AFMC aims to reduce obesity risk, decrease average BMI

  • Published
  • By Holly Birchfield
  • 78th ABW/PA
Robins nutrition and health professionals are helping Airmen downsize.

In early December 2007, Air Force Materiel Command vice commander Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski directed all AFMC base commanders to cut their units' obesity rates by 10 percent in the first half of 2008 and reduce the rate by another 10 percent by year's end.

Gen. Bruce Carlson, AFMC commander, reemphasized the importance of meeting the goals in an April 11 message to the command.

"Over 12 percent of our AFMC military members meet the clinical definition of obese," he wrote. "This is an issue we, as an Air Force family, must address."

Nadine Daly, a clinical dietitian at the Health and Wellness Center, said Robins can help active-duty Airmen reduce weight and live healthier.

From the center's Healthy Heart class to classes on diabetes, Airmen have plenty of local sources to guide them.

Ms. Daly said Airmen identified as obese can take the HAWC's Healthy Living class, as well as its Body Composition Improvement Program class series.

The dietitian said people often neglect important nutrients that can aid weight loss.

"One of the things people need to include in their diet is fiber," she said. "A lot of the foods that are 3 grams or above (in fiber) are pretty good. The general recommendation for fiber per person is about 25 to 30 grams a day. The average person takes in about 9 grams a day."

Ms. Daly said fiber helps with excretion of some fat and cholesterol.

At the same time, Airmen should decrease their intake of high-fat, fried foods.

Adding more complex carbohydrates can fill a person up and provides better nutrients for fewer calories, Ms. Daly said.

Practicing portion control is another way to shrink obesity risk, Ms. Daly said.

Taking part of a meal home instead of eating the full serving can help, along with eating smaller meals more frequently to boost the metabolism, Ms. Daly said.

Eating slowly helps the stomach to feel full more quickly, Ms. Daly said.

"It takes 20 minutes for our head to connect with our stomach that we are full," she said. "If we eat in five minutes, we're usually hungry and looking around for more. If you took that same meal and spread it over 20 minutes, you pretty much will be satisfied because the message has connected."

When reaching for something to wash down your meal, water is your best bet, Ms. Daly said.

"Water helps with metabolism by helping the body burn (calories) better," she said.

Proper exercise is another factor in cutting obesity risk, said Jamie Martin, an exercise physiologist at the HAWC.

"Exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand like a marriage," he said. "We see people here when we do our panels and discussions with commanders. We have members who have mandatory PT (physical training), so they're exercising four, five, maybe even six days a week, but they're taking in more calories than they're expending. That's the reason why there's weight gain."

Mr. Martin said paying a visit with Robins fitness professionals is a good idea before starting an exercise program.

"The first thing anyone, especially our Airmen, need to do before they initiate an exercise routine is to have a baseline assessment," he said. "Then they can prioritize and set goals. If the problem is weight gain, or obesity, then we need to focus more on the cardiovascular aspect."

Mr. Martin said running, walking, riding an upright bicycle, using an elliptical machine, and taking water aerobics are ideal forms of cardio exercise that elevate the heart rate consistently across the board.

Time and exertion needed per exercise session is individualized based on how many days of the week the person exercises, how hard, and how long exercise lasts, Mr. Martin said.