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Tinker worker loses nearly 70 pounds during recent AFMC Lean Challenge

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Jimmy Nation is a big fat loser.

By 67 pounds, to be exact.

"I did all right," said Mr. Nation, who lost the weight as a recent participant in the third annual Tinker Lean Challenge hosted by the Air Force Materiel Command's Civilian Health Promotion Services.

A production controller with the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group, Mr. Nation joined the challenge in an effort to lose weight and get healthy after a recent health screening revealed high blood sugar levels for the 56-year-old, a warning sign of impending diabetes induced by being overweight.

"It got me scared into it," he said. "I'm getting ready to retire and going into retirement with that high a level and weight was kind of scary."

Nearly 50 people participated in this year's 10-week challenge, which ended in July. The participants, grouped into teams of six, earned FitLinxx points based on the amount of weight lost and the amount of exercise done. The goal of the challenge is not just to lose weight, but to become fit, says 1st Lt. Joshua Gaines, assistant director of the Gerrity Fitness and Sports Center.

"The people that do it have a lot of fun," says Lieutenant Gaines.

A former aircraft electrician, Mr. Nation stayed fit by being busy on the flightline and jogging in his spare time. But a change of jobs and injuries soon brought on the pounds.

"I used to go from aircraft to aircraft out on the flightline so I had no trouble keeping the weight off," he said. "Sitting at a desk, it's kind of different."

Also, Mr. Nation said, his food intake remained the same although he no longer exercised. The excess calories added up until he tipped the scales at 306 pounds.

Eventually, his daughter talked him into joining Weight Watchers. That, combined with the eye-opening health screening, prompted Mr. Nation to make a change.

"Most days I walk at least two or three miles a day and up to five miles a day three or four times a week," he said. "And the weight just started falling off."

Initially starting at a slow pace, Mr. Nation and his daughter now power through their walks, gaining valuable cardiovascular exercise. As a team, they've even placed in recent health walks.

Mr. Nation now keeps close tabs on what he eats, recording his intake in either a Weight Watchers book or online after every meal. The written record allows him to see at a glance what's going in and how many calories it's worth. "That's the main thing," he said, "keeping track of what you eat."

Mr. Nation said he'll stay with his new, healthier routine after he retires in January. The routine, he says, is now a part of his lifestyle. He even managed to lose 5 pounds while on vacation recently.

"It's easier now," he says. "For me, it's become a habit."