By Jeanine Mezei, Fort Carson Medical-Department Activity Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. —Whether meeting with friends, a night out or celebrating a child’s birthday, food has become enmeshed in many everyday social activities.
Food has also become the “go-to” reaction when dealing with stress at work, at home or in relationships, but it doesn’t have to be.
“How do you manage life’s stressors and still eat healthy?” asked Dr. Karen Leaman, a clinical psychologist and coordinator for the Weight Management Program (WMP) at Evans Army Community Hospital (EACH). “It’s about being more mindful of the choices you are making and finding other ways to cope.”
For many people, poor eating habits continue without any real knowledge or guidance of nutritional content and proper portions. Until they reach a turning point in their health, their current lifestyle has established itself over time and can develop issues for the future.
For Randy Brennan, retired Air Force sergeant and civilian training manager at Peterson Air Force Base, getting a diabetes diagnosis was his turning point during a visit with his primary care provider early last year.
“I always thought I was prediabetic,” said Brennan, who previously had knee replacements in both knees and weighed over 300 pounds when he received the news. “I had to accept I was a diabetic first.”
With his diagnosis and a referral to Disease Management at EACH, Brennan attended a class to learn about how to live with diabetes and found out about the WMP. His enrollment in the program and attendance at the support group helped him begin a journey to reach a healthy weight and maintain lifestyle changes for the future.
“Yes, I put myself in this position, nobody put me in it, but I got out of it with their help,” said Brennan. “Ever since I retired, I’ve always had a problem with weight. I just thought it was one of those things that I could never get control of, but I found out that’s not true.”
According to Dr. Steven Lang, a family physician and WMP coordinator who worked with Brennan during his weight-loss journey, participants first learn about nutrition with the help of Nutrition Care at EACH and complete metabolic testing and a body fat analysis at the Army Wellness Center.
“I made an effort to change my lifestyle and what I eat,” said Brennan, who commits to tracking his food every day. “I’m faithful to exercise. The bike sees me every morning Monday through Friday at 4:15 a.m. and it sees me at night when I get home.”
Brennan took the tools he received from the WMP to transform himself over the last year and a half with the support of his family, co-workers and friends. This includes his wife of 37 years, Roxanne, an Air Force veteran who also serves as a civilian at Peterson.
“I eat anything I want but I understand I have to do it in moderation,” said Brennan, who would resort to stress eating fast food before the WMP. “I have a spreadsheet with my wife and on Saturdays we plan out what we’re going to have for meals for the week. The exercise helps, but watching what I eat and changing my lifestyle and how I eat has been the biggest factor, in my opinion.”
“He’s an inspiration for everybody,” said Lang. “He still shows up at the meetings and it’s good to have someone there to inspire some of the people.”
According to Lang, WMPs that are successful are at least 12 months in duration. That may seem like a long time, but lifestyle changes are the goal for the WMP team.
“It’s about making the small changes,” said Leaman. “We talk about goal setting and setting them up for success, rather than taking on too many new behavior changes at once.”
Brennan helped incorporate those small changes since he began last year and no longer takes diabetes medication. He is looking forward to retirement in the next five years with Roxanne. Until then, he continues to ride his stationary bike and looks forward to what the future holds.
“Honestly, the folks saved my life,” said Brennan about the WMP team. “I turned 60 last December and I’m not sure I would be here today if they hadn’t shown me I could lose weight and get control of my life again.”
Despite losing over 100 pounds and getting his diabetes under control, Randy faced one challenge.
“There is one drawback to this, I’ve had to buy new clothes three times,” said Brennan jokingly.
For more information on the WMP, call 503-7360 to self-refer or speak with a primary care provider.