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Training and Education Command

United States Marine Corps
Semper Fit program combats holiday treats

By Lance Cpl. Rebecca Lamont | | January 15, 2010

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Ron S. Rivera, fitness center supervisor, measures fat percentage with a pinch caliber test Jan. 8 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego fitness center. Recruiter school students who participated in the "Maintain, Don't Gain" program had their body fat percentage measured and got weighed in every week.

Ron S. Rivera, fitness center supervisor, measures fat percentage with a pinch caliber test Jan. 8 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego fitness center. Recruiter school students who participated in the "Maintain, Don't Gain" program had their body fat percentage measured and got weighed in every week. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Rebecca A. Lamont)


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Cpl. Deborah Young, customer service clerk, finance office, uses the cardio equipment Jan. 8 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego fitness center. Participants in the "Maintain, Don't Gain" program also used the equipment to maintain their weight over the holidays.

Cpl. Deborah Young, customer service clerk, finance office, uses the cardio equipment Jan. 8 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego fitness center. Participants in the "Maintain, Don't Gain" program also used the equipment to maintain their weight over the holidays. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Rebecca A. Lamont)


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Gym goers use installed wall mirrors to ensure proper posture at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego fitness center Jan. 8, as they work toward their fitness goals after the holidays. Participants in the "Maintain, Don't Gain" program used the information offered during the program to maintain their weight after the holidays as well.

Gym goers use installed wall mirrors to ensure proper posture at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego fitness center Jan. 8, as they work toward their fitness goals after the holidays. Participants in the "Maintain, Don't Gain" program used the information offered during the program to maintain their weight after the holidays as well. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Rebecca A. Lamont)


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MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- During the holiday season, it's common for individuals to kick back and indulge in delicious home looked food and seemingly endless amounts of sweets. Consequently, shirts and pants are noticeably fitting more snugly than before.

With this in mind, Semper Fit hosted the "Maintain, Don't Gain" holiday challenge which was designed to help individuals maintain their weight Nov. 30 through Jan. 8.

"I've seen people gain up to 15 pounds over the holiday season," said Ron S. Rivera, fitness center supervisor. "This program was inspired by the studies we have researched concluding that the most weight is gained around the holidays due to the stress and excessive eating."

This common tendency was combated by channeling the individuals' energies during this program so their stress didn't negatively affect them, Rivera said. 

Through this self-directed program, participants received tips and strategies for adopting or maintaining healthy behaviors by using health-conscious recipes, stress management tools, physical activity suggestions, holiday nutrition class and encouragement.

"We offered tips such as encouraging the participants to find a running buddy or organize a routine group exercise with others who value fitness and nutrition," said Rivera. "It's important to surround yourself with others who will support you in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as well as give you the feeling of camaraderie because exercising alone is less encouraging."

The program also recommended participants stay active so they eliminate their time sitting at home and eating. Individuals can stay active by using the free services the fitness center offers including exercise classes and a personal trainer, Rivera said.

During the nutrition lectures, they explained that drinking causes an increase in appetite and unhealthy eating while intoxicated, Rivera said.

Another tip is to eat small healthy meals before attending big home-cooked dinners, which will decrease the chances of eating a lot of food with less nutrition.

"This program can have long-term effects if the individual applies the tips and suggestions throughout the year," said Rivera. "Our goal is to stay healthy so everyone, particularly active-duty members, can stay on top of their game."

Participants received a wellness checkbook to record their physical activity, a food log book to record their intake, and were weighed every week.  At the completion of the program, if the participants maintained their weight within two pounds, they became eligible for raffle prizes such as an iPod shuffle, massages and gift certificates.

Recruiter's school students and instructors were presented with an additional challenge. They had their body fat percentage measured by a caliber pinch test once a week.

"It's important for recruiters to stay healthy during the job," said Rivera.

There may be changes in next year's program to help with the holiday blues in addition to the holiday bulge, Rivera said.

There may be additional classes on lifestyle changes and focus on managing stress during the holidays and increase the duration of the program as well, said Rivera.

Most people say it's an easy program, but they are surprised to find out they gained six pounds over the holidays, Rivera said. However, when he asked them if they followed the tips and suggestions, they admitted they hadn't.

"This program helped me maintain my weight and made me feel a lot stronger," said Army Sgt. Holly R. Cook, animal care sergeant, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, San Diego. "If I didn't participate in the program, I know I would have gained weight."



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