A common New Year’s resolution for many people is to lose weight, but losing weight is not easy. There are many resources available at military installations, through TRICARE or Military OneSource to help you reach your weight loss goals. (Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen graphic illustration by Graham Snodgrass).

Public health nutritionist shares strategies, resources for meeting New Year weight loss goals

The New Year allows us to start fresh with a new calendar and new beginnings, which may prompt a resolution for a positive change in our behavior. A common New Year’s resolution for many people is to lose weight, but losing weight is not easy (as most of us know). So if you are serious about losing weight, there are many resources at your military installation, through TRICARE or Military OneSource, to help you reach your weight loss goals.

Explore your resources to help you with your goals
Weight loss has proven to be more successful with professional counseling, shared accountability and enhanced motivation. Consider the following options to see what might be available at your local military installation. Depending on your location, a variety of in-person and virtual options are offered by these resources:

• You can personalize your weight loss goals with a registered dietitian nutritionist, or RDN, at your local military treatment facility. An RDN will look closely at your eating habits and help you set your weight loss goals. Usually he or she will meet with you over a series of sessions to help refine your weight loss goals with a target of losing about 1 to 1.5 pounds per week until you reach your goal. Contact your local MTF Nutrition Clinic to make an appointment for a group class or individual appointments.

• The Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness human performance teams of athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, physical and occupational therapists, cognitive performance specialists, and RDNs offer an interdisciplinary approach to meet your weight loss goals and optimize performance.

• Army/Armed Forces Wellness Centers offer a review of your current health habits and an exploration of your personal health and wellness goals. Services also include sleep and health education, exercise testing and prescription, stress management, and body composition testing. The AWC/AFWC also offers metabolic testing to find out how many calories you need to meet your objectives. Knowing your calorie goals can guide your food choices, thus empowering you to meet your weight loss goals. Learn more at https://p3.amedd.army.mil/army-wellness-center-locations

• The ShipShape Program is an intensive weight management program for active-duty Sailors and Marines, Government civilians, retirees as well as family members who exceed healthy body weight or have weight-related health problems. This no-cost program consists of four sessions that cover the primary components of weight loss: nutrition, physical activity, mindset and sleep. Contact your local military treatment facility, command fitness leader or health promotion staff member for your ShipShape Program point of contact.

• The Air Force/Space Force offers a Best S.E.L.F program that addresses four components of lifestyle modification (nutrition, activity, mindfulness and sleep) to facilitate loss of weight and body fat. The curriculum consists of five sessions designed to help service members seeking to lose or maintain their weight and enjoy an overall healthy lifestyle. Several Air Force/Space Force locations also offer a 12-session group-lifestyle balance, or GLB, program called Healthcare to Health, or H2H. This program, led by specially trained lifestyle coaches, addresses obesity and has been proven to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes through weight reduction and increased physical activity.

• Military OneSource offers health coaching. Losing weight, managing stress, tackling transitions – if you're ready to make some life changes, free consultations with a Military OneSource health and wellness coach can help. Learn more at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/confidential-help/specialty-consultations/health-wellness-coaching/

• TRICARE also offers weight loss options if you meet specific conditions. TRICARE covers intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions for obesity. These services promote sustained weight loss (12 to 26 sessions in a year). These weight loss services must be provided by a TRICARE-authorized provider, such as a physician or a registered dietitian working under a physician’s supervision, for TRICARE to cover them. To qualify for these services, you must be—
o An adult with a Body Mass Index of 30 kg/m2 or higher, or
o A child or adolescent with a BMI value greater than the 95th percentile.
Services include, but aren’t limited to—
o Behavioral management activities, such as setting weight-loss goals;
o Guidance regarding physical activity and dietary changes;
o Strategies for maintaining lifestyle changes;
o Addressing your personal barriers to change; and
o Teaching you self-monitoring behaviors to track your weight loss progress.

