So you’ve left the military and joined the 1st Civilian Division (CIVDIV), that proud collection of bearded fat-bodies. There’s no Staff Sergeant to scream you awake and make you run five miles before you’ve had coffee like in the Marines or Army. There’s no 1MC or Bosun’s whistle to annoy the bejesus out of you like in the Navy or Coast Guard. There’s no butler to gently rouse you with a tray of breakfast in bed and give you a back rub like in the Air Force. Now you’re sleeping in, getting fat, and can’t figure out why despite the fact that you're running a couple miles a week and lifting a few heavy things. Below is a collection of useful fitness and health information that the military should have taught you instead of wasting your time with endless PowerPoints and safety stand-downs.
The first thing to do is take a good hard honest look at yourself. Go ahead. Gross, right? Well, we can fix that. There is a hierarchy of fitness priorities much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Food, water, shelter, security, etc…).
The fitness hierarchy begins with nutrition. Nutrition is the all-important factor in whether you will be fat, thin, healthy, or sickly. YOU CAN NOT OUT-TRAIN A BAD DIET. Sorry. Your days of eating Cheetos and washing it down with Monster Energy drinks and dip are over if you want to stay fit. The only reason you got away with that in the military is you were young and you metabolism was on turbo mode. Now that you’re out, not burning as many calories daily, and your metabolism is slowing as you age, it’s going to catch up to you eventually. Most of don’t realize how many calories we burned daily in the service just running around the office.
Determining your nutritional needs is a simple matter of determining how many calories per day you should be eating. This requires a simple formula.
Body weight in pounds x 15 = daily caloric intake for maintaining weight.
(Assuming the person is getting an hour of exercise daily. If the person is more sedentary, try multiplying by 12.)
To lose weight at a steady pace of about one pound of actual fat (not water weight which fluctuates wildly every day) per week, we simply reduce caloric intake by about 20%; so we multiply by 12.
Therefore, a 200-pound person whose goal is 180 would calculate:
200 x 12 = 2400 cal/daily.
There are plenty of websites that will help you calculate this and what types of foods in what ratios should be eaten to maintain good health and fitness. Great, so now we know how MUCH we should be eating but now we need to figure out how to eat right and stay within that calorie target range. The following article will focus on different types of diets you may have heard of and give you some information on each.
Next in the hierarchy is physical activity. You should be no stranger to this from serving but there are many options in the civilian world. From weightlifting, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), monostructural activities such as running, cycling, and swimming, and sports, there are limitless ways to stay active. This next article will lay out some options with pros and cons.
The next rung up is lifestyle factors which include sleep, stress management, mental health, routine, discipline, and socialization just to name a few. These are all factors which set the conditions for you to maintain good habits, stay motivated, and let your body be healthy. Many people, when they leave the service, find that the sudden lack of structure becomes difficult to deal with. They default to a state of limited activity and can’t seem to find the motivation to keep active and healthy. Or the inverse, they suddenly enter a new job that makes fitting healthy habits into their day difficult. We’ll discuss a few items in my next article that can help.
The best tool to build these new habits is a logbook. I know it sounds annoying, but it will keep you honest and highlight negative trends to help you correct them. After just a few weeks, you’ll have a much better understanding of your diet, exercise, and lifestyle needs and probably won’t need the logbook anymore.
About the Author:
Chris Walker is a Marine Artillery Officer and JTAC who served eight years on active duty, deploying to Afghanistan and on two Marine Expeditionary Units with infantry, ANGLICO, and Force Reconnaissance units. He is still serving in the reserves, lives in New York, and recently founded the military-themed apparel company BootSOC.