Planning to Lose Weight in the New Year? Read These Valuable Lessons I Learned as a Navy Command Fitness Leader

When I was in the US Navy, I was in Office of Naval Intelligence Unit 0466 (ONI 0466), a reserve unit attached to the National Maritime Intelligence Center in Suitland, Maryland. When I was a Lieutenant Junior Grade, my commanding officer (CO), Captain Eileen Laubacher asked me to take the physical training reins and lead our unit’s fitness program as our Command Fitness Leader (CFL). I looked into the position and reported back to my CO that if I ran the program by the book, and ran it well, we’d have to things happen:

  1. Compliance and 100% participation
  2. Failures

I looked at the fitness records of our unit, and up until that point from 2009 (when I joined) to 2012 (when I became the CFL), our unit had neither a single failure of the physical fitness test (PFT) nor an overweight sailor in our weigh ins. I found this preposterous. Every unit had failures and overweight sailors every now and then. Following my CFL training, I returned to our unit with a sense of inspiration and energy.

During our first weigh-in, I had five sailors come in overweight, which meant they were put on a probation program, not allowed to participate in the PFT, and put on an enhanced physical training program.

One of the sailors was a petty officer third class, a newbie to the non-commissioned officer ranks. He weighed about 230 pounds, about 20 more than his height allowed him to be, according to the navy’s standards. I sat down with him and asked him about his diet, exercise program, and work habits. Specifically, I asked him about how much soda he drank, alcohol he consumed, and fasts food he ate. He answered all of my questions honestly, and his answers explain the lessons you should take away if you’re trying to lose weight.

The sailor told me that he drank two Mountain Dew sodas a day, had between two and three beers with dinner, and ate fast food a few times per week. He told me he didn’t have an exercise plan.

Considering how important it is to start new plans slowly and not shock your body’s system, I asked him to do three things:

  1. Switch to diet soda from the sugary Mountain Dews.
  2. Eat Subway or a “healthier” fast food
  3. Reduce his alcohol consumption from three drinks to one per night, and substitute a glass of water for the other(s).

Since I wasn’t a nutritionist, I couldn’t advise on a specific diet plan, but I could give overarching guidance on how to cut down on calorie intake.

The sailor came to me the next month and weighed in. He had dropped 18 points and was now within his weight limits. Although he hadn’t exercised anymore, he dropped the weight simply because of his eating and drinking habits, and I explained to him how it worked.

His Mountain Dew sodas were almost 600 calories combined, beers were between 100 and 200 calories each, and fast food was topping 1000 calories per meal. Even if he didn’t stop eating fast food, we were reducing his caloric intake from liquids by almost 1000 calories per day. And considering most people gain a pound about every 3,000 extra calories you don’t burn, you can see where his weight added up quickly, and more importantly, how it fell off when he cut out the liquids.

So, the lessons for your new year: stay away from sugary sodas, keep driving past the McDonald’s drive-thru, and reduce your alcohol consumption.

Your belly (and your heart, and blood pressure, and cholesterol, etc…and your wallet) will thank you.

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