OKINAWA, Japan - Food restrictions, strict calorie logs and long lectures are some of the negative aspects people think of when they hear about a weight-loss program.
The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center and U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa are trying to put an end to that mentality with a new program.
The program, coined ShipShape, is designed to help any TRICARE beneficiary, including active-duty service members, family members and retirees.
“The program is an eight-week class, which helps the participants get in shape and live a healthy lifestyle,” said Nelli Meier, a health promotion specialist with the hospital and instructor with the ShipShape course.
Participants can choose to only attend a few classes, but in order to get a certificate they must complete the entire course, according to Meier.
The length of the class gives the instructors and participants the opportunity to really get to know each other.
“In the beginning, participants are normally shy, but as the class goes on they begin to trust us,” said Robert Rowe, a health promotion specialist for the hospital and instructor for the course.
“They eventually become more honest with us and, more importantly, more honest with themselves.”
“When I first decided to take this course, I was not exactly happy about joining a weight-loss class,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ashli N. DeFraties, a participant in the course. “I have been in the course for five weeks now, and the information they give us is much more helpful than I would have expected.”
The instructors hold the same class multiple times weekly, so members are able to fit the classes into their work schedules.
“We normally hold two classes on Thursday, one at lunch and one after work, and then provide a makeup class during lunch on Friday for those who could not make (an earlier class),” said Rowe.
ShipShape takes a different approach compared to other weight loss programs by not only changing the participants’ eating habits, but also encouraging behavioral changes.
“They ask us to keep a log of what food we eat every day,” said DeFraties. “I’m starting to see that the more I track my eating, the less I want to eat junk food. The more aware I am of what I’m putting into my body, the more I tend to avoid grabbing that next bag of chips.”
Rowe and Meier consider themselves facilitators, not there to lecture the members, but to achieve active involvement and help participants get results through personal actions.
To maximize results, the instructors bring in experts, such as nutritionists and psychologists, to teach some of the classes.
“This course is so successful because it is not weight management by restriction,” said Meier. “We give (participants) the tools to change their lifestyle and, as a result, their entire outlook changes.”
The next ShipShape class will start in January. For more information, contact USNH Okinawa’s health promotion department at 643-7906.
This work, USNH weight-loss program promotes healthy lifestyle, by Cpl Brianna Christensen, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.