Category Archives: Behavioral Fitness

Fueling Your Body and Mind with Food

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The relationship between food and health is complex. The foods we eat have a chemical effect on the brain and impact how we feel. Eating processed foods—from nutritional supplements like protein powders to combo meals from your favorite drive-thru—can keep your body from accessing the beneficial nutrients it needs to help you feel and perform your best. Why is this? Many of the essential and naturally occurring nutrients are stripped, altered or replaced during processing. This includes fiber, phytonutrients and other healthy compounds.

Current studies show that a balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein promotes optimal health and better mood. These whole foods are made of vitamins and minerals that are broken down during digestion, making them available for the body to use as energy and for essential processes like cellular repair. When essential components are missing, we experience a decline in energy, alertness and mood.

Supplement vs. Whole Food

Supplements typically use artificial or synthetic vitamins and minerals, which may not offer the same benefits as whole foods. The human body is designed to recognize natural and whole ingredients, so it isn’t able to utilize the man-made vitamins and minerals as effectively.

Many supplements isolate particular nutrients and leave out essentials that the body would otherwise use if the food was consumed in its natural form. Take whey protein powder supplements for example. While this milk-based protein produces a rapid increase in amino acids needed for muscle growth and repair, casein protein can also help prevent muscle breakdown (which in turn, supports growth). Where do both whey and casein naturally occur? In milk! In general, service members consume enough protein through their food and don’t actually need to supplement their protein intake.

Comfort Food vs. Whole Food

Our mood often influences what we eat, but what we eat can also influence our mood. Consider these scenarios:

  • Two Sailors are experiencing similar stressors. They’re in the midst of preparing for permanent change of station (PCS) moves that are causing a lot of strain in their households and on their wallets. At work, they’re both hit with short-fused tasks that their current supervisors are keeping close watch on, in addition to the other things they have to get done.
  • When Sailor A gets home, tired and frustrated, he reaches for cookies, potato chips and a soda and heads to the couch. He starts to get his mind off of everything, but about 20 minutes later he’s back to feeling drained and irritated.
  • When Sailor B gets home, tired and frustrated, he goes for some leftover grilled chicken and vegetables in the refrigerator and a glass of water. His problems don’t go away after he eats, but he’s able to regroup and shift focus to the things he can get done at home to support the move without feeling angry or annoyed.

Why the different outcomes? The comfort foods Sailor A went for are highly processed, high in added sugar and fat, and low in nutrients. While they may have an emotional appeal (especially if they were his go-to comforts as children) those effects wore off quickly. The vitamins and nutrients he needed to rebalance his mood, such as serotonin, were missing or less effective because they were in a man-made form that wasn’t as accessible to his body. This emotional rollercoaster can increase feelings of anxiety, depression and fatigue, causing the craving cycle to begin again. Sailor B got the benefits of serotonin, boosting his mood and giving him the energy to do something productive. Not only did he get his mind off of his day, but he’ll sleep better and be more focused and alert.

How to make changes

Eating healthy or healthier doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Here are a few ways to make the switch to whole or less processed foods:

  • Re-think fast food. For a quick and healthy meal, opt for a rotisserie chicken at your local grocery store, a salad and fresh fruit.
  • Shop the perimeter of your grocery store for fresh meats and produce. Most frozen food is good too; just skip items with gravies and sauces. Living in the barracks? Check out these tips to eat healthy while saving time, space and money.
  • Swap out your sugary snack stash for your favorite fresh fruits and vegetables; the original comfort foods. Pair them with 10-15 nuts or a tablespoon peanut butter or other healthy spread.
  • If going for a processed food (something that comes in a bag, box, container or package), aim for five ingredients or less. Watch out for high-fructose corn syrup and other hidden sugars.

Talk to your Health Promotions Office or Registered Dietitians (RD/N) office for more information and resources.

LT Pamela Gregory, OPNAV N17 Nutrition Program Manager, is a Registered Dietitian with nine years’ experience in counseling a wide variety of clientele on nutrition and health-related diseases/ topics. LT Gregory uses a functional nutrition approach to assist clients in their treatment phase.

