military

How Cory Sanden's Weightloss Changed His Life

Cadre Cory Sanden's Journey

I started my weight loss journey around November 2016 at 300lbs.  I was 39 years old and a stay at home Dad of two girls and wanted to get back my life back in terms of fitness, energy, mood and drive!

My wife and I are both former collegiate athletes and I served 10 years in the Army Reserves and have worked in the fitness industry for over 10 years, so you would think I would have all the drive, knowledge and experience to succeed??? Well, for myself I quickly realized how difficult it is to change habits and consistently exercise when you haven’t in years. 

The first few months of eating healthier and exercising gave us some minor results with a lot of effort and meal prepping/planning.  The progress was very slow and hard to maintain focus and determination. There were many "stop" and "restart" periods where we would lose a few pounds and gain back a few, rinse and repeat. It was frustrating at times, but progress was still made and in a little over a year I had lost 35 lbs. 

Around December of 2017 I had seen an advertisement for an ad for pilot participants for a upcoming military/first responders fitness protocol.  I quickly dove into this new idea and protocol for our fighting forces.  I remember messaging Stephanie Lincoln about this opportunity and learning more and more each week about the opportunity to be a pilot participant and being able to use my own journey to help promote FTW. 

As the weeks went on and I continued my fitness journey, I quickly became involved with the upcoming first round participants to engage in the program in January 2018.  The protocol was to last 30 days and include a Ketogenic diet with HIIT style workouts for 30 minutes.  My wife and I were beyond excited to start this new and unknown chapter in our life.  We quickly found out the first week traveling that this plan was very doable, flexible, and had great accountability.  Daily weight check-ins and workouts were very powerful and held us in check to build a strong routine and consistency. 

Thirty days had flown by and I had lost 22 lbs!  My personal goal was to lose 15 lbs and fit into my Army BDU pants from 1999.  I smashed my goals and had been at my lowest weight in over 8 years!  My wife and I had never found an easier diet routine to stick with her Celiac disease. This was the missing link to our lives and couldn’t be happier. It was, and still is,  a great fit for us. 

 

How High Intensity Intervals (HIIT) Changed My Life

About 3 years ago I was at my heaviest weight as an adult. The surprise, I was running about 15 miles a week and doing power yoga about 2 days a week. The inspiration for me to re-evaluate what I was doing for fitness was seeing a picture of myself at that weight. I was baffled by why I continued to gain weight despite my general healthy diet and more than average exercise. I started doing some research and kept running into this thing called High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and another similar approach called TABATA. So I began doing those types of workouts for my cardio and completely stopped running. 3 years later, I am fitter and at the lowest body fat than I have ever been in my entire life! I don't miss those hours and hours of running at all! 

The concept behind HIIT and TABATA is based on using the most efficient way to gain cardiovascular fitness and also to amp up the metabolism in your body. By working as hard as you can in a short period of time (usually 20-40 seconds), you can force your body to transition to anaerobic work and start having to turn to body fat to continue to fuel the workout. You basically blast through your stored glucose so fast that your body enters a kind of "emergency mode" and starts releasing fat to help restore some of that energy. 

What is even better about doing HIIT style cardio workouts is that you don't have to workout as many days a week and for as long. Save time? Yes, please! The American College of Sports medicine advises that if you are doing vigorous cardio, that you only need to workout out 3 days a week for 20 minutes (versus the recommended 30-minute moderate cardio workout 5 days a week recommendation). 

Why is cardio so important? Because it works the one muscle you can't work with weights, your heart. This muscle is the most important muscle you have! So many people avoid cardio like the plague because especially if you are out of shape, it causes some very uncomfortable sensations. Being very out of breath, sweaty, and even feeling a bit weak and woozy is not fun for most people. 

Getting in good cardiovascular shape has a long list of benefits including but not limited to:

weight loss

stronger and more resilient heart and lungs

increased metabolism

increased bone density

reduced stress

better sleep

improved mood

decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes. 

Remember, you have to work as hard and fast as you can for the work periods. That means as many reps as you can. You are not "pacing yourself". You are going as hard and as fast as possible (while still staying safe and watching your form).  Here is an example of one of my favorite HIIT Cardio Routines. 

