Fit to fight or fighting to get fit?

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. (AFNS) -- March is typically focused on the madness of college basketball or growing a fabulous mustache. But it's also a time to watch both what's on the table during your favorite team's game or on the verge of getting caught in that carefully groomed crumb catcher.

March is also National Nutrition Month, which means fad diets and eating bland, boring foods all the time, right?


"If you're eating something you don't like the taste of -- even if it's because you think it's healthy for you -- you're not going to stick with a plan," said Tiffany Harrison, a 4th Aerospace Medical Squadron Health and Wellness Center dietitian. "We crave foods that have great taste, so if you're consuming foods that are hard to get down, you're not doing it right."

Taste isn't the only reason healthy diets have a tendency to get off track.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, one of the explanations why resolutions to lose weight are frequently broken is because people want to change too drastically at once instead of working their way up to their ultimate goal. The organization suggests adopting minor changes, such as eating an extra serving of fruit a day for a week, and making sure the body makes that adjustment before moving on to the next goal.

Ultimately, Harrison said, everyone's body is different. People have varied tastes, likes and dislikes and physical chemistry. What works for one person might not necessarily work for others.

However, the one thing common to everyone is that they need sleep. It may not seem like part of a nutrition plan, but Harrison said sleep plays a critical role in how the human body recovers, which is key to a healthy lifestyle.

"Sleep is everything, and impacts us in multiple ways," Harrison explained. "Not having a healthy sleep pattern can cause increased stress, lower metabolism, and hormonal imbalance. Altogether, these factors can wreak havoc on our body's cognitive abilities, immune system, and physical endurance."

Harrison recommends getting seven to eight hours of sleep at night, but needs vary and are based on the individual.

Undergoing the process to change one's lifestyle can be difficult and requires a desire from within to stay on track, according to Joe Gonzalez, 4th AMDS HAWC exercise physiologist. To help individuals find what plan works best for them, the HAWC has a variety of programs and classes available.

'Nutrition 101' is a one-time class that introduces students to the basics of nutrition. 'Better Body, Better Life' is a month-long class, meeting once per week, which gives students a more in-depth look into how to incorporate a healthy diet into a busy lifestyle. HAWC professionals can also provide one-on-one assistance to help build a plan that best fits the individual.

Also, Harrison conducts a program called 'Smart Cart', in which she takes participants through the commissary and shows them how to make smarter choices when grocery shopping.

In coordination with National Nutrition Month, the fitness center is underway with its annual Biggest Loser competition. The eight-week program pits individuals against each other to see who can lose the largest percentage of weight.

"The program works great because you have to hold each other accountable," said Bryan Ekberg, 4th Fighter Wing NCO in charge of wing protocol. "It's instinctive to try harder when you're competing with others and it provides the motivation to get out and do more."

Since beginning the program two weeks ago and altering his diet plan, Ekberg said he lost six pounds, has more energy and feels less sluggish throughout the day. His goal is to lose another 20 pounds before the competition is finished.