A new year marks a new you

by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class John Kotara
Health.mil

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — January brings a new year, and an opportunity to develop a fresh new you. Whether it’s exercise, eating healthy, better sleep, or quitting a bad habit, one small change can lead to positive outcomes.

Changes in lifestyle don’t have to be drastic to be effective. Small changes in nutrition, exercise and a healthier lifestyle now can lead you toward your goal.

“It’s all about taking persistent action towards achieving your health and wellness goals, no matter how big or small the action may be,” said Navy Lt. Neville S. Willoughby, Health Promotion and Wellness Program Director at the U.S, Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

“Some change is always better than no change,” Willoughby said. “Many people with busy lifestyles take an all-or-none approach to diet and exercise, meaning that if they can’t fully commit to a particular diet or spend an hour plus at the gym, they don’t even bother. Consistent behavior – even if it’s a small change – instills a can-do mindset, which helps achieve larger goals.”

For many, changing their diet is the first step in the right direction. Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for readiness and personal resilience. For servicemembers, remaining under the body composition assessment standards will help keep you healthy and on the job.

“If your body doesn’t have the appropriate vitamins and nutrients to aid with recovery, weight management, heart health, and strength/endurance-building, the benefits of exercise may not be fully realized or at all,” said Willoughby. “The key is to drink plenty of water (no sugary drinks/coffee or sodas), consume as much leafy greens as possible, eat mostly lean meats, and limit simple carbs. I’m a big fan of frozen, steamable vegetable packs. They’re flavorful, inexpensive, and quick and easy for either a side or entire meal - five minutes in the microwave is all it takes.”

Willoughby also believes that, in addition to a nutritional diet, exercise is the key to a healthy lifestyle.

“Establishing that consistency eventually becomes your lifestyle, rather than another phase that comes and goes,” said Willoughby. “Treating exercise like an enjoyable, routine part of your day makes it seem less of a “burden” and more of a positive lifestyle. There’s a lot of scientific evidence that shows regular exercise greatly contributes to healthier, restful sleep and helps prevent insomnia. On the other side, quality sleep is vital to maximizing the efficacy of a healthy diet and exercise regimen as it aids the body’s metabolic functions and muscle recovery.”

Willoughby maintains that the benefits of exercise go beyond looking healthy and improve many facets of overall fitness. Physical readiness throughout the fleet will ensure our military is medically ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

“As we shift our focus to increasing readiness and lethality, our health and wellness are of the utmost importance,” said Willoughby. “We can’t expect to be a medically ready and ready medical force without a strong emphasis on healthy habits. With the exponential rise in healthcare costs largely attributed to the effects of poor diet and exercise habits, a preventive approach is key.”

No matter what your goals are for the New Year, taking steps, however small, towards a healthy lifestyle is beneficial and can be started at any time.

“We should look into ways to leverage technology as an alternate way to achieve our health goals,” said Willoughby. “You just have to do the research and find what fits your current lifestyle, then go for it!”

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