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Air Force Materiel Command Airmen: Take the Team Lean Challenge!

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFMCNS) -- You have the desire to lose weight and change your eating and exercising behaviors, but find you just can't go it alone. 

Air Force Materiel Command's Team Lean Challenge may be the motivator you've been hoping for. The TLC is a command-wide initiative to promote and support weight loss for healthy living. It kicks off April 16 and runs through September 28, but enrollment begins March 19. It is part of the command's ongoing Wellness and Safety Campaign, or WSC, that debuted in May. 

Not only will the TLC provide you a support system to keep your personal weight-loss goals on track, but you're likely to make some friends in the process. 

"The TLC is based on the recognition that weight loss and behavioral change requires concerted effort, and is much more likely to be successful with the direct support of other people, specifically that of a team," said Lt. Col. John Leitnaker, AFMC Command Surgeon's office. "The program will enroll participants into five-person teams, which in turn will facilitate the team concept throughout units, installations and even the command." 

"Just like it has an impact on the nation, being overweight, coupled with poor exercise habits, has a significant bearing on the health, well-being and readiness of our AFMC military and civilian Airmen," said Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski, AFMC vice commander. "However, published medical reports have shown that significant reductions in health risk can be attained with even modest weight loss. Reports also show that working with other people to reach a goal can be far more easily accomplished than doing so on your own." 

There are many reasons to team up with the TLC, Colonel Leitnaker said. The team with the highest percentage of weight loss - not necessarily the amount of weight loss - wins the challenge. Awards will be presented for the winning team at each installation. The unit awards will be based on the greatest amount of weight lost per unit member (total amount of weight lost/number of unit members). The winning installation awards will be based on the same criteria. 

However, many people will be more motivated by things like decreased health risks, less joint pain, more energy and improved physical appearance, the colonel said. Still, others are already preparing for the changes in the active duty rating system and want to get the weight off before it contributes to a "does not meet standards" rating.

Accessing the Web site

The first step in joining the challenge is to log onto the online AFMC Wellness Support Center at www.AFMCwellness.com. Click on either AFMC Civilian or Active-Duty Wellness. Enter your login ID and password and you're ready to go - if you've already taken your health risk appraisal. If you haven't completed an HRA, you likely are asking yourself, "What is an HRA?" 

"The HRA is a key component of corporate wellness programs across America," said Gen. Bruce Carlson, AFMC commander. "It provides individualized, real-time, wellness-related information and feedback to workers, allowing them to make informed decisions in a number of important wellness categories." 

The HRA is a voluntary and anonymous initiative that is part of the command's overall movement toward a wellness-focused and safe work place, Colonel Leitnaker said. By providing access to information and resources tailored to their needs it helps each individual take charge of their own wellness. 

While it is voluntary, completion of the HRA is required to access the AFMC Wellness Web site, as well as to become a TLC team player.

Joining the TLC

Now that you have accessed the AFMC Wellness homepage, you're ready to begin your TLC journey. The first step is following the TLC prompt on the homepage. From there, you will go through an on-line enrollment process. If you are one of five members in a unit or on your base who would like to compose a team, command officials will do their best to fulfill your request, but cannot guarantee it. Otherwise, you will be teamed with four other TLC partners in weight loss. 

After registering, you will need to attend one of the weigh-ins sponsored by your local Health and Wellness Center, or HAWC, and Civilian Health Promotion Service. Both an initial weigh-in, between March 19 and April 13, and a final weigh-out, after the challenge concludes September 28, are required. The weigh-in is a prerequisite for being assigned to a team, Colonel Leitnaker said. 

Once your team has been identified, make the connection and begin building your game plan listing goals and how you want to make them happen. Determine where you want to meet and how often. Make sure to share with each other all the available resources located on and off your installation.

