Sigonella program focuses on weight loss, healthy lifestyle
Stars and Stripes August 6, 2006
NAVAL AIR STATION SIGONELLA, Sicily — Tara Rogers had tried them all: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Slim.Fast, South Beach, Atkins. All the diets left her frustrated, discouraged and unable to shed the pounds that had dragged her down.
Until June 1, she says, when she joined a challenge with 156 others at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, in a quest to not only shed pounds but to alter her lifestyle to healthy living.
Since joining Anchor Away, Rogers, 34, has lost 23 pounds — and counting, she said.
The program encourages eating healthy foods and exercising, and provides motivation to do so through support from other participants, input from primary care physicians and prizes offered as incentives for losing weight.
“I had tried everything under the sun and nothing worked. Here, there’s so much support,” Rogers said of the combination of program participants and fitness facilities at Sigonella.
Program coordinator Lt. Tim Drill, himself a participant, gained several pounds during his naval career and needed to “get rid of the anchor around my waist.” In doing so, he wanted to help others.
The program is not about dieting. Just the opposite.
“It’s a long-term challenge to get this right,” said Cmdr. Robert Schlegel, head of the hospital’s mental health department. “If you can’t do it forever, then don’t.”
Sixty-four percent of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese, Schlegel said, and the military’s dependent community reflects the population at-large.
Anchor Away combines existing approaches to healthy living — such as eating fresh fruits and vegetables and daily exercise — with programs offered through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the hospital’s health and nutrition services. And, Schlegel said, doctors play a key role.
Each time patients in Sigonella visit their primary care physicians, be it for a cold, bee sting or heart assessment, their body mass index, or BMI, will be measured. Those who fall within the overweight or obese categories will be encouraged to seek professional help.
“A doctor is going to tell you straight out,” Rogers said. “There’s no sugarcoating the news.”
The BMI is calculated by taking one’s weight in pounds, dividing by height in inches squared, and multiplying by 703; or by taking the weight in kilograms and dividing by height in meters squared. A BMI of 19 to 24 indicates a normal or healthy weight. A BMI of 25 to 29 is overweight, and 30 to 45 is considered obese.
Anchor Away is not a medically managed program, Schlegel said. It’s a self-motivational program for people who want to lose weight through healthy eating and exercising, and involves weighing in with the hospital staff once a month and having the results recorded, Drill said.
The rules are simple for a reason: to keep people focused and committed, Drill said. Though the overall aim is for long-term change, a short-term goal of weight loss is used to pique participants’ interest and then keep them motivated, he said.
Those who shed the most pounds in three months can win one of two iPod nano music players donated by MWR, and two $50 savings bonds, donated by Navy Federal Credit Union. Winners will be announced Aug. 31.
Alicia Kellogg is in the market for a new iPod. She said she is determined to be the contest’s biggest loser (borrowing from a reality television show).
“I’ve lost 25 pounds since May, and I’m going to be losing 25 more,” said the 42-year-old mother of three. “I set small goals. Twenty-five pounds at a time. Small increments is what helps me.
“I’m eating healthy, exercising every day, and have my sights set on that new iPod,” she joked.