By Wynnfred HokeJuly 28, 2021
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD – When you watch major sports teams play, do you ever think about the “behind the scenes” work that goes into producing a superior athlete? Professional sports teams have doctors, physical therapist, dietitians, strength and conditioning coaches, this list can go on and on. The point is, an athlete is an investment to a team. To keep this investment at its optimal performance, athletes get a lot of specialized treatment.
In comparison, the United States Army Soldier is an athlete that is trained for the rigors of physical and mental conflict. And, just like professional sports organizations, the Army has specialized teams known as Holistic Health and Fitness or H2F to ensure optimal readiness and that the fighting force is superior to any enemy.
The 42D Military Police Brigade had recently received an H2F team that integrated into the lowest levels of the ranks to ensure military police Soldiers are at their peak performance. One area specifically, nutrition, is vital in maintaining good health as well as preparing your body to withstand the rigors of the army.
The 42D MP BDE Dietitian, Lila Lehtola, CSSD, RD, LD, emphasized that the mission of the H2F dietitian and dietitian assistant is to deliver individual, group, and unit nutrition services and education to optimize Soldier performance, unit readiness, and mission success.
Lehtola was asked four questions on how to better help Soldiers living in the barracks understand H2F Dietitian services. Here are her answers:
How do you get engaged with barracks Soldiers to help them choose healthier food options?
“I engage with barracks Soldiers by doing cooking demonstrations with them in their barracks. I did the first barracks cooking demonstration for 42D MP in June. I try to teach them cost effective and quick recipes. So far, we have done a breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipe while cooking in the barracks. I also take into consideration the equipment they have which is normally an oven, stove, and microwave. Next month, in August, I will also be engaging with barracks Soldiers by doing a commissary tour with them. I will take 10-12 of them to the commissary and point out healthy foods for them to eat. I have noticed a few Soldiers have never been to the commissary so this is an easy way to teach them about a place they have never been.”
What are some of the positive and negative trends you see from barracks Soldiers?
“Some trends I see in those who live in the barracks are they often don’t utilize the Warrior Restaurants, previously known as the DFACs, when they now have very healthy food options that are tasty, as well. Often times, Soldiers who live in the barracks are eating at fast food restaurants instead, which can also be costly. Many are not cooking in their barracks rooms, which is why I have been coming up with “Easy to Cook Barracks Recipes.” Most Soldiers, whether they live in the barracks or not, are in need of improving their hydration. Many are not drinking enough water, and are drinking too many sugary drinks. Those who are working shift, are often eating options that are not as healthy because few healthy options are open at odd hours of the evening. Some of the Soldiers that I have been working with, have been able to see weight loss now that they are focusing on their macronutrients. Some were not eating enough, and are now eating three meals a day and snacks. They are learning how to fuel for their performance.”
What do you envision as the way forward and the goal of H2F healthy living?
“My goal would be that we are used for prevention. So, the moment someone thinks their nutrition could be improved, they come to see me or my assistant, rather than waiting months. This will make it easier to lose weight and break unhealthy habits. Additionally, I want others to know that I don’t just do nutrition for weight loss, I also do it for weight gain, and improvement of physical performance. My goal as a health care provider now, is to see even more patients and do more nutrition education briefs, and not just on Readiness Days. Another goal would be to help shift the culture surrounding food and nutrition for 42D MP, so that more value is placed on healthy eating by the Soldiers. We are working on this by doing more nutrition briefs and making flyers with healthy food options.”
The Holistic Health and Fitness System (H2F) is a people first initiative that invests directly in the readiness and well-being of soldiers. Nutrition is just one aspect of the system. The operating concept of H2F is to “Manifest the building blocks for readiness that enables Soldiers, leaders, and units to improve performance and mission capability…this will result in a healthier, more lethal, and more ready force.”
If you would want to see the H2F Dietitian, make an appointment by scanning the Visibook QR code or emailing the 42D MP BDE H2F dietitian at firstname.lastname@example.org.