HIIT Cardio

Jumping Jacks 20 seconds

10-second rest

Jump Rope 20 seconds

10-second rest

Burpees 20 seconds

10 seconds rest

High Knee Run 20 seconds

10-second rest

Squat Jumps 20 seconds

10-second rest

Ski Jumpers 20 seconds

1-minute rest. End of Round 1. Repeat. 

This is set one. Six exercises for a total of about three minutes. A good HIIT workout is 10-20 minutes depending on your fitness level. Repeat the sets with a minute rest in between each set. If you are just starting your fitness journey, make the rest periods a bit longer. For example instead of 10 seconds make it 20 seconds. Start where you need to then increase the intensity as you get more fit and I guarantee you that consistently doing HIIT cardio workouts will get you fitter, faster! 

And guess what? Every single Fire Team Whiskey Workout is a HIIT workout! Enlist with our Program and get on the path to experiencing the benefits of this life changing fitness approach! 

 

© Fire Team Whiskey, LLC, 2018, All Rights Reserved

Top 5 Equipment Free HIIT Cardio Moves for Awesome Cardio Gains

You don't have to run like a hamster on a treadmill or spend endless hours running in order to get cardiovascular gains. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the training concept where one performs a short burst of high-intensity (or max-intensity) exercise followed by a brief low-intensity activity, repeatedly. These intense workouts typically last under 30 minutes. Research shows that the shorter more intense HIIT workouts provide improved athletic capacity and cardiovascular conditioning as well as improved glucose metabolism and reductions the fat mass. The Fire Team Whiskey® Fitness Protocols are all based on the HIIT principal.

Here are Fire Team Whiskey's top 5 HIIT Cardio moves that require no equipment. You can create a HIIT workout under 30 minutes that you can do anywhere from just these 5 moves! Make sure to do a proper warm-up, then set a timer to 30-second intervals followed by 10-second breaks. Do each move for 30 seconds as fast as you can (safely and keeping to form). Take a 10-second break in between each exercise. Once you have completed all 5 exercises, take a 30-second break and then start your HIIT round from the top.  Do 5 rounds of the 5 exercises and you have yourself about a 20-minute HIIT Cardio Workout. Blast some of your favorite workout tunes and enjoy a quick but super-efficient workout.

#1:  SQUAT JUMPS

STAND WITH LEGS HIP WIDTHS DISTANCE APART. SITTING BACK AND DOWN, LOWER THE HIPS TO A HOVER AS IF YOU ARE SITTING IN A CHAIR. KEEP THE KNEES PUSHED BACK BEHIND THE TOES . AS YOU START TO COME OUT OF THE SQUAT POSITION, SWING YOUR ARMS FORWARD AND UP TO HELP DRIVE MOMENTUM AND JUMP INTO THE AIR. LAND SOFTLY ON THE BALLS OF THE FEET WITH KNEES SLIGHTLY BENT. SIT BACK AND DOWN, SWINGING THE ARMS DOWN AND BACK RETURNING TO THE START POSITION. CONTINUE EXERCISE FOR 30 SECOND MAXIMUM EFFORT WORK/10 SECOND REST INTERVALS FOR 5 ROUNDS.    

#2:  SPIDER LUNGE RUNS

LAY PRONE ON A MAT AND RAISE YOUR BODY OFF THE FLOOR WITH WRISTS UNDER SHOULDERS. THE FEET SHOULD HAVE A FEW INCHES OF SPACE BETWEEN THEM, PUSHING BACK INTO THE HEELS WITH THE BODY WEIGHT BALANCING ON THE TOES AND BALLS OF THE FEET. THE ARMS SHOULD BE STRAIGHT AND SPACED WHERE THE WRISTS ARE DIRECTLY UNDER THE SHOULDERS. THE BACK SHOULD BE STRAIGHT, MAKING ONE STRAIGHT LINE FROM HEELS TO THE TOP OF THE HEAD. THE GAZE SHOULD BE ON THE FLOOR.  WHILE MAINTAINING PROPER PLANK FORM, STEP THE LEFT FOOT FORWARD AND TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE LEFT HAND. RETURN THE LEG BACK TO PLANK POSITION. REPEAT WITH THE OTHER LEG. CONTINUE EXERCISE FOR 30 SECOND MAXIMUM EFFORT WORK/10 SECOND REST INTERVALS FOR 5 ROUNDS.

