Health program provides help with fitness goals

Kirsten David, Kirtland dietician, and Guy Leahy, Health Promotion Program coordinator, stand with the BodPod, a device that measures body fat percentage. They have a variety of services available to Airmen who want help meeting health and fitness goals. (Photo by Bud Cordova)

Kirsten David, Kirtland dietician, and Guy Leahy, Health Promotion Program coordinator, stand with the BodPod, a device that measures body fat percentage. They have a variety of services available to Airmen who want help meeting health and fitness goals. (Photo by Bud Cordova)

Col. Eric Froehlich, 377th Air Base Wing commander, discusses the BodPod with Health Promotion Program Coordinator Guy Leahy. The BodPod is a device that measures body fat percentage, and is one of a variety of services available to Airmen who want help meeting health and fitness goals. (Photo by Todd Berenger)

Col. Eric Froehlich, 377th Air Base Wing commander, discusses the BodPod with Health Promotion Program Coordinator Guy Leahy. The BodPod is a device that measures body fat percentage, and is one of a variety of services available to Airmen who want help meeting health and fitness goals. (Photo by Todd Berenger)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

Exercise and a healthy diet can help keep Airmen in top physical performance, but it’s not always easy to tell what is a healthy diet or a correct form of exercise based on Internet research alone.

“One of the main things me and Kirsten both do is dispel a lot of Internet myths when people come to us,” said Health Promotion Program Coordinator Guy Leahy.

Health Promotion, formerly the Health and Wellness Center, works with Airmen and their dependents to be as healthy as they can. Leahy and registered dietitian Kirsten David use a two-pronged approach to meet health needs at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Leahy provides education on exercise and fitness goals, while David focuses on the nutrition aspect of healthy living.

David said she is able to help personnel to manage their weight or medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease.

“We tailor the program to fit individuals and help them meet their goals,” she said

Leahy focuses on the physical condition of Airmen to meet the physical standards required of them.

“The most important thing is injury prevention, because if an Airman is broken, they can’t deploy, their job performance is impacted and they can’t pass the (physical training) test,” he said.

He works to prevent injuries, but if Airmen are hurt, he creates a plan with them to get them fixed again.

“I look at Airmen as tactical athletes: They have to be in the best health and physical condition to do their jobs,” Leahy said.

Leahy and David also said the benefits of living healthy can include an improved mood and better resiliency to mild stress.

The biggest need Airmen ask Health Promotion for is help with weight loss.

David and Leahy both said the approach they use is a lot safer than following the latest diet trend, especially since many of them can be really dangerous. They gave the example of a water-only diet trend.

For the water-only diet, an individual drinks only cold water and has nothing to eat.

To get a baseline for the goal of weight loss, Health Promotion has a state-of-the-art “BodPod.” It looks like EVE from the cartoon “Wall-E,” but a person sits inside of it and the machine then uses air pressure to measure body-fat percentage.

“A lot of people don’t like the number it gives them, but this is the gold standard for body-fat tests. It is accurate to 2 percent,” Leahy said.

Health Promotion also offers tobacco cessation classes.

Some of the instructors are former smokers. They understand the battle with nicotine addiction, the behaviors associated with smoking and the difficulty with quitting.

While Leahy and David don’t prefer dietary supplements, they can provide advice on them.

“We had an Airman email about a supplement he was thinking of taking and we advised him not to take it. The supplement contained an unlisted anabolic steroid and would have ruined his career,” Leahy said.

He said supplements are not regulated like medication and may have unlisted ingredients or contaminants.

“For me, I don’t recommend (supplements) unless there is a nutritional deficit it is needed to fill. I would rather focus on fixing diet and exercise before supplements,” David said.

David does a healthy cooking demonstration about every other month at the Base Chapel. She also hosts classes on nutrition and diet.

Leahy instructs classes to help inform personnel of proper techniques on exercise.

Both of them are available to teach unit-level classes as well.

“The resources me and Kirsten can provide are free; to go to someone who can do what we do on the civilian side would cost several hundred dollars for one meeting. We are here for Kirtland,” Leahy said.

Health Promotion is at the 377th Medical Group. For more information, contact Leahy at 846-1186 or guy.leahy.2@us.af.mil, or David at 846-1483 or kirsten.david.ctr@us.af.mil.