There comes a time in each of our lives when we know we have an issue to deal with, but we don't know how. For Clarence Garrison, who works on Fort Knox at Human Resource Command, that issue was his weight and health.

"Honestly, I have most likely lost thousands of pounds only to gain most back," he explained. "After a lot of research I had to find something that would work for me."

That's when he found the Fort Knox Army Wellness Center, part of Ireland Army Health Clinic's Preventive Medicine Services, and decided to give it a try.

AWC is part of the Army's health promotion and wellness initiative. The idea behind the program is to help members of the Fort Knox community identify health risks as well as prevent the development or progression of chronic diseases or injury. To do that the AWC team uses a BODPOD, metabolic testing, and counseling, among other tools and devices.

"The client sets the goals and the AWC team puts them on the health path to achieve them, while walking the path with them," said Kelley Frans, the acting AWC program director. "It's the AWC's mission to help the client achieve their personal health and wellness goals."

She said that the center's approach to service is holistic, meaning that staff members take into account all of an individual's physical, psychological and social circumstances when providing services. The reason the holistic approach is important is because a person's health cannot be fully addressed unless the "whole person" is considered.

And that is the approach Garrison's health educator, Brent Newell, took with him. But Garrison said he was upfront with Newell early on and told him he wasn't going to be, "the easiest client."

"I told him I have structural disabilities, I don't like to measure or count and don't have the patience or tolerance for anything that does not taste good," he remembered. "(Brent) took a deep breath and said, 'Eat what comes from the earth or eat what comes from the earth and do compound exercises.'

"I was looking for something I could continue on with for the rest of my life, not just loose for a temporary goal. I try now to read labels and eat real food…"

And, the program has worked. To date Garrison has dropped 16 body fat percentage points in a six month period, lost 80 lbs in six months, and over the last year has lost about 120 lbs. He said he is also off most of his diabetic medicines and all but one of his blood pressure meds. And he no longer gets regular allergy shots or visits the allergy doctor twice month--now it's just a yearly checkup.

One of the steps he took to improve his health, in addition to the AWC, was in tips he picked up from "The Biggest Loser." He said the long-term successful contestants do four things:

(1) Never Skip Breakfast (2) Exercise an hour a day--he mostly walks, (3) Weigh once a week, (4) Limit TV time to 10 hours a week, but he considers it bonus time if he's doing aerobics while watching TV.

He also uses a website called https://whole30.com and lost more than 30 lbs the month he practiced the principals on the site and used the recipes.

"I love this (site) and I never counted, measured or felt hungry," he explained. "My favorite meal on this is Ribeye steak, baked potato and asparagus with dried fruit for dessert. My wife is on her third round just because she likes it so much."

And that's just what Frans and the AWC staff want to see--an overall healthy change in lifestyle that will involve the whole family.

"(We) empower participants to develop and set their own health related goals and achieve them," said Frans. "The AWC addresses lifestyle change in areas that affect an individual in both short and long-term health, and engages people in their 'life-space' which is the place people live, work, rest and relax."

Frans said the AWC is open to all Soldiers, family members, retirees, and DA civilians--all Military Health System beneficiaries are eligible for AWC services. But she added that children age 17 and under will require a referral from their primary care provider and the presence of a parent or guardian during their appointment. And the services is free.

The AWC provides six core programs, which are standardized among all AWCs in the Army: Health Assessment Review, Physical Fitness Testing and Exercise Prescription, Nutrition Education, Stress Management, General Wellness Education, and Tobacco Education.

"The AWC can help clients improve body composition and weight loss, increase physical activity, gain muscle and lose fat, decrease your risk for disease, engage in healthier eating habits, manage stress through biofeedback and provide tobacco education," Frans noted. "It is our mission at the AWC to help you achieve your goals."

There are also three new classes in which clients can participate: Fueling for Health: Teaches clients the fundamentals of nutrition and eating strategies to fuel for optimal health. Staying Fit: Home and Away: Teaches clients how to stay physically active and maintain fitness levels at home or when traveling. Retire Strong: Provides tools and tactics to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle post-retirement.

Garrison said there will be obstacles along the way but he has faith, and kept one thing in mind: "Discipline will take you further than desire."

"Do you know how many great holidays were between August and March?" Garrison asked. "And I'm a foodie! I've also developed bone spurs in addition to already having a bad knee--so I've got people praying for me."

"But just remember this," he added. "Don't give up! Get a support group and find people to encourage you and who will check on your success."

For more information or to make an appointment with the Fort Knox AWC please call (502) 626-0408.
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