Health programs help in weight loss success story

  • Published
  • By Sara Francis
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Retired Master Sgt. Steve Fleming, 65, did not make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. He did make a commitment to get his health back, and his dedication paid off in many ways.

“I was having difficulty putting on my socks and shoes, and I couldn’t tie my shoes at all,” said Fleming, a 20-year veteran from Oroville, California. “I was having difficulty getting in and out of the car. That’s why I knew I had to make a change.”

In the nearly two years since Fleming decided to pursue a better and healthier lifestyle, he lost nearly 130 pounds and reduced his body fat to 17.7 percent. While that achievement is impressive enough, the change that affected his life the most was being taken off insulin. He had been a Type 2 diabetic for 20 years, with an insulin pump for the last five.

“Now my doctor said I’m pre-diabetic, but a few more pounds and I won’t even be in that category,” Fleming said.

In May 2015, Fleming began dieting and trying to move more in hopes of reducing his weight from 320 pounds to a weight that felt healthy.

He began to eat less and walk more, which yielded some slow but gratifying results.

A few months later, he attended Eat2Live, a nutrition class provided through the Eglin Health Promotion Clinic that helps individuals learn tactics and strategies for healthier eating. Through that class, Fleming learned how to eat better, not just less.

“I learned about balancing my carbohydrates, fats, and proteins,” Fleming said. “I learned how many calories a gram of each is worth, so I could choose my calories better. I never knew any of that before.”

After attending Eat2Live, Fleming’s wife told him about Go4Life. The program is designed for individuals over 50 who need reintroduction to physical fitness. Alison DeCaro, a 96th Medical Group health promotion coordinator and Go4Life instructor, teaches class participants better lifting form and muscle balance, which gradually builds up endurance and agility.

“I spent a lot of time at the gym, but coming (to Go4Life) gave me a better idea for how to spend that time,” Fleming said.

Fleming learned how to control his lifting and fine-tune his workout routine to form better fitness habits. He worked his new techniques into his existing gym routine and saw better results.

“I remember when I lost 50 pounds and I was really excited about it, but no one else really noticed,” Fleming said. “It didn’t become a real success until other people noticed, probably once I had lost about 75 pounds.”

Another aspect of the class DeCaro said contributed to Fleming’s success is the social accountability of the class setting. She noticed how classes tend to make very strong connections, which leads to more frequent and habitual attendance.

“When I took vacation earlier this year, I left the class a four-week workout plan they could finish on their own,” DeCaro said. “What I didn’t expect was the class deciding to still meet up every week over at the fitness annex to complete the workouts together.”

Fleming credits his success to dedication, consistency and old-fashioned diet and exercise. He regularly changes up his workout routine to include everything from water aerobics to Zumba, as well as his regular weightlifting and Go4Life graduate class.

“It helps to keep changing the routine,” Fleming said. “It protects my joints and keeps me from getting bored.”

While extraordinary results are to be applauded, DeCaro pointed out that this is not a weight loss class. Go4Life is about lifestyle improvements. Using that measure, all of her students are success stories.

“I think all of the participants have had success, whether it is improving balance, strength, flexibility or activities of daily living,” DeCaro said.