Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

You’d Be Surprised How Eating Habits Affect You, and Your Readiness

Image of Military personnel picking out broccoli. Army Sgt. First Class Brent Leverette, executive assistant to the Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, selects a healthy vegetable at the commissary June 29, 2021. (Photo by: Graham Snodgrass, Army Publich Health Center)

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Think you might need to lose a little weight?

You're not alone.

Even in the military, where maintaining physical fitness remains a job requirement and a key component of military readiness, thousands of service members struggle with being overweight.

Physical fitness is more than just a set of scores measuring your body-mass index, run times, or how many push-ups you can do. Optimizing your physical fitness requires a good diet, healthy lifestyle, strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance all working together.

Yet keeping a healthy body weight is correlated with all those components and is essential for long term health, fitness and personal readiness.

Injury Risk

About 17% of soldiers are considered obese, and this impacts readiness because being overweight increases the risk of musculoskeletal injuries by putting extra strain on the body, according to Army 1st Lt. Cara Adams, a registered dietitian and the chief of outpatient nutrition at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital in Missouri.

Noncombat musculoskeletal injuries account for nearly 60% of soldiers' limited duty days and are cited in 65% of cases where soldiers cannot deploy for medical reasons, according to a recent study. These injuries affect readiness through increased limited duty days, decreased deployability rates, and increased medical separation rates.

Eating Better

Consuming a balanced diet rich in nutrients can "help prevent stress fractures and other anomalies that prevent military personnel from being ready for duty," Adams said.

Good nutrition goes beyond just calories and protein, she pointed out. "Our bodies were created to absorb and use nutrients from whole foods."

She suggested service members "start with the basics" by simply taking an honest look at what they eat and drink every single day. "Are you setting your body and your health up for success by consuming a variety of whole foods?" she asked.

Whole foods are foods that are not heavily processed or refined, like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, whole grains, meat, fish, and eggs. "The more of these types of foods that end up in your diet, and the more variety in your diet - the better," Adams said.

"Unfortunately, our current food environment seems at odds with healthy eating," she said. "The evolutionary discrepancy between our brain's desire for calorie-dense foods to ensure survival and the ultra-processed food, sedentary living, and stressful lifestyle of today's culture creates the perfect storm for constant cravings, weight gain, and poor health."

Moreover, many fitness-oriented service members are focused more on cure-all dietary supplements rather than their core diet.

"Many soldiers are too concerned with which pre-workout supplement they should be taking or how much creatine they should be having when their diet primarily consists of fast food and empty calories. Prioritize food," Adams said.

A good rule is to avoid any "diet" that is not truly stainable, Adams advised.

"Many soldiers want quick fixes to weight loss. They want to go vegan or vegetarian simply to lose weight, yet chicken and fish are their favorite foods. I remind patients that they do not have to completely eliminate any of their favorite foods to achieve their health goals. In fact, I encourage them not to."

The most important goal is a healthy diet and regular physical activity. "Food is the fuel that energizes, strengthens, and helps the body recover from physical activity. A healthy diet and physical activity can help individuals not only achieve, but better maintain a healthy weight."

"It can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, as well as strengthen bone, muscles, and joints," Adams said.

Regular exercise and proper nutrition "have been shown to improve levels of happiness, increase energy levels, and increase your chances of living longer. It can also improve sleeping habits and sleep quality and help you build a stronger immune system," she said.

Changing Bad Habits

Leah Roberts said she tries to "reframe" her patients' triggers for bad nutrition that can contribute to weight gain. Roberts is a licensed dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist at the Army's Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Her primary recommendation is that overweight service members should cook their meals at home or eat at their installation's dining facility where there are freshly cooked hot meals and other healthy foods available three times a day.

Avoid meal delivery services, Roberts suggested. During the COVID-19 pandemic "we've created a new culture of fast food and delivery service" that leads to unhealthy eating, she said.

Too much work and after-work or after-school activities frequently lead to settling for comfort foods or convenience foods because there just doesn't seem to be time to shop for healthy foods, Roberts said.

Her second recommendation is to "avoid sodas, juices and sweet tea." They are full of sugar and empty calories.

Tip number three on Roberts" list: "Have a plan."

"People struggle the most about how to have food that is nutritious, easy to have on hand, and easy to prepare during busy weeknight schedules," she said.

Her most important component, she said, is to encourage small goals that are modifiable but consistent.