Making use of all your resources

Upon registering for the TLC at your local HAWC, you will be provided a packet with extensive guidance to help you succeed with your weight-loss goals, the colonel said.
Teams will have opportunities to share their progress through the TLC Web site, he said. For example, team players will be able to see pounds lost or gained (not actual weight of individuals) of their own team members. They also will be able to see the weight loss progress of other teams, but not that of the individual team members.
Additionally, teammates can have communication exchanges and encourage one another through their own team blog. Participants will hear from WSC leadership, as well, by receiving weekly support messages and other helpful information.

Don't forget your pedometer!

The calendar shows that spring, once again, will return March 21. With warmer temperatures on the rise, a great way to jump start your TLC program is to clip on your pedometer first thing in the morning and take some lengthier paths between parking lots and final destinations. 

AFMC debuted its "10,000 Steps a Day" walking campaign in June. Complimentary pedometers - which enable people to become more cognizant of their physical activity - will be distributed to participants at the time of their initial weigh-in. 

When beginning a walking program, Colonel Leitnaker advises people to remember that everyone has different physical abilities, so it is best to begin slowly and seek advice from your doctor before beginning an exercise program. 

The colonel provided the following rough guidelines for a beginning walking program. Remember, it takes approximately 2,000 steps to make a mile. 

* 6,000 or fewer steps per day 
Most people in this category are quite sedentary. You can significantly boost your steps by doing things as simple as parking farther away from stores or taking your children or dog for a walk. 
Recommended eight-week goal: 8,000 - 10,000 steps per day. 

 * 6,001 - 8,000 steps per day 
Moderately active. If in this range, most people are getting some activity but not enough to gain the benefits of an active lifestyle. Your activity can be increased, for example, by taking the stairs whenever possible or putting time aside after meals for a walk.
Recommended eight week goal: 10,001 - 12, 000 steps per day. 

* 8,001- 11,000 steps per day 
Active. Since activity is obviously present in your life, consider spicing things up a bit with some type of group exercise or sport. If you decide to keep walking, you might increase your walking distance with the same intensity or, increase the intensity of your exercise.
Recommended eight week goal: 12,001 - 15,000 steps per day. 

 * 11,001 - 20,000 steps per day 
Very Active.
If you are not already engaged in more challenging activities, consider adding exercise such as jogging or cycling or even team sports such as soccer or softball to your schedule. Try to think outside the box so that you don't get bored.
Recommended eight week goal: How many additional steps would you like to take?

Tips for losing weight safely

The Food and Drug Administration's Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following tips to help begin and maintain weight loss:

1. Exercise 30 minutes most days of the week. This helps you to use more calories than you eat.

2. Eat less fat and sugar. Fried and sugary foods top out your day's allotment of calories quickly. Plus, they often don't provide the other nutrients you need.

3. Eat a wide variety of foods. Variety helps you get vitamins and nutrients your body needs.

4. Don't buy into the dream of quick and easy weight loss. Too much of one thing means too little of the other things that provide you needed nutrients.

5. Seek more information.

Nutrition and fitness Web resources

Colonel Leitnaker said there are MANY online resources for nutrition and exercise behaviors. One excellent source of information is the Wellness Support Center at www.AFMCwellness.com. Here is a sampling of other resources available online:

General health information 
     www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/                      links to nutrition websites  
     www.hhs.gov                                       links to multiple topics 
     http://mypyramid.gov/                          food guide pyramid

Recipes and meal planning 
     www.5aday.com recipes, abstracts 
     www.mealsforyou.com recipes, meal plans  
     www.meals.com recipes, shopping lists 
     www.allrecipes.com recipes

Food records/calculators 
     www.caloriecontrol.org calorie counter 
     www.fitday.com food and activity record 
     www.sparkpeople.com food and activity record 
     www.calorieking.com calorie counter

Exercise information 
     www.runnersworld.com running and nutrition tips 
     www.acefitness.org general exercise information 
     www.humankinetics.com exercise books 
     www.runningnetwork.com training and nutrition tips

Supplements/alternative medicine 
     www.quackwatch.com consumer warnings 
     www.ods.od.nih.gov consumer education