News: Committed to caring in CAF: Overcoming the challenges of weight loss
Story by Capt. Kathleen Ferrero
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - A healthy weight can strengthen one's resilience, or ability to overcome life's challenges. This is one reason why physical fitness is a pillar of the Comprehensive Airman Fitness culture.
Many people struggle with losing weight, statistics show. The formula isn't secret -- "burn more calories than you eat (or eat less than you burn)." Yet roughly three out of five Americans carry an unhealthy amount of excess weight, according to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
Busy schedules often get in the way of pre-planned, healthful eating. However, taking just a moment to think about what's in the menu, grocery aisle, or refrigerator can help train the brain to control portions and seek nutrients over less healthful options.
"The bottom line is individuals need to slow down and think about what it is they are really wanting, and is this choice going to affect that 'want,'" said Christine Cooley, 375th Air Mobility Wing dietitian. "The more we exercise our best thinking, hopefully it becomes the default."
Another culprit behind obesity is the lack of calorie awareness.
"For example, walking is an excellent cardio exercise. But it's not a huge calorie burner if it's not done long enough. And nuts are a very healthy food. However, those calories add up if a person is not mindful of portion control," Cooley said.
"Small amounts add up over days, weeks, months, and years; and we end up with this weight creep issue," she said.
Free assistance is available for airmen and their family members who struggle with weight loss.
Base health and wellness center, or HAWC, staff members typically include a dietitian and exercise physiologists as well as specialists who are trained on weight management, nutritional fitness and tobacco cessation. HAWCs also may offer classes on weight management as well as one-on-one counseling.
The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans can be accessed alongside interactive meal-planning tools at www.choosemyplate.com. Also, the Department of Defense Web site, www.humanperformanceresourcecenter.org, provides a wide range of physical fitness information, from weight-loss mind tactics to dietary supplements.
While people may have the necessary information to lose weight, changes in life circumstances can sometimes pose challenges to maintaining a healthful diet, setting the stage for stress eating.
For example, airmen commonly lose weight and increase personal fitness during deployments. Such success stories may be attributed to having more time for exercise or to plan ahead for meals. If circumstances change upon redeployment, that can disrupt their healthy habits.
Two keys to keeping a healthy weight level through major life changes include continuing to take a moment to think about your food choices and doing your best to re-establish a realistic activity level. A good goal is to do at least 20 minutes of cardio each week along with a muscle strengthening routine
It may be unrealistic to keep the same activity level one had while deployed, Cooley said -- especially for those who have children at home. But it's still possible to implement a manageable exercise routine. Engaging the entire family with healthy lifestyle changes can help keep the weight off.
For example, riding bikes or riding together as a family can be both fun and good for you.
"When family is involved, it's a team effort. Support from our families makes success so much easier to achieve and maintain," Cooley said. "However, you are your best motivator."