“Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle” during Navy Nutrition Month 2015

Lt. Cmdr. Amit Sood, a dietitian, offers tips for you to commit to healthier eating habits as a way of life.

The New Year is well underway, but can the same be said for your health and fitness resolutions? March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme, ‘Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,’ focuses on how we can improve our health on a daily basis through our eating habits. Change can, of course, be challenging, but having the right balance of resources and peer support will help you take these proactive steps to building your psychological and physical health.

It is a common misconception that healthier foods lack flavor when compared to other processed choices. However, the truth is that healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes, have more inherent flavor than those foods that are fried, sugary, or heavily salted. To combat this innate attraction to sugar, salt, and fat, consider adding organic herbs and spices for that extra burst of flavor. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Library of Recipes is one of many resources to find great-tasting options using healthy and wholesome ingredients.

Making the effort to improve and maintain your health now is the #1 investment you can make for your future. It will not only help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, but can reduce your risk of chronic disease, and increase your resilience and readiness.

Visit the Physical Readiness Program’s Navy Nutrition Website to tap into the information you need to maintain a healthy-eating lifestyle. You’ll find helpful resources such as shopping tips, cooking in the barracks, weight loss strategies, and links to supporting websites that help meet your goals.


Communications Between Line Leaders and Mental Health Providers

2.10Upholding a culture that supports seeking help as a sign of strength is an all hands effort that is built upon trust, one of the five Principles of Resilience. This trust must be cultivated between Sailors and their leaders through ongoing engagement and support, which will in turn help Sailors trust in the many resources available to them should they need additional care.

As we continue to make progress in breaking down the barriers that may prevent Sailors from seeking help for psychological health concerns, commanders must ensure that they are acting in ways that support Sailor wellness while enhancing unit readiness. To that end, Navy Suicide Prevention and the Bureau of Navy Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) recommend that all commanders familiarize themselves with the policies in place to balance their need to monitor the welfare of their unit with the confidentiality protections that medical providers must adhere by in the best interest of Sailors. In order for Sailors to gain maximum benefit from mental health care services, they must feel reasonably certain that the details they share with a provider will remain private, helping to mitigate the potential decision to not to seek assistance out of fear of consequences. Line leaders and providers share in the responsibility of upholding Sailors’ rights and promoting recovery.

Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 6490.08 provides guidance on information flow to balance the challenges between patient-provider confidentiality and the rights of commanders, outlining the level of detail a commander can access to ensure the well-being of their unit members and maximize unit readiness. Based on this instruction, BUMED’s Psychological Health Advisory Board has developed a graphic outlining communications between the line and medical communities which is now available on the Suicide Prevention website. This graphic provides at-a-glance information on topics such as notification to commands, clarification of the minimum notification standard, best practices for sharing mental health information and additional resources. This tool is not only useful for commanders to facilitate a closer understanding of the decision making process providers must adhere to, but for key personnel (such as suicide prevention coordinators) to help dispel misperceptions among their shipmates regarding mental health treatment.

To facilitate productive dialogue—and trust—between providers and commands, line leaders should seek to develop ongoing relationships with local health providers. Proactive discussion about policies and procedures will better serve both the commander and provider when making key decisions and determining ongoing support needed for Sailors during and beyond the reintegration process. Most importantly, Sailors will feel more comfortable seeking the resources available to them knowing that their leadership has a full understanding of what can and cannot be discussed. This is yet another way we can take proactive measures to improve the lines of communication and support every Sailor, every day.

There Must Be Resolve!

