Nutritionist visits clinic to discuss healthy eating
First Lt. Christine Jessen, a dietician at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, holds up a proper portion of beans during a dietary class held July 30 at the Lawrence Joel Army Health Clinic. Jessen discussed portion control, eating habits and the benefits of proper eating.

What you get out of your body is usually a result of what you put into your body.

To help members of the Fort McPherson community use this concept to better fuel their bodies, the Lawrence Joel Army Health Clinic staff hosted a dietician to speak with those looking to modify their eating habits.

1st Lt. Christine Jessen, a dietician at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, shared her knowledge with attendees through visual aids, a PowerPoint presentation and handouts.

Although Jessen admitted many of the attendees may have already heard much of what she showed before, she said she was able to help resonate the information with attendees by putting it in different ways.

"It's mainly behavior modification, pointing out common behaviors and seeing what you think you can change," Jessen said.

Jessen said the tough thing about making changes, even small ones, is that unlike other vices, such as smoking or drinking, eating is a need. She added bad eating habits are often created over a lifetime, making changing them even more difficult.

However, with proper motivation, Jessen said people can make significant improvements. "It's all internal.

A person is his or her own biggest success factor," she said. "Nutrition is pretty simple."

Most of the time, success can be found by making small changes in eating and exercise habits, Jessen said.

"It's a myth that you don't need to exercise.

You can only cut so many calories," she said.

There are 3,500 calories in a pound, so to lose a pound a week, people need to take in 500 fewer calories a day or burn off that amount through exercise. For a 150-pound person, it takes walking one mile to burn 100 calories, or approximately 20 steps per calorie, Jessen said.

Heavier people burn calories faster.

"It's a lot easier to eat less than to burn calories," she said, adding people can start looking at food in terms of how long it would take to burn off.

Reading labels and making a food log is also recommended, as it allows people to see eating patterns and alter poor ones, Jessen said.

One common problem is portion control, Jessen said. Even if a person eats the right things, he or she may eat too much, she said.

"Measure food at work and home, and buy smaller plates and bowls for portion control. Stop when you're full," she said, adding it takes 20 minutes for the brain to tell the body it is full.

Jessen also stressed "vegetables are your friend" and that most people do not eat enough vegetables and fruits. By making these small changes in diet, major changes can be made in health.

Jessen mentioned a former patient who had a blood sugar hemoglobin A1C level almost at nine, nearly 2.5 points above the ideal level of 6.5.

Through diet and exercise modification, the patient brought it down below seven in fewer than three months.

Making a change for the better was what brought Staff Sgt. Harvey Edwards, hazardous materials technician, 171 Aviation Unit, Dobbins Air Force Base, to the class.

"I was diagnosed with hypertension," he said. "I want to drop some weight. I hope to get off of medicine."

Edwards said his mother was diagnosed with renal failure, providing even more motivation to get healthier.

"The goal is to be smarter. When I was younger, I didn't feel like stuff applied to me. I took things for granted," he said. "Things started to catch up as I got older."

Edwards said he used to be a powerlifter, which provides him with a good exercise base to work off of, but that he needs to work more on his diet and monitor what he eats.

"I just need to be more conscious, adjust with age," he said.

No matter what television or magazines advertise, there is no magic formula, Jessen said.

"Even supplements can get you in trouble because they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration," she said. "A regular multivitamin is okay, but it is not insurance for a poor diet." Jessen encourages everyone to take advantage of the nutrition classes offered at LJACH.

"It was a great class," Edwards said.

Page last updated Thu August 5th, 2010 at 14:34