Sailors assigned to Southwest Regional Maintenance Center perform the two-minute push-up test as part of the fiscal 2013 cycle one Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA). The PFA is a semiannual fitness test that ensures Sailors maintain a level of physical fitness required to support the Navy’s overall mission readiness. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Pratt/Released)

Healthy Weight: An Equation for Success

By Jim Sherrard, MS, RD, MCHES; Head, Deployment Health and Wellness Center, Naval Hospital Pensacola, and Dr. Stephen Heaston, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center

Sailors assigned to Southwest Regional Maintenance Center perform the two-minute push-up test as part of the fiscal 2013 cycle one Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA). The PFA is a semiannual fitness test that ensures Sailors maintain a level of physical fitness required to support the Navy’s overall mission readiness. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Pratt/Released)
Sailors assigned to Southwest Regional Maintenance Center perform the two-minute push-up test as part of the fiscal 2013 cycle one Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA). The PFA is a semiannual fitness test that ensures Sailors maintain a level of physical fitness required to support the Navy’s overall mission readiness. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Pratt/Released)

In today’s society, we may feel bombarded with messages telling us that we are getting heavier and that we need to lose weight, but it’s not without merit.

In fact, according to the 2011 Health Related Behaviors Survey of Active Duty Military Personnel, 15 percent of active duty Sailors and five percent of Marines were classified as obese. Research has demonstrated that above a certain range of weight, individuals increase their risk for developing certain diseases and other health problems. 

So what is a healthy weight? Body Mass Index (BMI) is one tool that is often used to assess risk for overweight and obesity because BMI correlates well with the amount of body fat for most people. Because BMI does not directly measure body fat, some people, such as athletes, may have a BMI that identifies them as overweight even though they do not have excess body fat.

To get a general sense of whether you fall into a healthy range, you can use the CDC’s BMI Calculator. Alternatively, the formula for computing BMI is: weight (pounds)/(height (inches))2 x 703. The following table from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows weight status based on BMI for adults ages 20 and over. 

BMI

Weight Status

Below 18.5

Underweight

18.5 – 24.9

Normal

25.0 – 29.9

Overweight

30.0 and Above

Obese

Another simple method used to assess overweight and obesity includes waist circumference. Waist circumference is positively correlated with abdominal fat content. High risk is defined as:

 

High Risk

Men

>40 inches

Women

>35 inches

 Fitness Formula for Success

Being at a healthy weight has many benefits including increased productivity and reaction time, improved self-esteem, enhanced stress coping abilities, and decreased risk of physical injury. 

When we exercise and eat right, we set a foundation for a longer and healthier life.  Getting to, or maintaining a healthy weight is an essential part of readiness and resiliency; but even for the most dedicated Sailors and Marines, it can be challenging to adopt and stick to a lifestyle change. Usually, when we hear the term “weight loss” we think about reducing food intake, eating more fruits and vegetables, and increasing physical activity. However, there is another factor in a successful weight loss equation: behavior change.

The science of behavior change is well-studied, and adopting specific behavior change strategies into your weight loss plan can keep you motivated and moving in the right direction. Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to stick with a new diet and exercise plan, even though you know you should and maybe even want to? The reasons are as varied as we are different as individuals, but the root cause can often be found by asking yourself these behavior change-related questions: 

Do you know the specific benefits YOU are trying to achieve? Whatever the benefit, make sure it is one you really want. Then, periodically remind yourself (or have a friend remind you) of your reasons for doing this. It may seem unnecessary, but a simple reminder of why you are making this change can be a big help in keeping you motivated when times get tough.

Do you know what you need to do, and are you equipped with the right tools and resources? Do you know what eating healthy really means? Do you know how to eat healthy on a budget? How about how to eat healthy without feeling hungry or fatigued? Or which workouts will give you the results you’re looking for? Making sure you have the right information and resources will decrease your chances of getting derailed once you get going, and help you achieve and maintain the results you’re looking for.

Are your friends and family willing to join you? It is true what they say about peer pressure. So, use it to your advantage. Are your friends willing to get on board? Get creative, and you might be surprised by how easy it is to trade your old unhealthy behaviors for healthier ones.

Your odds of success are higher if you answer these questions before attempting a lifestyle change. Knowing and reminding yourself of what motivates you and what challenges might get in your way, will help you stay on track..

ShipShape Program

If you are a Sailor or Marine who is interested in getting to, or maintaining a healthy weight, talk to your Health Promotion Department or Command Fitness Leader (CFL) about joining the ShipShape Program.

The ShipShape Program is managed by the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center and is the Navy’s official intervention program for weight management. It is an eight-week behavior modification course designed to help you learn how to lose weight in a healthy and permanent way. Sailors and Marines can self-refer, and primary care providers can also refer their overweight patients, including family members and retirees, to the ShipShape program.

Additional Strategies

In addition to following the fitness formula of success and participating in the ShipShape program, below are some additional strategies to help you attain or maintain a healthy weight.

Set small milestones to help you achieve a larger goal. Working your way up to your goal will help you to succeed. And checking off mini-goals along the way is a great way to stay motivated through all the hard work.

Be encouraged by the small wins. It takes time, hard work, and dedication to make a big change happen. Keep a journal of every time you do something healthy; make a note every time you add just one sit up or squat to your workout. Every change is a good change no matter how small it might seem. Keep going.

Get a friend to keep you honest. Setting an exercise routine or diet is the easy part. Sticking to it is where it can get tricky. Seeking out a workout or dining buddy can help keep you accountable, even when you don’t want to be.

Eat. Eat something before you get too hungry to pass up the worst thing on the menu. Planning ahead can help you stick to the healthy choices that will keep you on track while not feeling deprived. Visit the CDC’s Eat More, Weigh Less page for tips on how to cut calories without cutting the amount you eat or getting rid of your favorite foods.

Eat what you love, but don’t eat it all. If you love dessert, depriving yourself will only make you want it that much more. Instead, eat a smaller amount of what you love. But again, don’t try it on an empty stomach! It just won’t happen. Make a plan. Don’t show up hungry. Go for the healthful food first to fill you up a bit, and then let yourself have a little bit of what you crave.

Available Resources

To learn more about healthy eating and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, please visit the following resources: