Patient undergoes metabolic testing at Fort Benning Army Wellness Center.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Patient undergoes metabolic testing at Fort Benning Army Wellness Center. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Benning Army Wellness Center Health Educator McKenna Cornett measures the height of a patient.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Benning Army Wellness Center Health Educator McKenna Cornett measures the height of a patient. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BENNING, GA – The holidays usually mean a time of indulgence. There are lavish meals, a toast or two and decadent desserts. For those of us trying to stay on target when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, we can use all the help we can get right about now.

Luckily, the Army Wellness Center is here to help guide us on our fitness and wellness journey. Health Educator McKenna Cornett joined the AWC team a year and a half ago. Cornett summed up their holistic approach, “We provide primary prevention programs to help with weight management, workout programs, fitness testing, nutrition information… just anything to promote healthy lifestyles for Soldiers and their family members, retirees and DA civilians.”

You don’t even need a referral to utilize the many state of the art services. As long as you are 18 or over, you can make an appointment by calling 706-544-9142 for the body composition analysis, metabolic testing, fitness assessment, stress management and health coaching. Patients younger than 18 do need a referral from their primary care manager (PCM) and their PCM will go over the test results with you.

Body composition analysis, also known as the BodPod, measures body fat versus fat free mass. Muscles, bones, tissues and organs make up your fat free mass. In order to do that, you strip down to a sports bra and compression shorts, take off any dangly jewelry, don a swim cap and sit in an egg-shaped capsule. Cornett explained, “It uses air displacement plethysmography which is just a fancy way of saying it moves the air around to calculate the density within the pod. It uses the same technology as water displacement which is the gold standard for body composition, just a lot less invasive and it’s really really quick.”

I put my money where my mouth is and stepped inside the BodPod. Surprisingly it wasn’t claustrophobic and other than a slight change in air pressure, not uncomfortable at all. Health Promotion Technician Stephanie Pritchard explained why it’s important to get a baseline. “People do it because they want to see where they are. Especially someone who is starting out with a new healthy change. And you can come and get that done every 4-6 weeks.”

The BodPod uses an equation to calculate your body fat ranging anywhere from ultra lean to excess fat. Either end of the spectrum, in the extreme, is considered risky. Pritchard said the BodPod is an important tool to track your progress, “A month later, you kind of see where your changes are. And if you are not losing that body fat, okay I need to change something in my workout or I need to change something in my diet.”

Another useful tool at their disposal is metabolic testing. It does require a five hour fast and abstaining from exercise at least 14 hours before in order to be accurate. Painfully for me, the fast included a ban on coffee. Cornett and Pritchard had me lay down under a canopy for about 10-15 minutes, stay still and not fall asleep.

“There’s a little spirometer that measures the carbon dioxide you are putting off as you breathe out,” explained Cornett. “It plugs that into an equation and it predicts your resting metabolic rate (how many calories you burn just to maintain vital body functions). It’s very accurate because it’s based on the individual person off of their breath.”

Pritchard said they combine a patient’s resting metabolic rate with their height, weight, lifestyle and exercise to calculate how many calories they should be consuming to lose, maintain or gain weight. “It takes about six months to change your metabolic rate. You can change your metabolic rate by eating more, especially breakfast. We have a lot of clients who don’t eat enough. When they come in they are usually shocked because we tell them they are not eating enough food.”

Cornett listed off all the factors that affect metabolism. “You can change your metabolic rate through exercise, from any sort of weight lifting or cardiovascular activity. Your food patterns, how regular and consistent you are. The timing, quality and quantity of your food is really important.

“Your sleep is super important because it alters your hormones. People don’t realize it, but everything plays a very vital part in your metabolism. Your body will become more efficient the more consistent you are. You get to eat more food which is great, everybody wants to be able to eat a lot!”