Tortuga crew gets shipshape to win
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Sometimes losing is the only way to win, at least for Lt. Nazima Kathiria and some sailors aboard USS Tortuga.
In the battle against expanding waistlines, the ship’s medical team has made excess weight loss a team sport and winners get cash prizes.
The competition is modeled after “The Biggest Loser” television show and was part of new initiatives to keep the crew healthy during fall patrol, said Kathiria, the Tortuga’s doctor.
If you lose the most pounds, you win cash money or a gift certificate for the ship store.
Working at sea for weeks at a time often causes stress and weight gain, Kathiria said.
But she said providing sailors with opportunities such as the competition and some education are keys to keeping a healthy lifestyle.
Most of all, Tortuga sailors say the new health initiatives are working.
Petty Officer 3rd Class John Majdich said he lost 28 pounds during the ship’s 14-week “Biggest Winner” competition.
It was the most weight loss for any one of the 22 sailors who competed this fall.
“I didn’t eat any fried foods,” Majdich said.
His team, called Team Rock Bottom, lost a total of 64 pounds among its 11 members, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Sara Settle, who was part of the team.
It’s not all about weight loss on the Tortuga; sailors and Marines can also test their strength and endurance.
The ship holds bench press, shuttle run and other competitions that pit the two services in friendly competition, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Lamarques Ogans, a hospitalman who coordinates morale and recreation events on the ship.
“A lot of people prepped for [the competitions] physically and mentally,” Ogans said.
Diet also is important to staying fit and Tortuga sailors now have more healthy food choices when they go to the ship store, Kathiria said.
The healthy snack section is stocked with granola, dried fruit, tuna fish, energy bars and water.
“When there is something healthy staring you in the face, you have that extra edge,” Kathiria said.
Each month also has a featured fruit and vegetable to keep sailors aware of healthy food choices.
November: grapefruit and cauliflower.
The Tortuga medical staff has a comprehensive approach including seminars on dental health and safe sex, physical fitness competitions and public service spots on the ship’s closed-circuit television system.
Keeping sailors’ weight down and educating them on proper diet and exercise can save them from medical troubles such as heart disease and diabetes down the road, Kathiria said.
“I tend to think preventive medicine is the best medicine and this is part of that,” she said.