CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - Deployments are usually a time to focus on more Soldier oriented skills, from battle drills to individual military occupation specialties. One of the most prominent of these is increasing physical fitness. One Soldier here has succeeded in his goal of improving his fitness.

Maj. Douglas Badzik, 10th Mountain Division Surgeon's Cell, Preventive Medicine Officer has lost more than 40 pounds since his arrival in country approximately nine months ago.

"I absolutely came here with the goal of weight loss," the Lincoln, Calif. native said. "The fact that you're here for 12 months, I think it's a perfect opportunity for anyone to improve their health. We all have a lot of time on our hands so it's better to hit the gym than to go blind playing computer games."

The motivation for Badzik didn't come from any outside sources. He kept his eye on the prize for himself.

"I don't think there was really anything that kept me going," he said. "This is just something I wanted to accomplish while I was here."

Badzik's approach to his goal was simple. He started going to the gym three times a week and gradually increased his workout to five days a week. He kept the time constant at 30 minutes a day.

"The way that I did it, I didn't do anything extreme," said Badzik. "I did that specifically because I felt it was something I could continue at home. That was time I was willing to continue."

Badzik saw this deployment as his best opportunity to get back into shape because there was no justification to put it off.

"Before I started medical school, I used to race, rode bikes and was in really good shape. Through medical school and residency and every other excuse I could find I was just never able to find the time to get into a regular exercise program. Being 40 plus, it was like, you do it now or you don't do it. So this was the opportunity and I took advantage of it," said Badzik. "I feel a lot better all the way around. I feel in the best shape I have since I was in my 20's."

In addition to increasing his exercise, Badzik also worked on changing the way he ate.

"One thing that helped initially, which is more of a gimmick than anything else, is I would drink a liter of water before lunch or dinner so I was a little bit full ahead of time," he said. "It also made me think about what I was putting into my mouth as opposed to sitting down and start shoveling food in."

Using this gimmick also helped Badzik pay attention to his portions.

"I pretty much eat anything I want, it's all just portion control," he said. "I didn't want to do anything too extreme because once you get out of the deployment, you still have to deal with the real world again. So I think I'm back at the point of recognizing what is a reasonable portion."

Portion control wasn't the only way Badzik limited his diet.

"After a year of eating well, I think it's actually in my brain. For myself it was just a matter of doing the habits. If I'm going to have a cookie or ice cream I would set aside one day a week and that's all I'd have," he said. "That took away a lot of the cravings. I didn't feel like I was denying myself."

Badzik plans to use his increase awareness when he returns home to help his family eat healthier.

"Through the course of this year I've gotten back into the whole nutrition aspect. I like to do a lot of cooking at home so I'm actually in a good position," he said. "While I was home, my wife and I had a discussion about how we wanted to continue with this and just the overall health of our family and so we've made that transition already."

Badzik sees weight loss and eating healthy as lifestyle choices. To people trying to lose weight, he encourages them to take the step to change their life.

"Losing weight is something you have to do for yourself. It's nothing you can do because your wife is nagging at you or your first sergeant is chewing you," he said.
"Those will do it temporarily, but weight loss and fitness is a lifestyle. It's not something you can do during a deployment and then when you get back go back to your evil ways. It's something you have to mentally commit to."

The most important aspect, according to Badzik, is for leaders to take an active role with their Soldiers.

"There are a significant amount of Soldiers who do gain weight here and I think it's incumbent on leaders to pay attention to the Soldiers and if you see some who is starting to move in the wrong direction, (take action)," he said. "Once you get started in the wrong direction, as far as weight, it can be tough to get back on track."