#3:  SCISSOR RUNS

STAND WITH THE LEFT LEG STAGGERED BACK AND THE RIGHT LEG STAGGERED FORWARD. THE LEFT ARM REACHED UP AND FORWARD AND THE LEFT ARM REACHS DOWN AND BACK. JUMPING STRAIGHT UP, SWITCH THE LEG AND ARM POSITIONS. LAND SOFTLY ON THE BALLS OF THE FEET. CONTINUE EXERCISE FOR 30 SECOND MAXIMUM EFFORT WORK/10 SECOND REST INTERVALS FOR 5 ROUNDS.

#4:  KNEE DRIVERS

STAND WITH LEGS WIDE APART AND REACH ARMS OVER HEAD LEANING TOWARDS THE LEFT. RAISE THE RIGHT KNEE UP AND ACROSS TOWARDS THE LEFT SIDE OF THE BODY. AS THE KNEE COMES UP, BRING THE HANDS DOWN TOWARDS THE KNEE. RETURN TO THE START POSITION AND SHIFT YOUR REACH TO THE RIGHT.  REPEAT WITH THE LEFT KNEE BRINGING IT TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BODY.  CONTINUE EXERCISE FOR 30 SECOND MAXIMUM EFFORT WORK/10 SECOND REST INTERVALS FOR 5 ROUNDS.

#5:  HIGH KNEE MUMMY RUNS

STAND WITH LEGS SLIGHTY APART ARMS HELD IN FRONT AT CHEST LEVEL. RUN IN PLACE BRINGING YOUR KNEES TO THE NAVAL LINE OR HIGHER. CONTINUE EXERCISE FOR 30 SECOND MAXIMUM EFFORT WORK/10 SECOND REST INTERVALS FOR 5 ROUNDS.

            

              

© Fire Team Whiskey, LLC, 2018, All Rights Reserved

© Fire Team Whiskey, LLC, 2018, All Rights Reserved

Inspired by the Fight!

Who's fight has inspired you? This picture was taken of my brother in law just 19 days after his testicular cancer surgery. It was a whirlwind event. He was diagnosed with cancer on a Friday and in surgery that following Monday morning. 19 days later, he was standing in front of the camera and doing all the workout moves I called out to him. He insisted on doing the shoot because he had committed to it and he is a man of his word. He is a Firefighter Paramedic and is also on the SWAT Paramedic Team here in town. His commitment to his family and his duty are so inspiring to me and why we chose him as one of our FTW Fitness models. He faced cancer like he faces down fires, emergency situations and potential active shooter situations....like a BEAST! We talk about health and fitness so much as a Nation but we also need to remember a huge part of the puzzle that is Health: the SPIRIT. You can call it religion, you can call it spirituality, you can call it whatever you want, but when you witness someone fight with everything they have for their lives and their health...that is something you cannot name. I can certainly say I have seen this kind of spirit in many Service Members, Veterans and First Responders that I have known over the years. I have countless stories of being a witness to someone's struggle and victory. That manifestation of the WARRIOR SPIRIT!

 

© Fire Team Whiskey, LLC, 2018, All Rights Reserved

Follow me!

