Tag Archives: navy body fat standards

Juiced and Loving It

Former Major League Baseball slugger Jose Canseco wrote a book in which he described his use of performance enhancing drugs, or steroids. The book not only detailed his use but made accusations that many players were using such substances helped to reveal a culture in MLB that saw many players using while owners and management turned a blind eye. My version of being “juiced” to borrow Canseco’s book title is far different. I prefer citrus and other fruits run trough a blender to anything that I might have to inject with a needle. I don’t like needles or shots. 10 years of allergy shots  given 1-2 times a week as a kid cured me of that.

For 30 years in the military I have struggled with being in my weight standards. My problem is that I am undertall. just a bit about 5 and a half feet tall with a barrel chest and thick body build.  But in the military which is ruled by tall skinny people with the exception of Army Chief of Staff Ray Odinero defines undertall as overweight, even if you are in otherwise excellent physical condition and can kick ass on the Physical Fitness Test. The older you are the harder it gets, especially when the services are downsizing, no pun intended.

Since I entered the Army in 1981 until now the standards for physical readiness have increased. In fact to score an equivalent score to what I needed to get a maximum score in the Army in the 1980s I have to do as much or more. My weight limit is basically what I had to meet when I was in my 20s. Now I don’t know about you but not many people in their 50s are anywhere close to their physical condition when they were in their 20s and most civilian employers don’t care so long as you can do the job.  As a 52 year old in the Navy I have to meet weight, body fat and physical standards that are little different from when I first entered the Army over 30 years ago. I am not complaining but that is the way life is, as some say in the Navy “choose your rate choose your fate.” I chose to continue to serve as an old person in an organization which is designed for young people. The men and women that I entered the military back in 1981 are almost all retired or have otherwise left the military. I am now a dinosaur. When I entered the Army if you were over 50 you were exempt from the standards. the same in the Navy. It is not that way now. Fat people are easy targets when ranks need to be thinned, no pun intended.

My body type is a prime target. I am for all practical matters a fireplug. Depending on my height on a given day I can be 66” or 67” tall, which in the Navy is a difference f 5 pounds. Thus if I go beyond the maximum weight on the weigh for my height in I am subjected to a Body Fat Composition determined by a highly subjective measurement of my abdomen and neck.  In the year following my tour in Iraq when I was physically, emotionally and spiritually a wreck I tipped the scales a bit too heavy and was taped. I passed the physical fitness test with aplomb both times but because I was over my body fat I failed both times. In the Navy if you fail 3 times (weight/body fat/PT test) in 4 years you are out.

Thus I ended up on what I call the “BCA (Body Composition Analysis) Death Watch. This means that if I fail the weight standards again before 2014 I am out. As I mentioned I am have a fireplug body build. Even way under my official weight limit I am not skinny and since my neck is not thick if I fail the weight limit I am probably going to be near, at or over my body fat limit no matter how hard I try. Thus I need to be under the weight limit.

I didn’t have a real problem with this until I came back from Iraq in 2008  Then everything went to hell. I gained a lot of weight, suffered from PTSD, severe depression, loss of faith and had a number of nagging physical injuries that I kept re-injuring. I self medicated with beer and donuts. Tasted great, made me feel better but made me fat. Nothing like 4-6 hot and fresh Krispy Kreme Glazed donuts with a couple of good amber lagers to wash them down just before bed. However as good tasting and satisfying as the combination is it is not healthy and I don’t recommend it, unless done in severe moderation which was not my habit back then.

Now it has been a couple of years since I failed a BCA. I have worked hard, but not without struggle. I gained more weight than I wanted to after I broke my leg last summer and was really afraid to do much on it. However as it healed I began to test my physical endurance and helped by a switch of running shoes, enabled me to really get back in shape. For the first time since before I deployed to Iraq in 2007 I ran over 7 miles last weekend. I have developed a really good conditioning regimen that exercises all of my body and supplement it with running on the beach near my apartment. But exercise is only part of the equation. The other part is diet.

