Army H.e.a.l.t.h. Arsenal
January, 2017

A Fresh Start to the New Year

With the holiday season behind us, now is the perfect time to harness renewed motivation and get on track with our personal goals. For those of us who are looking to improve our health and fitness, there are four key areas which research indicates have a high influence on reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. The four areas of focus are: nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and mindfulness practice.

At Army H.E.A.L.T.H., we focus on these four key areas throughout the entire year. Usually we focus on one area per newsletter. This January, we are devoting the entire newsletter to all four areas. We will break down each area of focus into three doable, but impactful goals. It is important to remember that these goals are meant to serve as core references and not meant to be accomplished ALL at once. Rather, as your set your goals, reference this list as a good place to start.


Right-sized Rations
Portion size refers to the amount of food on our plate, or the amount we consume. Learning how to estimate portion size is key for those who are tracking calories in an effort to lose weight. For starters, we need to familiarize ourselves with the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. portion estimation guide. Knowing simple hacks such as one portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, can save time and calories. This allows us to spend less time weighing our food and more time enjoying it.

Label Lowdown
The nutrition label is our best friend when it comes to choosing the best foods for weight loss. It offers all the information we need to make an informed decision. A quick hack is to use the 5% and 20% rule. Try to eat foods that contain less than 5% of the recommended daily value for total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. For fiber, vitamins, and minerals, try to eat foods with at least 20% of the recommended daily value.

Sugar Busting
Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas, fruit juices, coffee drinks, and sports drinks, are one of the largest sources of added sugar and excess calories in the typical American diet. Additionally, they offer little, if any, nutritional value. Just one 20-ounce soda contains 65 grams of sugar and 240 calories. It’s easy to see how even just one soda could drastically interfere with weight loss efforts.

Try to replace sugar-sweetened beverages with water or unsweetened tea. We can add lemon, lime, and other fruits to water and tea to enhance their flavor. It’s important not to simply replace soda with diet or sugar-free soda, as research tells us that diet soda consumption is also associated with unwanted weight gain and other adverse health effects.


Minutes that Matter
Research has shown that practicing gratitude for only 5 minutes each day is associated with increased time spent exercising, increased overall life satisfaction, and increased amounts of happiness in addition to decreased instances of depression. Those who practice gratitude are also more likely to have positive social relationships and physical health, especially regarding stress and sleep. Sleep quality and quantity and sleep latency (time to fall asleep) are all positively affected when we practice gratitude.

Don’t Dare Compare
Comparing ourselves to others will almost always result in negative feelings. As Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparing yourself to others is the thief of joy”. Everyone comes from a different background, has different life experiences, looks different, and is presently enduring a different set of circumstances. Comparing ourselves to others is not a measure of success, but is often a measure of your own insecurities, and the practice of continual self-comparison is a way to continue to cultivate those insecurities.

Cultivate the Habit of Being Grateful
Start a gratitude journal or get in the habit of beginning or ending each day acknowledging (bringing into your mind) several things we are grateful for. Gratitude puts situations into perspective. It helps us realize what we have and, therefore, lessens our need for wanting more all the time- more of anything, e.g. physical needs, emotional needs, material desires. Gratitude strengthens relationships, improves health, reduces stress, and, in general, makes people happier.

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Physical Activity

Active Living
One of the most common reasons people list as a barrier to working out is time. Instead of saying “I will go to the gym next week”, try a more time specific goal, such as, “I will go to the gym before work on Monday. I will leave the house at 6:00 am.”. By scheduling exercise into our day, we will find ways to make our schedule work around it. If we plan to work out every morning before work, we may find that laying out our workout and work clothes, pre-setting the coffee, and meal-prepping the night before, are all ways to help accommodate our new routine.

Short, Yet Meaningful
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) interspaces quick movements with short breaks. The movement portion is performed at a high intensity. This type of brief, all-out-effort exercise yields many of the same health benefits as distance or endurance training, but we don’t have to exercise as long and most of it can be done with body weight alone. Although 7 minutes is the minimum amount of time required to attain benefits from HIIT, it is recommended that you repeat the 7-minute workout 3-4 times. If you’re low on time, try breaking up each segment throughout the day.

Mix it Up
This is a big one! We are inundated with advertisements featuring people running on treadmills in an effort to shed holiday weight gain. But, the truth is that cardiovascular exercise alone is not the best way to lose weight. Strength training is crucial to build muscle and increase your metabolic rate. When we lift weights and do other muscle building exercises, we continue to burn calories long after the workout session is over.


Same Time, Same Place
Creating a regular bedtime routine and sticking to it is just as important for adults as it is for children. Our body has a natural circadian rhythm that depends largely on our sticking to a routine. When we do the same thing each night before bed, our body starts to recognize the routine and anticipate that sleep is coming soon. The body then responds by prepping for sleep in its own way (i.e. lower body temps, release of melatonin). These steps help to bring on sleep more quickly and reduce night waking.

Sack Out Sooner
Believe it or not, we should not feel sleepy during the day. Daytime sleepiness is a sign that we are not getting enough sleep at night. It is surprising how may people have just accepted daytime sleepiness as a part of “normal“ life. Instead of just “accepting it” or downing an extra cup of coffee, try to go to bed earlier. We can start by moving our bedtime back by a half hour. We must stick to our earlier bedtime, even if we don’t feel sleepy. Eventually our body will adjust. We can keep moving our bedtime earlier by one half hour until we wake feeling refreshed and notice our daytime sleepiness is only occasional.

Environment is key
The ideal sleep environment is one that involves all of your senses!
  • Touch. Make sure that we have a comfortable mattress and pillows. Blankets should be able to keep us warm, without overheating. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that our thermostat be set at 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • See. The ideal bedroom is dark. Use light-blocking curtains to keep out unwanted light. Don’t forget about artificial light too. Leave electronic devices (including TVs, cellphones, and laptops) out of the bedroom. These devices emit blue light which has been shown to increase the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.

  • Hear. Our brain continues to register noises even after we have fallen asleep. Something like a barking dog or a TV can cause us to be restless even when we don’t fully wake up. Try to eliminate all sources of noise. If there is a noisy neighbor, try using a fan or white noise maker. Ambient noise machines can help block out the sources of noise that are out of our control.

  • Smell. Our sense of smell can impact our sleep, for better or worse. Certain scents, such as lavender and vanilla, can help the body relax and prepare for sleep. Additionally, freshly washed sheets can also help bring on sleep. Strong or unpleasant scents (e.g. garbage, coffee) can have a negative impact on sleep. Again, this is because our brain continues to process our environmental stimuli, even after we have fallen asleep.

  • Taste. What we eat and drink in the hours before bed can affect our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. A good rule of thumb is to avoid caffeine and alcohol at least 6 hours prior to bedtime. On the other hand, foods that contain Tryptophan can help us to feel drowsy. Besides turkey, other Tryptophan containing foods are eggs, chicken, fish, and nuts.

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