References:

  1. (2015, Aug. 31). Is Whey Protein the way to go? Retrieved Jun. 21, 2017, from http://hprc-online.org/dietary-supplements/hprc-articles/is-whey-protein-helpful-to-optimize-performance.
  2. (2014, Jan. 2 ). Can Food Affect Your Mood. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2017, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/02/food-affects-mood.aspx
  3. (2012, Jan. 1) Journal of Food Science, 77 PP R11-R24.
  4. (1999). Impact of Processing on Food Safety. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 459 PP 99-106.

5 Small ACTs to Help You Chill Out

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Whether it’s strain and pressure within your unit as you work long hours to prepare for deployment, a disagreement with your spouse over something trivial that boils over, or a seemingly innocent debate with a friend that goes the wrong way, we can all expect to be blindsided by heated moments. Your reactions come quickly and before you know it, your heart is racing, your face is red and you’re saying the first thing that comes to mind (and that thing may not necessarily help the situation).

While disagreement and tension are normal and can even contribute to strengthening relationships, they can surely leave their mark if not carefully addressed. Unchecked anger and unresolved issues can fester, impacting the individuals directly involved, other colleagues or family members, and the mission at-hand. By taking a moment to be proactive, you can help to keep the pot from boiling over by exploring strategies to defuse intense situations.

Just in time for warmer weather and Mental Health Month, here are 5 Small ACTs to help you chill out:

Push Pause. The moment you see potential for a situation or conversation to escalate, call a time out. A lengthy explanation isn’t needed; just step back and offer to address things once all parties involved have had a chance to clear their heads and approach the problem calmly. Even if it’s just five minutes, creating some space between yourself and the issue can help you get a grasp on how you feel, what’s truly important and how you can work with others to move forward.

Breathe. This simple act is often taken for granted, but is an important first step in trying to get your emotional and physiological responses in check when the tension is rising. Taking a deep breath (two to three second inhale and exhale) can help to induce calm in the midst of calamity. If you have a few moments to yourself and can find a quiet space, try this Quick Fix Breathing Exercise or check out the exercises on the National Center for Telehealth and Technology’s Breathe2Relax app.

Laugh. Laughter can help thwart the release of stress hormones, kick-starting the production of hormones that are responsible for positively balancing your mood and promoting relaxation. Look at a funny GIF, head to your favorite blog or talk to someone who knows how to bring a smile to your face. A quick laugh can help you change the channel if you’re focused on a negative situation and enable you to approach a solution with a smile :).

Hit the gym, the track or the trails. You may find that your most productive days in the gym or your best run happen when you need to vent some frustration. Building exercise into your daily routine can help to burn negativity and rewire your brain after tense times. Whether it’s a run with a friend or mentor, weightlifting, interval training or yoga, turn to your favorite fitness regimen to maximize the mood-boost.

Communicate. If your situation involves conflict with another person, addressing it directly can lead to finding some common ground and getting things back on track sooner. Staying silent may only feed your emotions, leading to continued drama. When talking it out, try to use a neutral tone, make eye contact and explain how you perceived the issue or what led to the misunderstanding from your perspective. State that you would like to find a resolution that works for all parties involved (which may include compromising), and then actively listen to the other person or people involved. Instead of listening with the intent to dispute, make a point or interrupt, actually hear and process what the person is saying to you. Then restate it back in your own words to ensure that you have an understanding. Clarify whenever necessary and allow for natural silence, even when it may feel awkward. This will enable you to respond appropriately and meaningfully, minimizing the potential for a heated exchange. Other forms of communication may help you chill out by expressing your feelings, including journaling or speaking with a neutral person, such as a peer support advocate.

Before you land in your next heated moment, take some time to acknowledge what actions, words, topics or gestures are most likely to provoke you. Then note how you may react when these buttons are pushed. Taking this honest look at yourself proactively can help you keep off-the-cuff reactions at bay, enabling you to navigate issues calmly, learn from them and move forward. You may not be able to control others’ behavior or external situations, but with a little prep you can control your responses to them.

BONUS: Anger affecting your daily life? Check out this article from our partners at Real Warriors to help you identify your signs of anger and learn to navigate them in a healthy way. For more information on the Real Warriors campaign, visit www.realwarriors.net.

