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Have a lifestyle change instead of starting a diet

The convenience and taste of snack foods may tempt a person's appetite, but ultimately lead to poor eating habits. A sugary snack or beverage will curb hunger, but deny the body of essential nutrients, which will slow metabolism and lead to weight gain and long term health complications.  Proper nutrition includes a balanced meals and lots of water, and it will lead to a healthier, more positive self-image. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jamie Lessard)

The convenience and taste of snack foods may tempt a person's appetite, but ultimately lead to poor eating habits. A sugary snack or beverage will curb hunger, but deny the body of essential nutrients, which will slow metabolism and lead to weight gain and long term health complications. Proper nutrition includes a balanced meals and lots of water, and it will lead to a healthier, more positive self-image. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jamie Lessard)

A sugary snack or beverage may feed an appetite, but a healthy diet will result in a healthier body and mental state.  Good nutrition involves balanced meals, proper portion sizes and lots of water while avoiding fad diets.  (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jamie Lessard)

A sugary snack or beverage may feed an appetite, but a healthy diet will result in a healthier body and mental state. Good nutrition involves balanced meals, proper portion sizes and lots of water while avoiding fad diets. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jamie Lessard)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "How many of you ate two servings of vegetables yesterday?" Melinda Reed asked Vandenberg Airmen during a healthy living class.

Less than half the class raised a hand, which is typical, Mrs. Reed said.  But an awareness of healty eating is important for all Airmen, not just for the class. Proper nutrition is essential for healthy bodies and a positive mental state, and it is critical in making Airmen are fit to fight.

Mrs. Reed, the base dietician, works to educate Airmen here on proper nutrition and common nutritional mistakes through classes and private coaching at the Vandenberg Health and Wellness Center. 

Many people buy into fad diets not realizing that the diet is teaching them to buy the company's food or product and not teaching them how to buy food at the grocery store, Mrs. Reed said. And that starts unhealthy eating patterns.

"I don't like to use the word diet, because that implies food restrictions which could cause you to fail," she said. "Instead of using the word "diet" tell people that you're changing your lifestyle"

One way to start a journey to a healthy lifestyle is to use a simple mathematical equation to calculate body mass index and find the proper amount of calories to consume in order to sustain or lose weight.

BMI, or Quetelet Index, is a statistical measure of the weight of a person scaled according to height, and the equation can be found at www.mypyramid.gov, along with a calculator that will take a person's age, height, and weight and activity level into consideration.

After the BMI is found, it is then possible to find the proper amount of calories needed to consume based on personal activity level and desired affect, Mrs. Reed said.

"This website projects the amount of food you should eat from each food group, offers a food tracker that will make you more aware of the food you've consumed and tracks what you consume for up to a year," she said. "Remember, that you're also not going to lose any weight unless you're consuming enough calories in all the food group categories."

In conjunction with being aware of what you're putting into your body also pay attention to portion sizes.

Mrs. Reed illustrates portion size trickery in class by using a common nutrition label, such as bread.

"Who makes a sandwich with just one piece of bread?" she asked, pointing out that the amount of calories listed is for one slice of bread, not two. "Serving size is the kind of thing that you need to look for."

Over the years, portion sizes have grown.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that since 1977, hamburger size has increased nearly 23 percent, with 97 more calories. French fry portions have grown by 16 percent and soft drinks by 52 percent. And the average portion of salty snacks grew by 60 percent, with an extra 93 calories.

Where healthy eating habits are important, it is also important to remember to drink enough water on a daily basis.

Water is necessary for your body to digest and absorb vitamins and nutrients. It also detoxifies the liver and kidneys, and carries away waste from the body

People who do not drink enough water feel lethargic and generate headaches, muscle aches and cramps.

Water is a natural appetite suppressant, so developing a good water drinking habit can be a long-term aid in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, according to author Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj.

Most times, hunger is the body asking for water, not food, Dr. Batmanghelidj states in his book, "Your Body's Many Cries for Water", a principle that is echoed by Mrs. Reed in the healthy living class.

"Your body cannot distinguish between dehydration and hunger," Mrs. Reed said. "Therefore, you will feel less fatigued and hungry if you consume the standard 8 to 12 glasses of water a day."

Being conscious of portion sizes, eating proportionally from the different food groups, consuming enough water and not falling for fad diets will allow people to balance their diet with their lifestyle and feel healthier as a result.

For more information on proper nutrition, call Mrs. Reed at 606-2221.

This article is the first in a four-part series on factors that contribute to a healthy, positive mental state.