Mission Nutrition: Keeping Sailors On Course

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Monique K. Hilley, Commander, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs

CFL course, NASWI, FitnessWASHINGTON (NNS) — With fitness failure discharges up 40 percent and the Navy continuing to increase its focus on physical readiness, it is more important than ever for a Sailor to ensure they are maintaining their physical condition through a lifestyle of fitness and nutrition.

The times of Sailors being able to get by passing the physical readiness test (PRT) and getting a waiver for the body composition assessment (BCA) are long gone. Also long gone are the visuals of a gaggle of chubby Sailors out running along the waterfront in whatever clothes they threw on that morning, sweating heavily and breathing even more heavily, as they finish their mandatory mile and a half for the second time that year.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has made physical fitness one of the key components of his 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative. There is a laser-sharp focus on current PRT regulations, frequency and type of command fitness sessions, and Navy resources available to provide Sailors with the information they need to maintain peak physical readiness both at sea and ashore.

This information is provided through two invaluable tools offered by Commander, Navy Installations Command’s (CNIC) Navy Fitness Program. Both the Mission Nutrition course and the Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling Series (NOFFS) offer Sailors information in a classroom setting, as well as an individually tailored program to put that knowledge to use in their daily lives.

In this case, knowledge is power. By fueling properly, Sailors will increase their fitness capabilities and will be far more likely to reach their overall physical readiness goals.

Mission Nutrition is a standardized, science-based nutrition education workshop designed to educate Sailors, family members and retirees on nutrition topics that affect them including obesity, the impact of sedentary lifestyles, weight gain prevention and weight loss, eating for optimal health and performance, mindless and emotional eating, fad diets, supplements, eating on the go, performance nutrition, meal planning, grocery shopping strategies and food preparation safety.

“Being a former Sailor, I feel this course provides relevant and applicable information for the Sailor and their families to use in a variety of situations. Whether Sailors are looking to improve their performance, overall health, trying to lose weight, become a better food shopper, or simply trying to be more educated in nutrition, this course has it covered,” said Nicholas Aures, CNIC Navy fitness performance enhancement dietitian.

CNIC offers Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) fitness specialists and culinary specialists a four-day Facilitator Course that provides facilitators with increased knowledge and skills to teach their installation population. The facilitators’ course is offered twice a year by Aures, a registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning specialist who joined Navy Fitness as the performance enhancement dietitian in June 2012.

Mission Nutrition is offered to Sailors, family members and retirees through certified mission nutrition instructors at Navy fitness centers worldwide. Currently, there are more than 100 certified instructors at 55 different bases within the 12 Navy Regions.

“I am writing to commend you and your staff for the Mission Nutrition Program,” wrote Sharon Eugene, the wife of a retired service member. “I found the information provided in the classes informative and relevant for anyone looking to improve their eating habits and also make healthier food choices. I do believe when programs like this one is provided to Navy personnel and their families, the benefits will be toward Navy Fitness.”

Obesity and Health

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, research has shown that those that are considered overweight or obese (body mass index of 25 or higher) are at a greater risk for the following: coronary heart disease, liver and gallbladder disease, Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, cancers, hypertension, dyslipidemia stroke, osteoarthritis, and gynecological problems.

The 2008 DoD Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Active Duty Military Personnel states that 60 percent of all active duty service members are classified as overweight. It goes further to state that 62 percent of all Sailors are considered overweight, with 14 percent of those considered obese.

Mission Nutrition is working to reverse the growing trend of overweight and obese Sailors through education and awareness.

“The instructors for the February sessions, Emily Deason, fitness coordinator; Angela Rudd, fitness specialist; and Mia Kuhn, fitness specialist, made the sessions clear and easy to understand,” said Eugene. “They each brought a different personal spin to the classes that were well prepared and refreshing from their different perspectives. Emily’s view of the medical benefits of good nutrition, Angela’s suggestions as a Navy wife and mother of the importance of shopping habits and meal planning, and Mia’s input of being in control of our choices. I felt they wanted to arm me with the Mission Nutrition program for my well-being.”