5 Benefits of Working Out with a Buddy

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog post provided courtesy of Guard Your Health. More information and tools are available at www.guardyourhealth.com.

We all know that staying fit and exercising is important. We also know that staying motivated to work out on a regular basis can be hard.

That’s why finding a good workout buddy is one of the smartest fitness moves you can make. Working out with a buddy can give you:

1. MOTIVATION

When you work out by yourself, it’s easy to lose motivation. A buddy will support you and cheer you on to help you reach your fitness goals.

2. ACCOUNTABILITY

It’s easy to bail on your own workout. But it’s much harder to ditch a workout when you know you’re going to be letting someone else down. Having a reliable workout buddy will help you stick to your goals.

3. FRIENDLY COMPETITION

As humans, we like to be competitive—even if it’s just good, friendly competition among friends. A buddy will challenge and push you to do more than you might do alone.

4. COMPANIONSHIP

Working out can be boring, especially during long cardio sessions. Having a buddy to talk with while working out will make the time go by faster.

5. WORKOUT VARIETY

A buddy can share new exercises or workouts so that you can switch up your routine. This will keep your workouts fresh, as well as keep you motivated to try new moves.

So who qualifies as a good workout buddy? Here are some tips of what to look for when choosing one:

  • A good attitude. You want someone who is encouraging and positive.
  • A compatible style of motivation. You may need a drill sergeant to get motivated, or maybe a cheerleader.
  • Similar schedules. You want someone who is dependable, as well as available to consistently work out with you at the same times.
  • Similar fitness goals. You need to share similar fitness goals to be effective workout partners.
  • You want someone who makes working out enjoyable and even fun.

Finding a workout buddy can be as easy as looking around the gym during your workout, or calling a fitness-minded friend.

WANT MORE?

 

Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of Guard Your Health (www.guardyourhealth.com), a health and medical readiness campaign for Army National Guard Soldiers and their families sponsored by the Army National Guard Chief Surgeon’s Office. Guard Your Health provides Army National Guard Soldiers with the information, motivation, and support to overcome challenges and make healthy decisions for themselves, their families, and their units. To learn more about improving your health, visit the Guard Your Health website, like “Guard Your Health” on Facebook, and follow @ARNGHealth on Twitter. For more tips to max your APFT and stay mission ready, subscribe to FitText, Guard Your Health’s text message program, by texting FIT to 703-997-6747.

Launching Soon: Navy’s Behavioral Health Quick Poll

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Let Your Voice Be Heard

Day-to-day Navy life can be stressful, and the 21st Century Sailor Office’s Operational Stress Control program wants to hear about it from YOU.

This month, 42,000 Sailors will have the opportunity to participate in the Navy’s Behavioral Health Quick Poll (BHQP). Insights and feedback provided will help to shape tools that the Navy develops to promote healthy stress navigation and resilience-building.

The poll—which is approved by the Chief of Naval Operations—examines the amount and sources of stress Sailors are experiencing, how Sailors react to stress and its impacts, as well as knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about available resources.

Participation in the BHQP takes less than ten minutes. The poll consists of 17 multiple choice questions that are completed and submitted online. Sailors will be invited to participate at random using a computer-generated “token” and will be notified of their selection via email. Participation is anonymous and responses cannot be traced back to an individual.

What is OSC?

The Navy Operational Stress Control (OSC) Program seeks to create an environment where Sailors, commands and families can thrive in the midst of stressful operations. The OSC Program is governed by OPNAVINST 6520.1A and offers courses for deckplate supervisors and unit leaders to better enable them to build trusting relationships with their Sailors, identify and manage stress, build resilience and strengthen their commitment to Every Sailor, Every Day.

In addition to these courses – which are delivered via mobile training teams (MTT) at no cost to the command – the OSC Program conducts research on several key issues impacting Sailors in their personal and operational environments, such as sleep deficits and the benefits of circadian watch bills.

Know Your Zone

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to check in with ourselves and each other. Adopting and incorporating ways to navigate life’s challenges in a healthy manner is a shared responsibility between Sailors, leaders and families. Participating in this year’s Behavioral Health Quick Poll is a great way to help the Navy become more aware of the stress issues that Sailors are currently facing in order to better support you, your command and your family. Together we can Be There for Every Sailor, Every Day.