Last week I was fortunate to spend a day with my fellow Florida Army National Guardsmen. I have been invited each year to provide physical and psychological training to Soldiers at the FLARNG Wellness Camp. The Wellness Camp is what ultimately inspired me to create Fire Team Whiskey®. The Soldiers at the Wellness Camp are all Soldiers who have failed to meet the physical fitness and/or body fat standards of the military. These Soldiers' military careers are on the line if they cannot meet those standards soon. I absolutely love what the Wellness Camp does for these Soldiers. It brings them in for 2 weeks and spends all day every day surrounding them with the environment and information they need to be successful with their health and fitness. The problem that sparked the development of Fire Team Whiskey® was that these Soldiers get all these tools, but go back into the situations that developed those poor health habits, to begin with. I wanted to be able to step into that environment and help these Soldiers integrate what they learned at the Wellness Camp into their "off-duty lives." To get them on an eating plan that you can follow no matter what your life situation is. To do workouts anywhere, with no equipment, and in a short amount of time. To continue to inform them about health-related issues like stress management, sleep hygiene, stretching, the detriments of eating processed foods, etc. And most importantly, they would have that military camaraderie. No matter how much great information you have, in a good plan or workout, if you don't have someone to believe in you and push you to achieve those goals, the struggle is going to be that much harder. During our 3-hour circuit workout on Friday, I was blown away by the HEART these Soldiers were showing. They were pushing themselves and each other. They were digging deep and doing one more rep, one more sprint, one more effort, even though they had almost nothing left to give. I was almost moved to tears seeing how hard they were pushing themselves and each other. It frustrated me that in this environment, with their military brothers and sisters around them, they COULD DO THIS! But before at home, they couldn't. As I sprinted with them, jumped with them, and pushed with them, I was inspired to show them the way. To go forward and say "Follow me, we are going to do this together!" I was blessed to have Military Leaders in my life to show me the way. They not only encouraged me to meet and exceed the standard, but they did so themselves. I am disheartened that some of these Soldiers may not have someone in their Unit who is doing this for them. Those two intangible things: Esprit De Corps and Leadership are why Fire Team Whiskey® is different from all the other fitness and health programs out there. When you have a former Navy Corpsman calling you every week and seeing how things are going. Or a former Marine giving you tips on how to improve your run. Or a former Army Captain teaching you how to make better choices at the supermarket. Is what will resonate better than some celebrity status trainer yelling at you and telling you to get off your butt and work. We lead from the front because we have been there. We have felt those pressures of life draining away our health. We have worn that Uniform and had to juggle country, duty, family, and life. We have been discouraged and been pushed forward by a Leader or comrade. We also want our Fire Team Whiskey® enlistees to encourage and push each other, and become that Leader themselves. Then they can, in turn, pay it forward and inspire someone to make that change. Who is with me? Are you ready to lead from the front!? I thought so!

 

© Fire Team Whiskey, LLC, 2018, All Rights Reserved

The burdens we carry

When I read the book "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and came upon the following statement, my mind was just blown."I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And most surprising of all, that I could carry it. That I could bear the unbearable." This statement perfectly describes many people in my almost 15 years of counseling experience. People who have come from the most dire circumstances. The least likely of people. The people who had so much taken from them People who self-destruct. As I sat and discussed the troubles of today's youth with my first Platoon Leader, whom I fondly call my "Army Daddy," this topic came up. So many young people today have never struggled. There is so much instant gratification in today's society. Today's 20-somethings didn't experience a world without the internet and a smart phone at their fingertips!!!! The CSM and I talked about the "hard knocks" we went through that made us who we are. And I emphatically told him that I feel that the mentorship, and the very stern talking to along with the appropriate punishment to go with it, that I received from my various leaders in the military developed me so much as a person and made me who I am today. The high school and college kids don't have that now! Sure they may have an athletic coach that may have some positive influence on them, or a church leader, but not the HARD KNOCKS! Not the drill sergeant kind of developing that you get by being in the military. The hours of scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush. The first time you fail your PT test and disappoint yourself and your Platoon Sergeant. The endless freezing rain in the field when everything you have is soaked through and you can't stop shivering. Those effing ruck marches! The struggling to stay awake after days and days of less than 5 hours of sleep. Low crawling on your belly for an hour picking up tiny pieces of paper in a huge parade field while it's about 108 degrees with the heat index. Getting your ass chewed out by an O6 for the first time as a butter bar. I can go on and on with each hard moment experienced, yet each one scarred then built up new flesh, new character. I had so many officers and NCOs who pushed me harder, corrected me, praised me, encouraged me and helped build my layers of character in those very formative late teens and early 20s. I had many personal and professional challenges along the way. Ones that could have broken me, or sent me spiraling down the wrong. But those qualities that had been developed by all of those challenges and lessons learned helped keep me on the path. I am now an avid hiker. One of the things that I love the most about hiking is the fact that I can carry everything I need to survive on my back. I have the confidence, the training, the experience and the strength to step into the woods alone and to survive and thrive. I have everything I need within myself to do this very hard thing and do it well. To translate this ability to weight loss and fitness...come on, it's a no brainer! Anyone who has ever experienced any amount of difficulty in their life can win this fight! Yes. Losing weight is hard. But guess what? Most likely you have already gone through something harder, and come out the better for it. You already carried a mountain. How could you blink now at carrying this pebble? Give yourself some damn credit! You have already proven at some time in your life that you can do some pretty damn hard things. You got this! Believe in yourself! As Cheryl Strayed said, "you can bear the unbearable." 

