By Scott Prater
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Pfc. Latasha Deflorimonte faced a desperate situation when she walked into the Army Wellness Center (AWC) last October. The fueler for the 4th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, was overweight, suffered from injuries to both knees and was coming off an unrelated surgery.
Her physical health made her undeployable, so while her unit deployed, Deflorimonte remained at Fort Carson as part of the unit’s rear detachment. Flagged for no favorable actions and close to separation from the Army, the Columbus, Georgia, native sought help wherever she could.
“I needed to lose weight to stay in the Army,” she said. “And, I couldn’t run, so I thought my situation was hopeless.”
Her unit leadership suggested she enter the Human Performance Optimization Program on post. Part of that program requires participants to have their body-fat composition measured. So, when Deflorimonte visited the AWC for the test, health educators informed her about other services they offer and told her she would benefit from taking the metabolic rate test as well.
“I was skeptical about taking that test,” she said. “I didn’t see how knowing my metabolic rate would help me.”
Glen Williams, AWC director at Fort Carson, informed her that the metabolic rate test shows how many calories a specific person burns at rest every day. Knowing this rate helps people learn how many calories they can consume and how many they must burn through exercise every day in order to lose weight.
AWC advisers and educators also help clients set fitness goals and create nutrition plans.
Though Deflorimonte’s situation could be considered fairly drastic, AWC staff directed her to take small fitness and nutrition steps during the first few weeks of her new fitness journey.
“We call this, meeting a person where they are,” Williams said. “People are more likely to maintain small behavioral changes and make them habits, than if they try to make big changes all at once.”
For instance, Deflorimonte said she loved dark soda, especially Dr Pepper, but she learned through the AWC staff that soda is just empty calories.
“Cutting soda was an easy step,” she said. “I have one occasionally now, but I don’t feel (well) afterward. I don’t miss soda.”
Deflorimonte replaced soda with water and now drinks more than eight glasses a day. She also traded her former breakfast (cereal with whole milk and toast) for hard boiled eggs and fruit.
During the next few weeks, she stopped eating fast food (McDonald’s and Burger King were her favorite lunch spots) and she cut breads and most dairy products from her daily diet.
In the meantime, she ramped up the amount of physical activity she performed every day.
“I’ve always done PT (physical training) every day, but with my knees the way they are, I can’t run,” she said. “So, I walk the McKibben (Physical Fitness Center) track. Since October, I began lengthening my walk distance. It takes me longer, but it’s worth it.”
She also began an elliptical-machine routine after work. Three miles every night after work, never fail.
“I had to stick to that elliptical routine,” she said. “I believe that’s where I made a lot of my progress.”
Following her nightly workout, Deflorimonte substituted her normally high-caloric dinner for a meal consisting of grilled chicken breast and asparagus.
“I also limit portion sizes and choose healthy snacks between meals,” she said.
She mixed up her dinner entrees to add variety, but most meals involve some sort of vegetable and grilled boneless and skinless chicken.
“Then I made sure to get to bed early,” she said. “Proper sleep is vital to losing body fat and maintaining a healthy routine.”
A month or so later, she took her first follow up bod-pod test and it showed that she has lost 3 percent of body fat.
“I was disappointed that I hadn’t lost a bunch of weight,” she said. “But I already started to look different and the AWC staff assured me the weight would come off.”
Three and half months later, Deflorimonte has dropped 28 pounds and 10 percent body fat. She covers 3 miles on the elliptical machine in half the time. And more importantly, she’s pulled away from the edge of Army separation and will be promoted to specialist at the end of January.
“I’m excited to see my friends when they come back from deployment,” she said. “They haven’t seen me since they left. I’ll be a specialist. I have all favorable actions now, and I’m deployable. The staff members at AWC, Sierra Faulk, Stephanie Timmons and Mr. Williams helped me so much, and I’m very thankful.”