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Family Matters Blog: Need for Healthy Diet Hits Home for Blogger

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2011 – Guest blogger Lisa Daniel is Elaine Sanchez’s colleague at American Forces Press Service. - Elaine Sanchez

Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, appeared on Capitol Hill earlier this spring along with other service leaders to report on the military’s state of readiness, including the physical health of the troops. The news mostly was good (see my  article “Caring for People Aids Readiness, Official Says”).

Despite 10 years of war, recruiting, retention and morale remain strong. 

But Bostick’s assessment came with a warning of a troubling trend. The obesity crisis sweeping America has gone beyond health problems for individuals to threatening our nation’s military readiness. That’s because fewer than 30 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are eligible to serve because they can’t meet physical or educational requirements, Bostick said.

A big reason for that: one in five young people are overweight, compared to one in 20 in the 1960s, he said.

“As a nation, together, we must continue to address these concerns,” he said.
 Bostick is not the first leader to sound alarms over America’s obesity problem. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign has brought the issue into the national spotlight, as well as publicity from doctors, dieticians and others who share their concerns with the media.

There is no shortage of resources aimed at helping people maintain a healthy weight. Many volumes have been written on the values of counting calories -- or, more recently, counting carbohydrates -- and maintaining regular exercise. Weight loss clinics make millions of dollars by helping people manage their food, drink and exercise.

Even with all this, we remain a nation overweight. Unfortunately, knowledge of a problem isn’t always enough to effect change. Sometimes it takes an emergency.

My family discovered this in January when my 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1, or “juvenile,” diabetes. Unlike Type II diabetes, or “adult-onset” that can be caused by obesity, Type I is an autoimmune disease that destroys the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. Natalie was not overweight; as she lamented in the hospital, she eats healthier than many children her age.

Despite their different causes and treatment -- Type I still requires insulin shots throughout the day, whereas Type II often can be controlled by diet, exercise or oral medication -- both require a highly regimented accounting of all carbohydrate and sugar intake, as well as consideration for how much energy is spent in activities. In fact, for today’s Type I diabetics, doctors recommend each insulin dose be based on what the child plans to eat and drink, as it is given before meals. 

That amount of planning and structure scared me to death. How would our busy and chaotic family ever slow down enough to make it work? How would my daughter hold up against treats being distributed regularly at school, sports, Scouts and play dates? As I said only half-jokingly to the hospital staff who spent days training my family on diabetes management, if I could follow this much dietary structure, I’d be thin. 

The answer is, we had to make it work because diabetes is a matter of life and death. I can’t say it’s been easy – or that I’ve had any significant weight loss -- but I am writing to tell you that this kind of diet regimen can be done, and my daughter is proof of it. Her diabetes is well under control and our family is better off for this new health focus – careful monitoring of carbs and sugar, fewer restaurant meals, and eating healthy even when those around you aren’t. 

As Gen. Bostick observed, it will be up to all of us, as a nation, to create a culture where future generations are as healthy as those before them. Such changes start at home, but can easily multiply. We owe it not just to our own families, but to the nation.

For more on this topic visit: Military OneSource Healthy Meal Planning, CDC Diabetes Fact Sheet or the TRICARE Nurse Advice Line.
For more family-related posts like this one, visit Family Matters Blog or check out Family Matters on Facebook and Twitter.


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