 

© Fire Team Whiskey, LLC, 2018, All Rights Reserved. 

You had to be there...

Recently, I have been interviewing with a woman who is writing a book about women in the military, and my conversations with her have been taking me down memory lane. During my conversation with her yesterday, she asked me about any funny stories I may have to share from my time in the military. A million funny things ran through my head. I can certainly say that I never laughed so hard and so much than when I was in the military. I can't recall even one instance in my civilian life when the situations were more hilariously ridiculous. But I could not tell her just one story. Each time I chose one, it really was impossible to communicate why the situation was as funny as it was. For example, a girl in OCS whose rucksack was so top heavy as she was trying to walk up the steps of the bus and tipped backward and rolled down the steps on her back like a turtle. A silly vision, but not gut wrenching laughter inducing like it was at the time. Or the time when I was sitting around with the other TAC officers in the barracks and one of the guys walked through in his tighty-whiteys and there was a major pause in the conversation as all the guys stopped and looked at me to see my reaction. Or the time that our Medic slipped and fell and hurt his back and we called him "broke back medic" for the rest of our training time. Nope. You didn't laugh either reading these, right? But at the time, the level of gut wrenching, I couldn't breathe laughter that occurred is just unlike any of the laughter bouts I have ever had as a civilian. My military friends are the only ones who "get it." They too have been in so many ridiculous, dumb and hilarious situations, but I have no ability to translate the mirth to a civilian. I think this is part of why the military camaraderie is special. No matter how dire a situation you are in, when you are out in the field for 15 days, with the level of stench wafting off of you is eye-watering, you are hot, tired and crazy uncomfortable, but your military buddies are just as miserable and you all band together to make the best of the situation and find something to laugh about, no matter how dumb.

I can hear you asking, "What the heck does this have to do with health and fitness and losing weight?" Well, nothing on the surface, but everything with Fire Team Whiskey. I called it "Fire Team" for a reason. For those civilians reading this, a fire team is the smallest unit of movement in combat. You are responsible for covering your fire teams back and so are they. A level of trust and support is needed in that fire team in order to be successful. That mission is accomplished as a team, not as individuals. This is how I look at a health and fitness journey. I personally have always pushed myself harder, done better, and achieved more when working in a team, even with my health. Having accountability partners, having workout partners, or even just someone to vent to when things do go well with my health and fitness journey has always made the difference between mission failure and mission accomplishment. It's VERY hard doing this alone especially when your spouse/partner, family member and friends are not on this journey with you. The spouse who wants to order pizza for dinner, when they know you are trying to lose weight. The buddies who want to get together and drink beers and eat chicken wings and fried cheese. The family member who gives very unhelpful advice like: "Just stop eating so much, then you will lose weight." This journey can be isolating, lonely and downright infuriating when the people around you are not supportive in their words and deeds. This is why I chose "Fire Team." A big part of the Fire Team Whiskey Program is that camaraderie, that support, that accountability, covering each other's 6. All of our Program Participants will have a Battle Buddy (a mentor who has done the Program and has had success with it) AND their own Fire Team (others who are doing the same program). This is an important aspect of achieving a mission that many forget. Finding others to hold you accountable, mentor you, push you and be on this movement with you is what Fire Team Whiskey is all about. I included a picture of two of my best battle buddies in this post. We have experienced some of the hardest and funniest moments together, and these guys are my brothers in arms. So cheers, to us and those like us, damn few! 

 

© Fire Team Whiskey, LLC, 2018, All Rights Reserved. 

How Yoga can change your life.

