Healthy Airmen

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. David Graak
  • 734th Air Mobility Squadron
What does being healthy mean to you? I would like to share a few findings on this topic with a little input from others, some research, a little reality and personal experience and a few recommendations. Curiosity sparked this topic, so I asked some people, "What does being healthy mean to you?" Some of the responses I received were to eat fruits and veggies, have a strong immune system, have high endurance or just to not be sick and stay in shape. Indeed, these are all healthy norms and/or indicators, but there are more.

While doing some online research I found that being healthy is broadly defined as, "A state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." This sounds familiar because it echoes the new culture of comprehensive airman fitness. An umbrella of four pillars: social, spiritual, mental and physical; all aimed at enhancing and reinforcing total wellbeing, instilling self confidence and improving resiliency.

Resiliency, in a sense, is an ability to act or react when tough times hit, and aids in coping and recovering from stressful situations, while reducing feelings of despair and loneliness. Stress is something we all experience and it actually helps in some ways. Under control, it can help when preparing for a test or completing requirements for a technical or college course. When it builds and is left uncontrolled, stress can be one of the biggest health problems in the U.S. I have learned firsthand when I've let stress build and go unchecked, it can really throw me off course.

To keep this brief, I will focus on two areas related to health and neutrally common to the Team Andersen community: diet and exercise. Maintenance and promotion of health requires a combination of effort, activity and smart choices. Keep in mind, what may work well for one may not be another's perfect recipe for success. For service members, simply going to mandatory unit physical training sessions and eating a salad now and then is not a prescription for success.

In terms of reality, there are "different strokes for different folk's," right? When it comes to current Air Force standards, some people have it made in the shade. Some can eat whatever they choose and walk a mile a day. On the flip side, others struggle in certain areas and require extra effort, self driven discipline and guidance. When it comes to poor fitness, I have discovered some don't put in as much effort as required or were unfamiliar with the fitness assessment component requirements of the PT test. Some people were also confused as to exactly where they stood physically leading into a fitness test. Bad on them, right? I agree that they knew it all along and failed to act, but this is not the case for all and a strong wingman may have come in handy here.
In my experience, being educated, aware and having a genuine interest in helping others when needed can sculpt and build a healthy lifestyle. Set and adhere to solid achievable goals, and know where you need to be. This has to be a year-round effort. Taking months off of working out and making a last-minute mad dash to meet the goal is not wise and rarely successful. I'll be the first to admit, it's not easy waking up early to work out or to choose a healthy item over a tasty one.

I have found that realistic goals in achievable time frames have a much better effect than a springboard overnight Hallelujah! or trying the "extremist" approach. When it comes to a diet, the term, "You are what you eat," is not a myth. Keep a close eye on what you consume and realize whether liquid or solid, it all counts. Apply self discipline and do that workout while cranking up the effort to ensure it is effective.

When it comes to nutrition, it doesn't mean you have to go completely without the unhealthy items you crave, but you have to keep a sense of reality. I use a personal reward system by setting a goal when I temporarily hop on the other side of the fence. I ensure I pay up front first. For instance, in a given week if I get a craving for a cheeseburger, pizza, or ice cream, my plan is to have three different workouts and pass a scale check so I can indulge a bit. Then my goal is accomplished and the reward earned. Always keep in mind, shaving down portion size and not eating late at night will pay off in the long run.

Bottom line, being healthy should be important to you, your family and your friends. It benefits the Air Force in terms of readiness and reduced healthcare and costs. Approach life with an optimistic outlook in meeting or exceeding goals and keep the excesses off your plate. Know the importance of making informed food choices and leading an active lifestyle and keep them balanced. Be honest with time and effort for a priceless return on investment. Lead by example and don't be selfish on your road to success, take time to help someone else in need of a little extra guidance and motivation. No one has a bigger interest or impact in your well being than yourself - be healthy.