about.”
Galloway’s cover hits newsstands next week.