In the fall of 2000 I was in OCS, and of course in OCS fashion, running as fast as I could down a road to get to where I needed to be. I suddenly felt like someone took a knife and stabbed it in the back of my leg. I collapsed in total searing pain. I had done something to my knee, and it was bad. I was able to ice it, hobble around and basically live on ibuprofen for the next day or so, but I was hurt. Visions of having to quit OCS came into my head. I was at the peak of my game, my PT scores had never been higher, I was in OCS, I was at the top of my military game. I found out that I had a slight ITB tear, not bad enough to do surgery, but bad enough to be in physical therapy every week for a year. I totally stopped running and hit the pool for cardio workouts. I wore a knee brace and suffered through as best I could the rest of OCS (which was an entire year). The amount of constant pain I was in was just plain depressing. I was also having knee and hip pain in the compensating leg, and my lower back began radiating pain whenever I had to sit or lie down for long periods of time. Around the winter of that year, looking for ways to keep my strength up without being able to do any major impact exercises, I decided to try yoga for the first time. I didn't really know what yoga was all about, but the yoga teacher that invited me was in great shape, so I figured there must be something to it. It took a few classes to really get into it. For me, learning what the heck Warrior One was, etc. was my main focus. It seemed that I could work so hard on getting the pose just perfect, and the teacher could still correct something. Once I got comfortable with the poses and didn't have my OCD perfectionism kicking in, I actually started to NOTICE. Notice what?! Notice MY body. I started to become aware of my body. My breathing. All the tiny little movements, a muscle contracted, my core being tight or not, my facial tension, it goes on and on. There were, what it felt like, millions of little things to notice when staying in a pose for a long time. I really felt like this was my first step into mindfulness, not only in body but in mind and soul. Being aware of the little tension I carry in my jaw when I am having a stressful day. Or how shallow my breathing is when I am busy. Or how hunched over my posture is when sitting. This mindfulness began to bleed over into all areas of my life. I was using ujjayy breathing when I was feeling overwhelmed or anxious. I was able to listen to the pain in my knees and back and do the correct stretches and adjustments to relieve some of the pain. Still to this day, when I am doing yoga regularly (2 or more days a week), I have very little, or no, knee or back pain. I notice right away when I have been cutting back on yoga, because my pain levels become higher and more frequent. And as someone who had panic attacks starting at the age of 5...I fully believe mindfulness completely rid my life of anxiety attacks and has GREATLY reduced my every day stress levels. Not that my life isn't stressful (I own 3 businesses and a non-profit and teach 8 - 10 fitness classes a week), I just can monitor and reduce the physiological effects much sooner now rather than allowing it to build and escalate into a panic attack. I know most military veterans would never admit to having panic attacks, or emotional breakdowns or bouts of rage. But I am always open about these things that I have experienced in hopes it would encourage a fellow Veteran to talk to someone about these things if they are experiencing them. There is no shame in emotion. Sometimes it is overwhelming, debilitating and destructive. But #1: YOU ARE NOT ALONE and #2: Tools out there (like yoga) can greatly reduce these struggles. It helped me with chronic pain and anxiety. I still try to do yoga at least 2 days a week. And 17 years later, I am still practicing. I look back, gratefully, at that first invite to do yoga because that invite, and my willingness to give it a try, changed my life. I'm still friends with that yoga teacher. We plan to incorporate yoga in the Fire Team Whiskey Military Fitness Protocol Workouts. I hope for those of you who have never tried it, or haven't done yoga in a long while, that you would give it a go and just NOTICE.

 

***** Photo compliments of ROBERT STURMAN, an AMAZING photographer, friend and supporter of Veterans Yoga practice. His passion for Yoga's healing power for Veterans is so amazingly obvious and bleeds through his photographs. Check out his work at https://robertsturmanstudio.com/  ****

 

© Fire Team Whiskey, LLC, 2018, All Rights Reserved. 

Where did military pride in appearance go?

Military pride in appearance is not just for “show!”

The very first lesson I learned when I joined the Army National Guard was pride in appearance. When I got my first pair of boots, my Dad, a 28 year Veteran of the Navy and Marines told me he would show me how to shine my boots. Being a daddy’s girl, I always jumped at the chance to spend one-on-one time with my Dad. So we turned on an episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation, sat on the floor in the living room, one boot each in hand, and I got my first lesson in boot shining. I was astounded at the process, the detail and attention it required! Every day we would sit, each with one of my boots in hand, and watch an hour long show and shine my boots. He also showed me how to get the most perfect creases in my Uniform (back then the BDUs). He also showed me how to starch and iron my hat. The day I showed up at my first drill, I strolled in with the SHINIEST BOOTS and most creased Uniform in the whole Unit! So many NCOs I met that weekend came up to me and complimented me on my sharp appearance and told me that I was off to a good start if this was the level of discipline I had with everything I did. Over the years, I learned the lesson that creased Uniforms and shiny boots were not just for “show," but a statement. Actually, many statements: “I am disciplined. I pay attention to detail. I am willing to commit the time and the work it takes in my tasks and I am not willing to half ass something. I don’t compromise with the tasks that are set before me. I do everything 100% and even exceed the standard.” These lessons were imparted to me not only by my Father, but also by my 10 years in the military. This “pride in appearance” and related lessons have benefited me much in life; in work, in relationships, in opportunities.