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced financial counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy. –NavyNavStress.com note

Did you resolve to be a better steward of your hard earned money in 2015? If so, over the next month or two, you may feel bittersweet at times…you feel empowered by your financial progress, and then the holiday shopping bills arrive. You are not alone, and with focus, you will prosper. This is the kind of stuff that life is made of; equations or solutions of a sort. Personal money management can be as simple as this equation:

(Saving Money + With Consistency) – Reducing Debt = A Measure of Financial Success

This is no mystery here, but this success equation demands that there is resolve! This is the kind that forces planning and demands daily attention to your spending habits. And this is precisely what a New Year can bring! To live this type of equation, we must know what our current money status is, set goals, set realistic plans, and determine what success will look like for you. Here are a few tips to help you find the right equation to achieve resolution in your own finances:

Gather Your Numbers: This is post-holiday stop number one! Gather the most up-to-date account information about your assets and debt obligations. One way to do this is with a simple Excel spreadsheet where your column names are the name of the creditor, the total balance, minimum monthly payment and interest rates. This will help identify your net worth and create a viable budget.

Create or Touch-Up the Budget: Consult with a subject matter expert or your household financial partner to construct a realistic portrayal of how you allocate income, savings, investments, expenses and debt payments. Take time to reflect on the results of this assessment and breathe a deep sigh of relief for having created a living budget.

Goal & Plans: Having the previous information in hand, set realistic goals and plans to span the next 12 months and beyond. Resources such as www.powerpay.org or the Navy Electronic Financial Planning Worksheet can help you determine a payback method best suited for you, whether it’s placing your initial focus on debts with the highest interest rate or following a snowball method where you pay off debts from the smallest to largest. Conversely, if your goal is to build your savings arsenal, prioritize your emergency savings above other budgetary goals, as this is the number one stressor in personal financial planning. While three to six months’ worth of expenses and debt payments are recommended as a fairly sufficient emergency fund, a more attainable goal for many is to start with a smaller goal of at least $1,500. For a more in-depth discussion on debt reduction resources, refer to my blog from August 2014 where we discussed tips and resources to resolve your debts.

Any long term goal should always reflect your current capabilities and realistic expectations for the future. If you plan to save up money for future purchases, set realistic expectations on the total amount of money needed and the timeline to accomplish. If your goals involve investing, ensure that you have first established sufficient liquid funds and have the ability to pay off any outstanding consumer debt.

Monitor & Revise: It is equally important to monitor the progress you have made towards your goals. As challenges and opportunities arise, adjust your initial plans. A windfall of cash, such as tax returns, present a unique opportunity to compromise between paying off debts, saving and spending. Conversely, when the unexpected happens, such as car repairs, revisit your financial plan quickly so that any lost momentum can be regained.

Credit Check: The start of each new year is an ideal time to review your personal credit report. Federal law allows each consumer to obtain their free credit report from each of the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) once per year. (Remember, this report will not include your credit score, which is requested separate, and sometimes with a fee.) One strategy to monitor your credit report more than once per year is to pull your report from one of the bureaus in January, a second bureau in four months later, then the third report from the last bureau another four months later. You can go to www.annualcreditreport.com for additional details.

Make 2015 the year you resolve to focus on your finances! If you need assistance from a professional, contact your nearest Fleet and Family Service Center, Command Financial Specialist or Military OneSource representative for free advice.

Patience: A Spiritual Discipline

USS COWPENS (CG63) Chaplain Monya A. Stubbs reflects on the practice of patience to strengthen one’s emotional, spiritual and physical well-being in the New Year.

I recently visited with a Buddhist monk, and in our discussion on the concept of patience, he reminded me that patience is not the absence of engagement or an indifferent attitude. Rather, the monk explained, patience means maintaining a commitment to the “causes of your practice, no matter how long it takes to get the results.” I did not really understand, so I asked him to elaborate. “Patience,” he further explained “means sticking with the task – slow and steady.” In other words, I replied, “patience requires endurance.” “No,” he said, “patience is endurance.”

Patience means that we stick with things even when they take a long time to show the preferred results. We do not get frustrated or sloppy. Patience is always an efficient use of our emotional energy, but seldom fast. “A farmer knows,” the monk stated, “that you cannot plant the rice today and expect to have the grains ripened tomorrow.” It takes time and during the time between the planting and the harvest, it is going to require work. We must tend to the soil.

