Navy Dietician Gives Carrier Crew the 'Skinny'

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USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) - (NENS) -- There is no quick fix to being overweight. But one person aboard the USS Enterprise is helping Sailors lose weight and keep their careers intact.

LT Brenda Adams, one of only 50 Navy dietitians, was recently assigned from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va., to Enterprise to investigate the effectiveness of a six-month standardized shipboard weight control program.

This is the first time a dietician has deployed on an aircraft carrier. Dietitians are typically assigned to health care facilities or hospital ships.

Enterprise deployed in late June for six months and is currently the Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean region.

The hypothesis of the study is that a standardized, multifaceted, lifestyle modification approach to weight loss can be implemented on board ship. This approach, the study says, will more effectively enable compliance with weight and physical readiness standards, reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and result in lower obesity-related expenses than the current command-level remedial program.

Navy medical professionals believe the study will begin to benchmark the treatment of obesity in the Navy by identifying the best approaches to weight loss. They say both the physical readiness and the economic implications of the research are important because of potential impact to Navy policy, the health and well-being of its personnel and the Navy's ability to meet mission requirements.

According to Adams, the Navy in 1995 administratively separated about 1,300 Sailors for not meeting physical readiness test (PRT) standards. She said the loss of skilled Sailors has a significant financial impact.

"That's an estimated loss of $20,000 for a Sailor, and $40,000 for a Sailor who has been to "A" school," Adams said. "We're talking millions of dollars."

Adams, a Lake City, Fla., native, set up a study group and a control group at the beginning of Enterprise's deployment. All participants are volunteers who have either failed a recent PRT or are borderline for exceeding body composition standards. Both groups completed a series of questionnaires, had weight and body measurements taken, had blood lipid values drawn, and recorded their food intake for a week.

The control group is receiving the same treatment they would get if Adams were not on board. The treatment group is meeting with Adams on a weekly basis for counseling sessions that include education on nutrition, eating behaviors, exercise and stress management. The Sailors set goals, weigh-in weekly and turn in food records. She then analyzes the food records then provides guidance to the Sailors.

"Behavioral change is the primary focus of the program," Adams said.

According to an outline of Adams' study, the Navy has generally relied on non-standardized remedial obesity treatment programs that primarily focus on physical activity. She said exercise is not enough to cause long-term weight loss and most enrollees do not respond to it.

Adams believes each Sailor needs to make the proper choices about food and intake.

"Every Sailor needs to become educated and involved in what they eat. With the easy access to food from a ship's galley, store and 'geedunk' machines, Sailors can pretty much eat whatever they want, whenever they want. This is where the behavioral factor will help Sailors choose the right food and do something better for their body," Adams said. "It's an area that needs attention and I think I can help."

NAVEUR NEWS SERVICE (96-35), August 22, 1996.


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Last update: August 22, 1996 at 2240