I am still in touch with my very first Platoon Sergeant. Recently we were texting and he said he was at Camp Blanding the other day and he was so disappointed to see how slovenly the Soldiers looked. He said some foreign Soldiers from Argentina were slender, fit, their Uniforms pressed and boots shined and an air of discipline about them. He said by comparison, the American Soldiers' Uniforms were baggy and wrinkled, most were overweight and had no discipline in appearance or behavior. I too had observed this over the years, working as a civilian contractor for the military for the last 10 years, I have seen the degradation of appearance, discipline and the fattening of our US forces. In fact, this was THE INSPIRATION for me to launch Fire Team Whiskey!

Of course there are many Service Members who remain as disciplined and vigilant in appearance as we would expect our Service Members to be. But my observation is that the greater number has given up on this. Our forces look sloppy, unfit and undisciplined.  When I see an overweight Service Member, I see someone who is below the Standard and has not committed to the discipline it takes to meet the standard. This person may be very good at their Military job, but I am sure many think, “well if they are willing to not meet the standard in one area, they will probably be willing to not meet the standard in another area.” This goes with the physical fitness standards as well. When I was in the Guard, and the PT test rolled around, most of us had been training for months. We had our eyes on maxing out on every category. We were going to get that PT badge and wear it proudly on our PT Uniform! Now, more frequently the question commonly asked at the PT Test is “How many do I need to pass?”. In other words: What is the BARE MINIMUM I can do and be done with it. Back in the 90s when I was in my Unit, if we had someone in our Unit who did that, they were shamed immensely! Now, it’s pretty much the standard.

We are busier than ever. Our forces are over-used. We have been at war for over a decade. We fight in the desert, not a place for shiny shoes and ironing uniforms. But this is not the only thing that has fallen away. I still am shocked when I get to a Unit and see pretty much everyone staring at their phones, playing You Tube videos, and drinking 20 ounce sugary energy drinks and completely ignoring the briefing being given or the task that is being given. I want to stand in the middle of the drill hall floor and scream at the top of my lungs “WHAT THE *UCK HAPPENED!? WHY DO YOU ALL LOOK LIKE A BUNCH OF LAZY, DISTRACTED SLOBS!? IS THIS OUR DEFENSE AGAINST THOSE WHO WOULD TAKE OUR FREEDOMS? YOU TUBE VIDEO, MONSTER DRINKING PEOPLE WHO CAN’T RUN AN 8 MINUTE MILE TO SAVE THEIR LIVES?” I know this is harsh. But this is the reality. Almost 60% of our Armed Forces are medically overweight. And it's impossible to get accurate statistics on the physical fitness failure rate because those numbers (and the body fat numbers) are manipulated frequently.

My hope with Fire Team Whiskey is that we are part of a new movement within the Military Forces. A return back to the discipline and “Always Ready” vigilance that our Armed Forces have been known for since World War I. That we return to the no excuse, no compromise, do we everything 100% . That we don’t wait until the week before a Physical Fitness test to start training for it. That we don’t care what the minimum standards are…that our goal is the maximum. That no matter what, we wear our Uniform, we wear it with the pride, discipline and attention to detail, like the ones before us did. People like my Dad, my first Platoon Sergeant and those who never returned from the mission. Its disrespectful to do otherwise; to those who went before and paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who depend on our Forces to keep us safe and free. Semper Paratus: Always Ready: Fit to Fight.

 

© Fire Team Whiskey, LLC, 2018, All Rights Reserved. 

Meals Ready to Eat or Must Re-Examine?

As a former Army Soldier who has eaten countless MREs and as an American and as a Health Expert, I am ASHAMED of what we feed our US Military. Not to mention the fact that most of the entrees are DISGUSTING. That’s a matter of opinion, so we will move on from that. What is NOT A MATTER OF OPINION is the complete lack of nutritional common sense MREs make. I took this right off the US Army web site, so I am not fabricating this. According to the US Army web site: “Each MRE provides an average of 1,250 calories (13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates) and one-third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals. A full day's worth of meals would consist of three MREs.” HOLD ON, let’s just break down the insane information contained in this one little paragraph.

