2018-12-21 / News Update

Determined to ‘lose weight, Friday,feelOctober 13, 2017 ·great’1 again

Eric Pilgrim
Fort Knox News


Mary (Tina) McDonald, a health promotion technician at the Army Wellness Center, measures Eric Pilgrim’s body composition by calculating height and weight, checking blood pressure, and then measuring body fat percentage in what is known as the BOD POD. Brent Newell / Fort Knox Army Wellness Center Mary (Tina) McDonald, a health promotion technician at the Army Wellness Center, measures Eric Pilgrim’s body composition by calculating height and weight, checking blood pressure, and then measuring body fat percentage in what is known as the BOD POD. Brent Newell / Fort Knox Army Wellness Center Editor’s Note: This and subsequent articles are a first-person account of one man’s attempt to get back to a healthier lifestyle after retiring from the U.S. Army in 2013.

I’m fat!

There, I said it.

I just learned this fact today -- like I hadn’t already known for years -- in detail through a series of tests and assessments I underwent at the Fort Knox Army Wellness Center (AWC) earlier in the week. I’m fat, but I’m no longer satisfied with that.

The tests scientifically proved that I’m fat, even borderline obese. The four-person team at the center spent about two hours with me to check my body composition, resting metabolic rate and general fitness levels. The fitness portion was broken down into a VO2 sub-maximal test conducted on a treadmill, back and forearm stress tests to determine functional ability, and a simple stretching test to determine hamstring and lower back flexibility.

The team combines all of the test results with a counseling session to get to the ground truth about where a client is and where they need to be. The team tailors the information to the needs of each client.

My biggest need is to lose weight. According to Kelley Frans, AWC lead health educator, two basic actions will actually put into motion the elements I need to lose the weight and feel healthier: diet and exercise.

“Yep, the most effective way to lose the excess body fat is going to be a combination of the exercise and healthy dietary habits,” says Frans.

I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. Well, it certainly wasn’t what I wanted to hear, at least. I wanted to learn about some new jazzed up celebrity diet with a cool sounding name and mega-wow promises to help me “lose 30 pounds in just two weeks without lifting a finger.”

Instead, I hear “diet and exercise.”

But hold on; there’s more to this seemingly simplistic phrase than just a simplistic plan to “religiously count every calorie you stick down your throat, work out like a mad dog, and voila! You’ll be looking like Brad Pitt in no time.”

The AWC team doesn’t fluff stuff up like that. They don’t fill their clients’ heads with pleasant platitudes or hippie hype. They go for the jugular with straight talk about where you are and where you need to be, then they go well beyond the extra mile to put all that talk into practice by coaching you for as long as needed -- the “you” includes military units, Soldiers and their families, retirees and their families, federal civilian employees and contractors. Folks like you and me.

Take me, for instance.

I’ve struggled with borderline high blood pressure and high cholesterol for years. Because of this and other issues, my wife Gail and I have tried some interesting diets; many that made sense at the time and seemed like the right way to go.

This year we tried a few variations of the low-carb diet.

About 10 months ago, I was packing 226 pounds. I felt every bit of it, too. My breathing was labored when climbing stairs, my belly looked more like a smooth basketball than a half-dozen eggs, and easy tasks like putting on socks, picking up items from the ground, and tying my shoes were proving more and more difficult. My belt was starting to pinch the bottom of my gut, and embarrassment was leading me to avoid tucking in my shirts -- like people couldn’t clearly see that I was fat, and now saw me as also slovenly.

The realization that I was bigger than I had ever been made me determined to get back to my target weight of 190 -- a weight I once enjoyed without lifting a finger. Now, it seems completely unattainable, but in January, Gail and I determined that we would watch our carbs and record our progress.

It worked. We both lost weight reasonably quickly. Within two months, she had lost about 8 pounds and I lost closer to 10. Encouraged, I continued with the diet for another month, losing another 4 pounds. Then I hit a wall.

I tried doubling down, focusing more on healthy proteins and even less on carbs. That didn’t work. What I ended up doing was eating more food in general while losing the food-burning energy needed to continue drop weight. I ended up gaining more weight as a result.

Since eventually giving up on the diet, I have crept back up the scale to 218. Granted, that’s not the 226 I started with, but I’m well on my way to getting back there. I feel the familiar problems coming back.

Some experts tell us that failed diets have a way of causing us to balloon up well beyond our previous weight, making our new situation more dire than before we started the diet. Not only that, I recently learned that one of my relatives, who has focused intently on the low-carb diet for the last year and is a strong advocate for it, now suffers from mysterious migraines and overall feelings of fatigue. She never had migraines before.

Health issues in general concern me, but so does my weight problem and the health issues related to it. Weighing 226 pounds is considered obese for my age and height, according to Frans.

Mary (Tina) McDonald, AWC health promotion technician, measured my body composition by calculating my height and weight, checking my blood pressure, and then measuring my body fat percentage in what is known as the BOD POD.

I sat still in the egg-shaped device sporting only a blue hat and spandex shorts while a series of what felt like air pressure pulses bounced off of me for about 45 seconds. This happened two times. Frans said the device is accurate within 1 percentage point of my true body fat percentage, and compares it with my fat-free muscular percentage.

“The military monitors the [body mass index], but we really only use the BOD POD. It’s a truer indicator of what’s actually going on inside,” said Frans. “For instance, someone who is short, that is very lean, is going to register overweight or obese, but it doesn’t mean they are unhealthier. Maybe they’re just short for their weight. Leaner, denser - they don’t catch it in the BMI.”

Frans pointed to my assessment printout: “We can catch it and show it here in the body composition.”

The printout recorded my percentage of fat as 32.2, with my fat free mass being 67.8 percent. In the body fat rating, anything 30 and above is considered risky and highlighted in red.

I’m no stranger to exercise. Having served in the Army for 22 years, I know how to get in shape and stay there.

A year-and-a-half ago, my wife and I decided that exercise would be our solution to feeling better. I concluded that because age was partly to blame for my weight gain, instead of worrying about losing weight, I would focus on strengthening my muscles. This would make me feel healthier, although in the back of my mind was the hope that exercise would also lead to weight loss, eventually.

And it did. I lost about 5 pounds in one month. Then life happened. I took a job at Fort Knox, and we had to pack up and move. The practically new weight gym and stationary cycle got packed up but unfortunately didn’t make the move. We had more important things to ship.

My determination to exercise also got packed up, as did the 5 pounds that I had lost but managed to find on the way to Kentucky.

Something needed to be done.

So when I finally said, “Enough!” the Army Wellness Center made sense as my next stop on my journey to getting back in shape. Besides Frans and McDonald, those who seek help at the center will also meet Jarrod Smith and Brent Newell. All four are knowledgeable, educated health experts who know how to help people achieve their goals.

For me, New Year’s resolutions are coming much earlier this time.

While others will be chasing all the best Christmas deals and fighting for that extra-special, one-of-akind holiday Barbie outfit that little Suzie must have, I’ll be focusing on what I plan to be my only resolution: to “lose weight and feel great.”

Why wait until Jan. 1, when you can start now?

Yeah, I’m fat, but I’m not planning to stay that way. My health matters to me and to my family. It’s the heart of the matter, so bring on Christmas! I got this.

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