For instance, she makes her patients' first goal to lose 5% of their body weight. "I deal with people who weigh 220 or 230 pounds. When they calculate how many pounds to lose to get to that first goal, they say, 'I can do this.'"

You also may be interested in...

Dietetic interns train to better MHS beneficiaries nutrition, health

Article
4/5/2021
Military health personnel wearing face mask while discussing food options

Registered dietitians, exercise therapists, dietetic interns and other team members in the Nutrition Services Department at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, assist patients and staff in developing healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness

The difference between Celiac Disease & Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Article
3/26/2021
Close up picture of slices of bread

Celiac disease is not a food allergy; it's an autoimmune disease diagnosed through a blood test.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

When we “Break Bread," we build social bonds

Article
3/25/2021
Picture of military personnel sitting at a table eating food together

Eating socially has been shown to influence happiness and life satisfaction; specifically participating in evening meals with more people.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

Army dietitian uses nutritional care to fight COVID-19

Article
3/23/2021
Military personnel wearing a face mask standing in front of a Nutrition Clinic

Army dietician plays a critical role in COVID-19 patient recovery.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus

TFFcogs Nutritional 1200x675

Infographic
3/23/2021
TFFcogs Nutritional 1200x675

Total Force Fitness for Kids social media graphic showing an orange military kids logo, a multi-colored Total Force Fitness logo, and a blue circle with a star in the center and plate with a fork and a knife emanating from the center

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness and Military Kids | Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

TFFcogs Financial 1200x675

Infographic
3/23/2021
TFFcogs Financial 1200x675

Total Force Fitness for Kids social media graphic showing an orange military kids log, a multi-colored Total Force Fitness logo, and a blue circle with a star and a dollar sign emanating from the center

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness and Military Kids | Total Force Fitness | Financial Fitness

METC trains dietician techs to build, support a Medically Ready Force

Article
3/18/2021
Military health personnel preparing food trays while wearing a face mask

Nutrition plays an important role in military readiness.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Health Readiness

Women’s health emerging priorities series highlights mental health

Article
3/4/2021
A woman holding her hands near her face

Women’s mental health can be more affected by transitioning than men’s, speakers’ series attendees hear.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Total Force Fitness | Depression | Psychological Fitness

Proper nutrition impacts overall health & readiness

Article
3/4/2021
Man wearing a face mask restocking fruit at a store

Nutritional fitness implications for Total Force Fitness are far reaching.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness

10 ways to support holistic heart health

Article
2/26/2021
picture of a heart running on the treadmill with the words "healthy heart for body and soul. ten ways to support holistic heart health"

Tips for a Total Force Fitness approach to keeping your heart healthy

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit

Eating disorders hinder optimal health and TFF nutrition concept

Article
2/25/2021
a picture of the produce section at a grocery store

Disordered eating lessens Total Force Fitness.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit

Good oral care requires lifetime commitment

Article
2/25/2021
Military health personnel, sitting in front of a group of children, showing them how to brush their teeth using a stuffed animal

Children’s Dental Health Month focuses on the importance of developing good oral hygiene habits at an early age.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | Total Force Fitness

Proper diet, sleep, exercise, and joy key to heart health

Article
2/24/2021
Military personnel working out at the gym

Heart health is crucial to service members’ readiness throughout their high-stress careers. Working to achieve that takes self-discipline and moderation, but also joy, integrity, and social interaction

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit

How do you mend a broken heart? It usually fixes itself

Article
2/23/2021
Military personnel wearing a face mask, gets his heart checked out by military heath personnel

'Broken Heart Syndrome’ and ‘Holiday Heart Syndrome’ are very real phenomena. Spiritual and social fitness can help mitigate both.

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Total Force Fitness | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit

March 2021 Toolkit

Publication
2/22/2021

March is nationally recognized as Brain Injury Awareness Month, with the goal of increasing traumatic brain injury (TBI) awareness and improve health care providers’ ability to identify, care for, and treat all those who are affected by TBI. A TBI is a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. According to the Defense Health Agency Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence, 430,720 service members have been diagnosed with a first-time TBI since 2000. The toolkit also contains information on patient Safety Awareness Week, National Nutrition Month and many other graphics and messages you can use for holidays and observances during March.

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Total Force Fitness | Traumatic Brain Injury | Brain Injury Awareness Month
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 > >> 
Showing results 76 - 90 Page 6 of 9
Refine your search
Last Updated: February 24, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.