Since I gained more weight than I wanted over the winter I had to find a way to shred it without resorting to starvation type diets. What I found was my blender. Yes most parts are edible. Actually no, it was what I put in the blender and what I am now loving. My mix which produces about a liter of juice follows:

2 medium Ruby Red Grapefruit, 1 Banana, 1 Medium Navel Orange, 2 cups Strawberries (Halved)  8 ounces water

I lover this. I drink this during the day rather than eating donuts and high fat/sodium junk foods and then follow up with a healthy dinner, low in fat but rich and balanced with appropriate amounts of proteins, carbohydrates etc…. Once in a while I will splurge and have a big burger or pizza and an occasional dessert but generally I have switched over to healthy items taken in moderation. I also did not have to stop drinking beer which I have with dinner every night. The result was that I lost weight and feel better. In fact after I passed my weigh in today I had more of my juice before going out for a big burger reward.  When I came home from dinner I made another batch of juice. I like it and plan to continue it because like I said I like it. I figure now why not? If I keep up my physical conditioning while watching my diet I will be better off and in the fall during the next Physical Readiness cycle I will not have to change habits.

For physical conditioning I alternate running on the beach with doing a type of circuit training that I designed to fit me. I have a course that is about 4/10th of a mile. I run it and at a predetermined point stop and do 25 sit-ups, 15-20 oblique sit-ups on each side, 70-100 flutter kicks and 15-25 push ups. I then stand up, start running and repeat. I try to do this for at least an hour pausing only to tie my shoes if they come undone. In an hour this means I run about 4 miles, do 150-250 push ups, 250 regular sit ups, 300-400 oblique sit-ups and 700-1000 flutter kicks during the work out. As I get in better  shape each week my number of repetitions has increased on each exercise and my running distance has increased. It is a good thing. I have to think my old assistant who was my body guard in Iraq, RP1 Nelson Lebron for helping me figure out something that would work for me. Nelson is a beast and has been on Team USA and the All Navy Team in Mixed Martial Arts and was a Gold Gloves Boxer.

My blood pressure and cholesterol always surprise my doctors because they are better than most people younger than me. Part of this has to be genetics but part is conditioning, diet and hard work.

As far as overall physical condition I am happy and pleasantly amused that at age 52 I can outdo many younger people who should by all accounts leave me in the dirt.

Reward (But in Moderation): The American Burger at Rucker John’s Emerald Isle

I am blessed that I have recovered from injury and am back in shape. It has taken a lot of work but it is worth it. I feel better and it is a good thing. Tonight I celebrated with a big burger and a couple of beers at a local restaurant. Tomorrow I will do my juice, get in a strong workout and eat a healthy dinner. However I may continue my celebration with a dinner at the local Mexican restaurant before going back to salads, soups or small pasta dishes with an occasional steak or burger.

Here’s to health.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, Military, PTSD, sports and life

A New Start…Life off the Fat Boy Program

Back in Standards 

“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” Bob Feller

One of the biggest effects of my post-Iraq PTSD crash was how I tried to cope with this multi-faceted beast. Of course psychologically and spiritually I was in the toilet so much so that I was in the midst of a spiritual crisis so great that I was for all practical purposes an agnostic.  I struggled to hold myself together during 2008 and early 2009 trying to believe again and keep in shape. To compensate for my lack of belief, depression and the other nasty effects of PTSD such as night terrors, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, flashbacks I threw myself totally into work on the critical care units of the hospital I was serving. I finished my Masters Degree program and worked hard to better our hospital’s Clinical Pastoral Education Program and served on various committees including the Ethics Committee.  It was too much and the collapse deepened so I sought other coping mechanisms. I turned to comfort food and drink as a way to cope, especially food that was bad for me and way too much very good beer.

After my physical fitness test and weigh in during April of 2009 I lost all control of the latter two. While I had been drinking more since my return from Iraq than before the deployment in the spring of 2009 it became a problem.  I would leave work and on days when the Norfolk Tides were in town I would take to my season ticket seat in Section 102 Row B Seat 2 and seek refuge from my problems.  The ballpark and baseball helped bring some peace to my soul, but it would only last for 3 hours.  At the ballpark I would drink two to three beers with a chili dog and fries and maybe a pretzel, peanuts or ice cream.  After the game I would swing by the Krispy Crème Donut shop on the way home and pick up a dozen hot and fresh glazed donuts. I would then get on my computer and write on this site. While writing I would down three to six of the donuts with another two to four beers and repeat the cycle the next day for the rest of the home stand. On other nights I would go over to get donuts and drink more beer with them often after eating a heavy meal with very good beer at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Town Center.  By November I weighed 194 pounds and though I passed the PT test with a very good score for someone my age I was way over my weight and body fat limits. Thereafter it was a struggle to get below 180 pounds. I failed my next body composition assessment by a percentage point and though scoring well enough to qualify for the DOD waiver which would have taken me off of the program it was not approved.  I weighed in weekly and continued to improve my physical condition to the point that I was within the body fat standard by the time I left that duty assignment I transferred before the next official physical fitness assessment and got to my new assignment after the period was over.  Thus I remained on the program.