Life can be cruel and sometimes just messy when we are intimidated or stifled by the weight that stress brings into our world. At the same time, life provides us space to create and experience moments of immeasurable joy that enrich the lives of those with whom we work and live. Life offers us a myriad of opportunities to imagine and build products that advance the human condition. Life also pokes and prods, hoping to stimulate us to confront injustices that oppress the human spirit. But, we live in an impatient society; when we engage the opportunities and difficulties that life brings, we are often overwhelmed, irritated, and disappointed if desired outcomes do not come at the pre-determined allotted time. Everything has to be done fast, and we expect fast results. We fail to appreciate the transformative power of patience and endurance.

As we enter this New Year, I invite you to reevaluate your pace. When you engage a problem that comes to your attention, tackle a task placed under your charge, or confront the challenges involved in interpersonal relationships, do so with patience – proceed with care and attention. As you work throughout the year to meet your career goals, to grow your personal relationships, and to strengthen your emotional, spiritual and physical well-being, know that you will encounter obstacles. Do not become discouraged by the natural delays that obstacles bring. Avoid internal dialogues about when the results are going to come, what they are going to be like, and how you can speed up the process. Rather, focus your creative genius on the generosity of the moment and the assignment at hand. Tend to the soil. Be Patient. Endure.

Food Everywhere – Too Many Choices!

Lt. Cmdr. Amit Sood, a dietitian, offers tips for you to enjoy the flavors of the holiday season and develop mindful eating as a way of life.

Food is often the center of attention during the holidays, and trying to regain a sense of control for the New Year can be tough. Many factors influence your food choices – the food around you, hunger level, boredom, your perception of healthy versus unhealthy food, among many others. This is where ‘mindful eating’ comes into play. You may have heard this phrase, but what exactly does it mean, and what is the benefit to us?

Earlier this year, we discussed mindfulness in the context of stress eating as: “experiencing and being fully aware of what your body is telling you in the present moment.” We live in a society where food is abundant and readily available, so being mindful of our body’s needs for nutrition and our food choices is key to maintain proper nutrition. You can start by creating a healthy eating environment.

If you think back to boot camp or officer training, meals were only available at one place, with set menus and times. Now, whether at home, in the office, barracks, commissary, or around your ship’s living spaces, no matter where you are, your environment is one of the main triggers of your food choices at any given time. If there’s a box of doughnuts in your spaces, you will likely crave it, and if you don’t, then you’ll probably want it anyway, just because it’s there. To avoid this common pitfall, especially around the holidays when potlucks and cookie exchanges are in abundance, ask yourself the following to see how you can improve your eating habits:

  1. Am I overindulging in food choices and quantities that I do not ordinarily eat because it’s available?
  2. Do I find myself eating when I’m bored or stressed?
  3. Am I grazing on food throughout the day without taking the time to taste and enjoy it?
  4. Do I mindlessly chomp on salty or sweet snacks in front of the TV?
  5. Am I skipping meals and not paying attention to when I’m really hungry?

If you answered ‘yes,’ to any of these questions, consider re-focusing your efforts to eat with the intention to nourish your body, enjoy the flavor of your food, and sustain positive energy levels throughout the day. Planning and preparing your meals ahead of time with a focus on healthy whole grains, fruits, and vegetables instead of highly salted, sugary, or fatty snacks will increase your sense of controllability and help you sustain positive food choices in your daily routines and during holiday festivities.

Here are some additional tips to control your eating this holiday season and set you up for success in the New Year:

  • Don’t purchase food that you are vulnerable to overeating.
  • Keep food in designated areas that will only be accessible during set meal and snack times.
  • Avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry.

You can also visit the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, Health Promotion and Wellness Department’s “Relax Relax” Toolkit for an audio presentation on Mindful Eating.