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Lt. Col. Heath Tortarella: Getting fit for life

Lt. Col. Heath Tortarella: Getting fit for life

Lt. Col. Heath Tortarella: Getting fit for life
By Annette Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition

ARLIINGTON, Va. – The Army’s physical fitness requirements are well known by all Soldiers, but for Lt. Col. Heath Tortarella, those requirements went beyond a fitness test.

“Weight control has been a lifelong challenge and the realization that I need to do a better job of managing my personal fitness has been more of an underlying theme and frequent frustration than a defining moment,” Tortarella said. “Despite being overweight and frequently not focused on targeted physical fitness activities, I would not have described my lifestyle as completely sedentary.”

In May of 2018, Tortarella put away those frustrations and challenged himself to get fit, losing 50 pounds in the process.

“I decided to try a carbohydrate restricted diet and coupled it with increased activity, primarily focused on moderate intensity aerobic activity with a touch of resistance training and yoga,” Tortarella said of his plan to lose weight. “I would never suggest it is the answer for everyone, but this approach to nutrition and personal physical fitness seems to have worked the best for me.”

Over the last year, before, during, and after initiating changes to his diet, Tortarella consistently committed larger amounts of time on a more frequent basis to his personal physical fitness. Unfortunately, he says he has yet to successfully incorporate the sleep portion of the military performance triad, but he continues to work on it.

Lt. Col. Susan Hopper, Nurse Practitioner and Program Director for the Warrior Care and Transition Medical Retention Processing Program, says the Army Military Performance Triad has been a game changer.

“We see the direct connection between our individual choices and their influence in the lives of our family and co-workers. We are able to observe the changes directly; simple things such as reaching 10,000 steps daily or consuming enough water has become commonplace in the lives of our Soldiers and civilian co-workers lives.” Hopper said. “We see more people standing at their desks instead of sitting the entire day, bringing lunches and sharing meal and diet ideas with each other. People are also beginning to take walks with each other during the day and I believe these types of healthy initiatives stem directly from the introduction of the performance triad.”
Hopper says incorporating those initiatives into your lifestyle should begin at a young age, when many unhealthy messages surrounding food are introduced, like rewarding children with a sweet dessert for “cleaning their plate.”

“Children learn what they see. Americans are developing Type 2 Diabetes, elevated cholesterol (hypocholesteremia), and high blood pressure (hypertension) at an alarming rate,” Hopper said. “We need to teach our youth how to select and prepare healthier foods which will protect them before these diseases develop. Healthier foods are the best medicine. In the end, we need to make healthier, smarter choices,” she said.

For Tortarella, his family became the central part of his motivation to work toward a healthier lifestyle and food choices like those described by Hopper.

“My primary reason [for improving my diet and fitness] was a general desire to live an overall healthier lifestyle and provide a better model for my children. My family is my number one priority and I want to be there for them.”

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