Despite holding the command fitness leader collateral duty at my last two commands, I was not a very good example to my shipmates. In my last year on active duty I gained 25-pounds, and completely gave up on any sort of regular fitness routine.
During my last six months on active duty I had to buy new uniforms because my original uniforms from boot camp didn’t fit anymore.
That summer I joined the Navy Reserve, and while I waited for school to start I went to the gym at least three times a week. I lost five pounds.
The following summer I got married, and while I had lost some weight requiring several dress fitting appointments, I still wasn’t at a healthy weight for my height. I lost some more weight that August during chief petty officer indoctrination, but six months later it was all back.
In May, 2011, I graduated from college, and three months later I started my first post-active duty employment (this job). At the time I was down 10-pounds from my initial gain, but I remember stressing out the morning of my first day because I couldn’t find anything to wear that fit comfortably. (There’s nothing worse than the realization that the pants you used to look great in, made you feel like a stuffed sausage, am I right?)
That October I watched a documentary that changed my life. It was like someone had lifted the curtains for me revealing the type of lifestyle I was living. I wasn’t losing weight because I wasn’t feeding my body the fuel it needed to thrive. I went out to eat for most of my meals, usually overate and at home I made meals out of packaged foods instead of fresh ingredients.
I also realized that if I didn’t make a change, I would end up overweight and probably battling a disease or two related to obesity. I didn’t want my future kids to have that as an example.
I started with small changes like smaller portion sizes and I cut out sugary drinks. I drank water, black coffee and black tea. I went from eating out 80 percent of the time, to making nearly all of my meals. Finally, I started a regular workout routine made up of low-impact exercises including yoga, walking, swimming and weight-lifting.
Here are my five top tips to help the warfighter in you achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been a nutritionist or certified to give nutritional advice. Consult with your physician before making any changes related to your health.
Water is the easiest, cheapest and healthiest drink for your body. If you need to have a flavored drink with your meals, try adding lemon juice, cucumber, strawberries or other natural ingredients to it. I made a habit of carrying a water bottle with me everywhere I went, so I wouldn’t be tempted to buy soda. (This also saves money!)
Eat smaller portions.
Whether I am eating at home or at a restaurant, the first thing I do is consider how much food is on my plate. At home, I take a small plate or bowl of whatever I’ve made and only eat until I am satisfied. My husband and I like to frequent a local pub, so when we eat there we either share a meal or I cut my meal in half before I even take a bite.
Make your meals.
A good portion of my morning routine is spent making breakfast and lunch. I usually have a fruit and veggie smoothie or oatmeal (plain with toppings like fruit or dried fruit, nuts, and granola). For lunch I’ll have leftovers, a salad or sandwich made with sauteed chicken breast. I usually exercise after work, so I plan a slow cooker or casserole for weeknights. That allows me to prep the night before and dinner is ready to either eat or pop into the oven when I get home. They also make great leftovers for lunch or dinner later in the week, or for frozen portions for future easy meals.
Read labels. Better yet, eat food without labels.
Many packaged foods that make for easy meals are usually high in sodium, sugar or fat, not to mention a whole host of other ingredients that your grandmother wouldn’t cook with (let alone recognize). When shopping, buy foods sold without ingredient labels (meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables) that you can easily “process” into a healthy meal. An easy lunch I like to make is what I like to call “bento inspired” using fresh cut veggies, homemade hummus, crackers, cheese and a fruit. It covers all the major food groups, is a breeze to prepare and assemble and the ingredients contain minimal or no added sodium, sugar and fat.
Get 30 minutes of cardio everyday.
Walking your dog or playing with your kids at a playground may not burn a lot of calories, but you’re burning more calories than if you didn’t do anything. If you can’t make it to the gym for a super-sweaty workout, don’t sweat it! 30 minutes of walking is easy, free and burns more calories than sitting on your couch stressing over why you didn’t get to the gym.
Today I have lost a total of 25-pounds and I feel healthy and happy! You can do it too if that’s what you’re striving to do; it just takes small changes that gradually turn into new lifestyle habits.
The Navy has made available several resources that encourage eating better, staying active and living well. The information is available to the general public, regardless of military status or service affiliation. So, what are you waiting for? Get up, get out and get on your way to a happier, healthier you! Trust me, you won’t regret it!
By Nicole McFarland, Defense Media Activity
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