First of all, it claims that each MRE is on average 1,250 calories and you are supposed to consume 3 of these a day. I am not good at math, but thank goodness for that invention called a calculator, that equals 3, 750 calories a day. The US Health Administration's 2015 guidelines for caloric intake per day for “active” men ages 21-40 ranges from 2,800 to 3,000 calories. So MREs are 750-950 too many calories per day. 3, 500 calories equals one pound of body weight. So, if Army Joe is deployed and eats 3 MREs a day for 365 days, he could gain up to 99 pounds in a year. OK. We are laughing because no one could choke down 3 MREs in their entirety every day for 365 days. But COME ON, really? 100 pounds!

I know what you are thinking, when you are eating MREs (i.e. deployed or on some sort of training exercise), you are usually very active, going on convoys, movement to contact, clearing buildings, digging latrine trenches, etc. Gotcha. Remember that post a few days ago about current scientific data completely refuting the concept that we burn more calories the more active we are? If not, go check it out, but I will summarize here: On average, sedentary people spend about 200 fewer calories per day than very active people. The human body “maxes out” on calorie burn in order to preserve. So even though your fancy smart watch says you burned 1,000 calories doing that workout, that is not true. Our bodies are designed to preserve calories and it takes extreme measures to burn past the average rate of 2,600 calories a day for a very active adult male. So for every calorie above your daily burn rate, those calories add up to pounds. Bottom line, your Fitbit has been lying to you all this time. Humans are not biologically equipped to burn through that amount of calories without storage of fat. 

Back to the paragraph of insanity:  MRE’s consist pf 13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates for those 1, 250 calories, according to the USDA. Adults daily recommended allowance of the total food intake should consist of 45  to 65 percent Carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent Protein and 20 to 35 percent fat. There are numerous arguments explaining why these percentages do not correlate with current nutritional scientific data. You know who makes this stuff up? Lobbyists from the various US Agriculture interest groups: dairy, poultry, sugar, wheat, etc. None of this was actually developed with your health in mind. But I digress That is for a different blog on a different day. Let’s just compare the MRE to the US recommended daily percentages, just to show how off they are.  Taking a look at the MRE numbers again, the protein levels are on the low end of the recommended spectrum. The fat is on the highest end of the spectrum and the carbs are mid-range. What they fail to tell you is that the carbs in an MRE consist of very little fiber, and a common complaint of every person who has ever eaten an MRE is that it makes them constipated. That’s because most of the carbs in an MRE are simple, not complex fibrous carbs. The National Institute of Medicine, they recommend that women have at least 25 grams of fiber per day, and men have 38 grams per day. Unless you get an item with beans or any dried fruit in your MRE, you are pretty much out of luck when it comes to any substantial amount of fiber. Current science shows that a calorie-controlled, low carb, high fiber, moderate to high protein, and moderate to high healthy fat diet is the healthiest for MOST people. This would look more like 30% carbs, 35% fat, 35% protein with some variance depending on which plan you are following. Bottom line is, MREs are not within a healthy range of percentages for each macronutrient. 

Don’t believe me? DoD finally launched a web site where you can look up the nutritional content of your specific MRE. http://hprc-online.org/comrad/#  See for yourself. Pull up random meals and take a look. The amazing level of carbs and sugar is downright enraging. How they expect Service Members to meet the standards of body fat, but provide meals that counteract that expectation is amazing.

Here is the bottom line. All of us who have worn the Uniform at any time know that the military is doing a terrible job at providing healthy meals for their Service Members. With the military spending over 1.2 BILLION dollars ANNUALLY in obesity related health care spending and lower productivity costs (Dall, et al, 2007), if anything, it makes fiscal sense to spend the money up front providing healthy meals to their Service Members and not have to pay as much on the back end for obesity related chronic medical conditions and attrition problems. I totally understand that the military operates on a budget, but when the numbers show how the military is paying more NOT addressing this issue than they would need to address this issue, it’s just a head-scratcher.

 

© Fire Team Whiskey, LLC, 2018, All Rights Reserved.