• TRICARE also covers surgical obesity treatment for non-active duty service members. This includes gastric bypass surgery and other surgeries for weight loss. You must meet certain conditions for TRICARE to cover such treatment. Click on the link below to learn about obesity treatment and the medical conditions which may make weight loss surgery medically appropriate for you. Through a referral from your primary care provider, TRICARE will cover medically necessary services provided by RDNs. Learn more at https://newsroom.tricare.mil/Articles/Article/2913796/need-help-managing-your-weight-see-what-tricare-covers

Research shows that if individuals continue with a program from more than six months to one year, they are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off. With assistance from a health professional, those seeking to lose weight can explore different options to determine what might work best for them. While some individuals like having a very specific meal plan to follow, others may prefer a health coaching approach using SMART goals. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.

Here are some SMART goals to consider for weight loss:

• To track or not to track? Tracking your weight-loss program in an application or a journal creates awareness and can help you focus on the calories and macronutrients of your diet. Tracking can help you see eating patterns and is also useful in providing your RDN or health coach with appropriate feedback. You don’t have to track every day. Determine what works best for you to stay accountable and on track. A SMART goal might be: “My goal is to record all of my food and beverage choices and portions for at least 3 days each week for the next month.”

• Do you stress-eat? For many individuals, stress, anxiety, boredom, or using food as a reward can derail your weight loss progress. Strategies to avoid temptations can be addressed in a variety of ways. A SMART goal might be: “My goal is to not have tempting foods in the house or office. Starting with developing a grocery list and not purchasing any tempting foods for the next month.” Another strategy to short-circuit stress eating is to make a list of distractions – like going on a walk, starting a household chore, or calling a friend – that you can engage in when the temptation to stress-eat hits.

• What to drink? Liquid calories can add up quickly. In social situations, set a limit of how many alcoholic beverages you will drink during the event. Alcohol, juice, energy drinks, fancy coffees and regular sodas add extra calories to your plan. Limit yourself to one to two of these drinks and then transition to water or a non-calorie beverage. Be particularly cautious with alcohol; not only are alcoholic drinks often high in calories, they can also lower your inhibitions and make you more likely to go back for seconds or cut a particularly large slice of dessert. A SMART goal might be: “My goal is to limit my alcohol consumption to one drink on one night a week for the next month.”

• Do you meal-prep? Spending some time on your days off to cook a few meals in advance can help with the “empty refrigerator syndrome.” Leftovers make a great lunch for the next day, or dinner the following night. Even if you don’t meal-prep, spend some time considering your food for the week. Make a grocery list of choices that support your goals – like fresh fruit to pack with lunches, or healthy and quick breakfast options. Then fill your fridge with foods that encourage you to eat healthier. A SMART goal might be: “My goal is to prepare a healthy lunch with no more than 600 calories on the nights before at least 3 workdays per week.”

• How many fiber-rich foods are in your diet? Fiber is the best food to eat for weight loss. Fiber is the indigestible component of plant-based foods: fruits and veggies, legumes, whole grains, and certain seeds, such as chia seeds. Fiber slows down the rate of digestion, which is why we feel satisfied longer after a high-fiber meal and are less inclined to reach for a snack later on. A SMART goal might be: “My goal is to eat two fruits a day.”

• Are you well hydrated? Your body functions better when you are well hydrated. Choose low- or no-calorie beverages like plain water, water infused with fruit, or unsweetened tea or zero calorie beverages. A SMART goal might be “Keep a filled water bottle at my desk.”

Trying new options or new resources will give you a boost toward meeting your goals for health. By June, your weight loss or health-related goals will match your New Year’s resolutions – a new reason to celebrate!

The Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen advances Joint Force health protection with agile public health enterprise solutions in support of the National Defense Strategy.

NOTE: The mention of any non-federal entity and/or its products is for informational purposes only, and not to be construed or interpreted, in any manner, as federal endorsement.

By Joanna Reagan

Public Health Nutritionist, Defense Centers for Public Health - Aberdeen