For more information on the Navy OSC Program, including training and additional resources, visit http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/support/21st_Century_Sailor/osc/Pages/default.aspx.

Learn more about the Behavioral Health Quick Poll and get tips to help you and your family navigate stress by liking Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook (www.facebook.com/navstress) and following on Twitter (www.twitter.com/navstress).

Don’t Give Up, Get SMART

Sun up to sun up, NMCB 3 demonstrates commitment to preventing sexual assault

The holiday season and the first month of 2017 are behind us, and store shelves are now overflowing with heart shaped chocolates and cards. This may put you in a frame of mind to think about the relationships in your life, but what about your relationship with yourself? By this time your New Year’s resolutions may be starting to give way to work or family demands (or both), draining your motivation and dampening your outlook. Rather than shrugging it off and disappointedly telling yourself that you can try again next year for the umpteenth year in a row, put a little thought into how you can get back on track. Ask yourself not only what you want to accomplish, but by when, how you’ll do it and how you’ll track it, and why you’re doing it. In other words, it’s time to get SMART:

Specific: Getting specific with your goals can help motivate action, upping your chances of success. For example, if your original New Year’s resolution was to read more—one of this year’s most popular resolutions[1]—optimize that goal by defining exactly what you’re working toward. “I will read one book per month” is a specific goal (and one that can help you strengthen your self-care routine too).

Measurable: You can track your progress toward reading because you’ve identified a quantity (in the above case, aiming for one book each month). Measurable goals can help move you in the right direction by keeping you motivated and aware, and helping you define achievement or reassess your approach.

Attainable: Set yourself up for success by making sure you have the right resources in place to achieve your resolution, including the right environment and mindset. If one of your resolutions is to eat two to three more servings of fruits and vegetables a day this year, are you willing to make these foods more accessible than the less healthy options in your kitchen or snack stash at work? Repeat your goal to yourself out loud, starting with “I will….” If you feel more committed to the idea but not the steps that you’ve outlined to get there, reassess. An attainable goal is one that may take some work, but through dedication and accountability can be achieved.

Realistic: It’s good to have high goals, but training for a marathon in one month when you have never run before is unrealistic and may be unhealthy. By taking into account your timeframe, resources, mindset and priorities; you can tweak this goal to work for you, rather than against you. To say “I will run my 1st marathon by December 2017” may be more realistic and attainable. Remember, there’s no benefit in sacrificing one area of your health (mental or physical) for another.

Timely: Anchor your goals within a time frame so that you can define success and stay accountable. Sometimes our best work is completed under a deadline, but remember, the other SMART rules apply (hint: attainable and realistic)!

Setting bite-sized SMART goals can help you achieve your overall resolution by making it easier to see progress and building healthier habits.  Examples may include:

  • I will swap one cup of coffee for eight ounces of water each day for one month.
  • I will walk one mile per day for two weeks and add one-quarter mile every two weeks.
  • I will deposit $25 each week into an Individual Retirement Account (a goal that you can automate for guaranteed success).

For accountability, keep a daily log to track your progress and setbacks (especially helpful if journaling is one of your resolutions). Setbacks are inevitable, so keep them in perspective – some days will be more challenging than others and you’re doing this to better yourself, not belittle yourself. You can also get an accountability partner with similar goals so that you can keep each other motivated and stay strong together. Don’t forget to celebrate successes big or small, but do so in a way that doesn’t conflict with your progress. Rewarding yourself with a chocolate cake for reaching a weight loss milestone won’t help your waistline in the long run and may lead to guilt.

Make 2017 your year to make things happen. Work SMARTer, not harder!

About the Author

LT Pamela Gregory, OPNAV N17 Nutrition Program Manager, is a Registered Dietitian with nine years’ experience in counseling a wide variety of clientele on nutrition and health-related diseases/ topics. LT Gregory uses a functional nutrition approach to assist clients in their treatment phase.

[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/2017-new-year-s-resolutions-most-popular-how-stick-them-n701891