Wing program helps Airmen get fit to fight

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mike Andriacco
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Officials in the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing have developed a unique program called the Body Mass Reduction Program which is designed to aid Airmen in achieving a healthy lifestyle while improving their mission capability and contributions to the wing.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley said in a Letter to Airmen in February 2008 that a healthy lifestyle is essential to the Air Force's war fighting capability and very well could save an Airman's life one day.

The goal 380th AEW's Body Mass Reduction Program is to aid Airmen in reducing their weight and maintaining a professional appearance, mission readiness, and improving their overall lifestyle.

The program is mandatory for any Airman with a Body Mass Index above 30 upon their initial weigh-in at the 380th. The program guidance outlines mandatory requirements to aid participating Airmen in adjusting their lifestyle to reflect healthy nutrition and exercise habits.

Tech Sgts. Scott Day and Chad Gibson, from the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron and 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron respectively, began their deployments with Body Mass Indexes greater than 30. Both men have made a commitment to bringing that number down and changing their lifestyles to include better nutrition and a disciplined exercise regimen.

Sergeants Day and Gibson found themselves in a less than ideal physical condition through a variety of circumstances.

"I was playing volleyball on Sep. 10, 2001 when my knee went 'pop,'" Sergeant Day said. "The next day I saw a doctor and went through several years of off and on pain before I was diagnosed with a torn meniscus and had it surgically fixed in May of 2004."

During long periods of pain and physical therapy, Sergeant Day was limited in his activity and gained approximately 30 pounds, he said.

Unlike Sergeant Day, who had a major injury and convalescence that lead to his fitness breakdown, Sergeant Gibson attributes it to a number of smaller things that built up over time.

"It was a combination of things for me," he said. "Long work hours, old minor sports injuries causing my body to break down a little bit, and a production-focused Air Force culture where work took a priority over fitness for a number of years, led to a long-term weight gain."

Any member required to participate in the BMR program receives education at the nutrition and weight loss class offered twice a week. Airmen on the program are required to attend but anyone who would like to learn more about nutrition and healthy habits can voluntarily attend.

A key component to improving wellness is setting attainable goals, to keep focus and to measure progress.

"I try to keep one goal at a time," said Sergeant Gibson. "It's too easy to lose focus with too many goals."

Creating an exercise plan and making eating healthy a habit is a key to success health specialists say. Both sergeants have developed exercise and diet routines that they stick to in order to monitor their progress. Just like every person is different, every exercise and diet regimen should be tailored to the individual based on his or her needs and goals.

Sergeant Day so far has lost eight pounds, he said.  He runs three times per week and uses cardio equipment the rest of the time. He has an old, "unflattering" driver's license photo that keeps him motivated.

"I've also changed my diet," he said. "I never used to eat breakfast and I would have an extremely large dinner. Now, I will have a bowl of cereal with skim milk and maybe some fruit for breakfast, a sandwich or salad for lunch and dinner along with maybe a small portion of rice. If I need a snack, it will be a healthy one consisting of fruit, yogurt or some nuts. My goal is to lose up to 10 pounds per month."

Sergeant Day will not include weight training until several months in, as adding muscle can actually cause an increase in weight.

Sergeant Gibson, on the other hand, uses a combination of exercises to keep himself from getting too bored with the routine or allowing his body to adapt to it.

"I perform cardio exercise six days a week with a random day off to recover," he said. "Three times a week I perform low-weight, high-repetition weight training because it helps burn additional calories without adding too much muscle weight. I try to keep my calorie intake below 1500 per day by eating high-protein, low-fat foods like tuna, chicken and steak and drinking a lot of water."

Sergeant Gibson also cut out snacks but occasionally will have yogurt, fruit or tuna, he said.

Each unit's BMR program is tracked by the first sergeant and any questions about the program can be directed to the "shirt."

The BMR program is not a punishment, but a program meant to reinforce good habits and discipline, and both NCOs see it that way. They said they would be making the changes without the program, but it allows for another method of tracking their progress and keeps them motivated.

The nutrition and weight loss class provides several resources for information about health and wellness. Some examples are: 

My Pyramid -- The Food and Drug Administration program designed to help people make healthy food choices.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site with links to healthy living and disease prevention information.

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