To those that have never experienced life in any military branch Fat Boy or Girl program it is humiliating, at least if you are a military professional.  There is a stigma to being fat because the military is run by tall skinny people.  Those of us of the under tall variety understand this stigma very well even when we are within standards.  I know a good number of good Soldiers, Sailors and Marines put out of the military because they did not meet their service body fat and weight standards.  Many like me are those suffering the effects of war and just trying to cope with life.  Others are men and women who are suffering the effects of time with shrinking bodies due to spinal disc compression and other injuries, illnesses and the slowing of metabolism which conspire against them. The military is a young person’s game and 51 year old 30 year veteran relics like me are in the minority.  For me the physical requirements are little different than when I first went on active duty in 1983. Back then I thought that when you got older you would catch a few breaks. Well in the age of budget cutting and a shrinking military force those standards continue to tighten and few breaks are to be found.

Bursting at the seams in my Summer Whites in 2009, this was not a comfortable uniform at the time, now it is very loose

While I had lost weight and body fat I was still over my weight limit.  The body fat measurement in the Navy is the measuring tape around the neck and the fattest part of the belly.  It is a terribly subjective and according to many scientific studies inaccurate test.  Nonetheless if you are over the weight limit you must be taped.  I didn’t want to go through that again so I decided that I was going to start really eating healthy and diversifying my exercise regimen.  When I arrived at my new assignment I weighed 184 pounds and during the winter added a few more pounds. At the beginning of January I bought a digital scale and began to weigh myself several times a week. I stopped the comfort foods except for an occasional hamburger or piece of pizza.  Even if I ate a hamburger I omitted the fries and held the cheese and mayo. I began to look at the nutritional information on everything that I ate even looking up restaurant data to ensure that I had the healthiest food that I also liked, it does no good to eat healthy if you hate what you are eating because you don’t stick with it.  I cut back on my drinking a lot, even going to Yuengling Light Beer at home.  I counted every calorie and measured calories burned. If I went over on one thing I compensated rather than continuing as if I had not.

As winter became spring I noticed a difference, I was weighing less and all of my clothes continued to get loose to the point that things that I could not get into during the fall were baggy and some nearly falling off.  As the date approached my scales had me near the limit for a half inch below my real height just in case I got a bad measurement on my height, five pounds is five pounds.  I felt a lot of stress over the week and could feel every muscle in my back completely tense to the point that I was in pain. I weighed in Friday at 169 pounds and was six pounds below my weight limit and one pound below the lower height limit.  I have lost all 25 pounds that I gained during that horrible period of my life. On Monday I will take the physical fitness test something that I never have a problem doing well on.  When I do that I will be officially off the program.

Last night I was invited to do the invocation at the Navy Nurse Corps Birthday Ball at Camp LeJeune. I eased into my Mess Dress Blue uniform which last May I could barely squeeze my body into and in which I looked terrible.  The uniform was loose and fit very well. I went to the ball and had a wonderful time with my colleagues from the Naval Hospital and their guests.  I made sure that I had a friend take the picture which accompanies this post.

For me this is a comeback. I still have my struggles with PTSD but on the whole on the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of life I am doing much better. Yes I still struggle at times and experience some of the manifestations of PTSD and of my spiritual crisis but I am not collapsing when something shakes me like I was between 2008 and even into 2010.

Had I failed the body composition assessment I could have been separated from the Navy and while I probably would have been able to retire it would have been a most humiliating way to leave the service.  Instead as long as I am alive and haven’t done anything incredibly stupid I will be promoted to Commander on September 1st and continue to be able to serve God’s people in the Navy for years to come. Of course I cannot fail a physical fitness assessment for the next two years but now that I have my diet stabilized and composed of things that I like and live in a place at the Island Hermitage where I love to run, walk and bike I do not expect to ever fail that again. My goal is to get back to the weight that I was when I was commissioned as an Army Officer in 1983, 158 pounds and keep it there. Thus my task is still incomplete.  I have succeeded in my first goal and now it is time to complete the deal and live healthy from here on out.

Today is a new opportunity and I am putting past failures behind.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, healthcare, Military, PTSD, US Navy