Fad Diet and Exercise Programs

Faced with the increased crackdown on physical readiness standards and a push to lose weight or be discharged from the military, many Sailors are looking for quick weight loss methods, many of which can be harmful or even fatal.

“Many fad diet programs don’t provide the “whole picture” when it comes to nutritional information, and often times only focus on shaping a desirable ” body image” for the short term with no emphasis on long term health,” said Aures.

Many for-profit fitness companies, such as CrossFit, P90X, Insanity, Gym Jones and others, add scientifically unproven nutrition programs to their offerings to seemingly increase the value of their product. As a result, many Sailors and family members seek information from companies who market potentially harmful dietary supplements, fad diets, and other weight loss products.

“In contrast, Mission Nutrition gives Sailors the knowledge and tools to make their own decisions on a variety of nutrition topics,” said Aures. “It also concentrates on forming a number of healthy habits that can be sustained throughout their lifetime. With so many programs charging fees for information that is far too often inaccurate, Mission Nutrition provides an abundance of reliable resources for the Sailor to utilize free of charge.”

Benefits Realized

In a three-month post course survey conducted on base attendees in September:

  • 88 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the Mission Nutrition course helped them create an effective plan for their personal weight and nutrition goals
  • 96 percent would recommend the course to someone else
  • 98 percent would recommend the instructor to someone else
  • 92 percent rate the overall course experience as Excellent
  • 65 percent report information learned in the course impacted their productivity at work
  • 88 percent believe their attendance at Mission Nutrition has positively impacted the foods they eat
  • 78 percent say their course attendance has positively affected the foods their family eats
  • 80 percent have increased their physical activity since attending Mission Nutrition
  • 94 percent report a better understanding of nutrition due to attending the course
  • 78 percent have increased how often they eat meals prepared at home

Also, the vast majority of course attendees report that they have increased their fruit and vegetable intake, reduced their sodium intake, paid more attention to pre- and post-exercise meals, reduced saturated and Trans fat consumption, monitored their hydration status more closely, prepared more meals and eaten more meals from home, adjusted their caloric needs to more appropriate levels, reduced their soft drink consumption, increased their physical activity, paid more attention to portion size and have become more aware of why they are eating.

“My knowledge of food choices, serving size, good carbohydrates, and the correct ratio of protein to carbs were sharpened from the classes, as well as many other interesting topics that were discussed,” said Eugene. “I went in the sessions being a person who avoided carbohydrates and graduated a person knowing the right ones for me. The result for me is I have a more energized workout that keeps me on the road to fitness.”

Helpful Resources

All Mission Nutrition course attendees receive a certificate and a workbook to continue to work on their nutrition goals long after completing the course. They also receive information on many resources which anyone can access, including the Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System, which includes a Virtual Trainer and Virtual Meal Builder. NOFFS is available at www.navyfitness.org/noffs.

Other useful resources include:

“The website provides information in each of our program areas, a one-stop shop, if you will,” said Lisa Sexauer, CNIC Fitnesss, Sports and Deployed Forces Support program manager.

Upcoming changes to the website include adding a nutrition tip of the week which will be broadcast via the Navy Fitness Facebook page as well, located at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Navy-Fitness/368681091650.

Also, the NOFFS virtual meal builder will be further enhanced so users will be able to populate their daily meal plan with their favorite high octane foods via the site or app and the healthy recipe section will continue to grow.

“Quite frankly, the potential is endless and we have no intention to allow this website to become stagnant,” said Sexauer.

With the plethora of information available to Sailors and their families, the potential to meet nutrition and fitness goals is also endless. CNIC encourages all service members to use the resources available to ensure they are working toward a lifestyle of fitness which will improve their overall health and increase personal readiness, in turn improving the Navy’s readiness as a Global Force for Good.

For more news from Commander, Navy Installations Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cni/.