BAQUBAH, Iraq (June 17, 2006) " Some Soldiers come to Iraq hoping to shed a few pounds while others desire to bulk up during their tour in the Middle East.
Either way, good nutrition coupled with an effective exercise program is the answer. That's what a pair of body builders told participants in a Nutrition/Fitness Class hosted by personnel at the Forward Operating Base Warhorse troop medical clinic today.
"If you're going to get, you've got to eat," said Sgt. 1st Class Gary L. McKinney, treatment platoon sergeant and acting first sergeant for Charlie Company, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Band of Brothers. "If you want to lose weight, you've got to eat."
McKinney is a 16-year Army veteran who hails from Tuscaloosa, Ala. He's also a competitive body builder and a certified personal trainer. He teaches the classes that meet at 1 p.m. each Saturday. They are held at alternative sites at either the clinic or at the base gymnasium.
By his side is a fellow competitive body builder, Maj. Carlos Silva, an Army Reserve Soldier from Westboro, Mass. He serves as officer in charge of the 883rd Medical Company (Combat Stress) and works as a civilian for Boston Public Schools as a social worker.
Silva and McKinney differed slightly in their approach. However, both stressed nutrition as the most important factor involved in physical fitness.
"Eighty to 90 percent is what you eat and how you eat," McKinney said. "You can work out all day and if you don't have you diet right, you won't lose weight."
Silva said many seeking to lose weight mistakenly take the approach of skipping meals. This is wrong because it puts the body "in a defensive mode" where metabolism is slowed and fat is stored as opposed to being burned. He said dieters should eat at least three meals a day and should always take in the first meal of the day.
"One of the best meals you can get is breakfast," Silva said. "You've got to get that furnace burning early, and that is what the morning meal is all about."
McKinney said many breakfast foods are good for you. Among them are boiled eggs, fruit and oatmeal. Silva acknowledged that many of these foods may be bland and lack taste at first.
However, he recommended using salsa and other flavorings to make them more palatable. He said after a while the condiments would not be needed as the dieter became better used to his or her new fare.
"The idea is to program yourself to eat the right things," Silva said. "It's only human nature to want to go back."
McKinney said the three-meal-a-day plan often doesn't work for dieters. He recommended up to six meals spread throughout the day with smaller quantities.
"If you split three meals into six small meals, you will lose weight eating the same amount of food," McKinney said.
While Soldiers have little choice to eat what is offered to them in the dining facility, Silva and McKinney both stressed that good foods are available there. It's up those seeking to improve their diets and become or remain physically fit to find the good foods and make them stables of their diet.
McKinney recommended dieters get a "nutrition partner," someone who will help them and hold them accountable to eat a balanced diet. Dieters should reduce their fat and sugar intake and avoid "fad diets" that may cause short-term weight loss but won't help in the long term.
About a dozen participants were in the class this day. Some were sent by their units while others came on their own. Among those in attendance was Sgt. Cary Mirabul, a supply technician with Company B, 64th BSB. The El Paso, Texas, native said she found the class interesting and informative.
"They were very professional," Mirabul said. "They both have extensive backgrounds and I believed everything they said when it came to good nutrition."