by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – If it seemed like Health and Wellness Center registered dietitian Julie Anderson was trying to gross out the audience, she was.
She showed slides of how the artery of a person who eats too many fatty chicken wings starts to resemble the chicken wings. She also showed a photo of processed chicken meat in a swirly pink mess ready to be turned into chicken nuggets.
It was all part of the 21st Space Wing’s health initiative to encourage Airmen to eat more fruits and veggies and foods closer to their natural state, Ms. Anderson said.
“If anything is ever called mechanically separated meat and it’s pink in color, it’s probably not that close to its natural state anymore,” she said.
Being healthy is part of being a good Wingman, said Col. Stephen N. Whiting, 21st Space Wing commander. He invited Ms. Anderson and Staff Sgt. Donald Wheat, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 21st Space Wing mental health clinic, to discuss healthy eating and mental health resiliency during the Wingman Day events, Feb. 18, which kicked off in Hangar 140 with some toe-tapping, country western songs by the U.S. Air Force Academy Band Wild Blue Country. The day’s events also included small group sessions to discuss resiliency core skills and team building exercises.
Colonel Whiting said he knows mass Wingman Days get mixed reviews. But, he said, the issue of health and wellness cannot be stressed enough. Just in the last few months the 21st Space Wing has lost an active duty Airman, a contractor and a spouse to suicide, he said.
So, he wanted to take some time to talk about a healthy lifestyle – it’s one way to bounce back when life gets tough, he said. Wingman Day is set aside for Airmen to get reconnected, Colonel Whiting said. He said he hoped Airmen would leave the day feeling better and being better.
A recent survey of active duty military personnel shows that they eat less than 10 percent of the recommended five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day, Ms. Anderson said.
“The problem with that is if we are not consuming fruits and vegetables, then we are consuming more protein, high fat meats, more carbohydrates – and this increases our risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” she said.
Ms. Anderson said an easy way to watch what you eat is to use the “plate method.” Using a nine-inch plate, fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables; one quarter of the plate should be grains or starches, like rice or pasta; and one quarter should be a lean meat protein – meat or fish – and should be the size of your palm.
Using this method, she said, reduces overall calorie intake over time.
Starting in March, which is National Nutrition Month, Ms. Anderson will place yellow stickers on the shelves in the base commissary to indicate which foods are, “HAWC Approved” – meaning Ms. Anderson has done all the calorie counting and read the nutrition labels for you.
“Hopefully, this will help you make nutritious decisions for you and your family,” she said.
“If you don’t remember anything else from today, remember this: if you were to cut out one beer a day, or one Starbucks mochaccino or one regular soda or one energy drink, you could lose 22 pounds in one year,” she said. “It’s a small thing to do to lose 22 pounds.”
And hey, eat your fruits and veggies.
Sergeant Wheat described resiliency as the ability to bounce back.
“There is a reason why we continue to bring these issues up,” he said. “We continue to be at risk. Every time you turn your listening ears off you forget that someone next to you might need help.”
Resiliency is about staying positive and telling yourself that you can handle the stresses coming your way.
“If you think you can’t handle something, you won’t,” he said.
Being resilient takes practice, he said. “You can’t just watch sports and get better at sports,” he said.
Sergeant Wheat encouraged Airmen to practice being better listeners and better Wingmen. Every time someone considers suicide, someone else knew that the person was going through stress, he said.
“They just assumed the person could handle it,” he said.
Air Force Instruction 36-2618 makes it easy for Airmen to be good Wingmen, he said. The instruction says, “it’s your responsibility to take care of not only your own emotional wellness, but the wellness of everyone around you,” Sergeant Wheat said.
Colonel Whiting encouraged Airmen to take advantage of the resources available on base. None of the resources are meant to derail careers. Instead, they are meant to help Airmen stay 100 percent mission ready.
“I’m not asking you do anything that I don’t do myself,” Colonel Whiting said. “I have a weekly meeting with the chaplain. Part of that meeting is to talk about the chapel as it is a commander’s program. But, I take advantage of that confidentiality as well. The chaplain is a resource for me to talk to when something is going on and I need to talk with someone.”
For nutrition advice:
Before going on a crash diet or reaching for that fast food burger, call the Health and Wellness Center, 556-4292 and find out about nutrition classes or set up an appointment with Julie Anderson, the dietitian.
For mental health help, call:
l Medical providers for physical problems due to stress, 556-2273
l Individual therapy, groups and classes through Mental Health Clinic or TriCare, call 556-7804
l Chaplains, 556-4442
l After hours call the Peterson Installation Control Center at 56-4555 for an on-call mental health pro- vider or chaplain, or go to the nearest emergency room