The Best Thing to Happen to Me

PATRICK AFB, Fla. -- NOTE: Tech. Sgt. Renee Parry faced a tough challenge when she learned her fitness test results in August. This is her personal account of facing that challenge and the knowledge she gained as a result. 

Failing my Air Force Fitness Test -- the first time in 16 years -- was the best thing that has happened to me. It probably has literally saved my life. 

Just a quick medical background on myself: I was on a profile for no sit ups or push ups. I had to be bike tested due to bulging discs in my back for which I had surgery. I also had been battling high cholesterol for five years. In July 2007 my total cholesterol was 216, my high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) was 40, my triglycerides were 218 and my low-density lipoprotein (bad cholestrol) was 132. I am 43 years old, a mother of two and a stepmother to three additional children. I am a grandmother of four.

I was devastated when I failed my physical training test in August. I went through denial and anger stage and finally accepted reality. I dreaded the mandatory five days a week fitness and having to go to mandatory healthy living classes. Well, I am humbled today as it turns out all those individuals involved with the process were actually the ones who made me go through a life-changing and life-saving event. 
I attended the healthy living classes. I found I was not reading food labels correctly. A portion size is truly very small - literally, my beloved bowtie pasta portion is 12-14 pieces. I was amazed. Drinking 84-96 ounces of water truly works wonders in your body. And eating breakfast, something I have never done since I was a kid, is truly an awesome start to your day.

Then I started those dreaded Monday, Wednesday and Thursday boot camp sessions at the base gym, 6:45 to 7:45 a.m. I swam on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When the new policy came down within the Air Force Technical Applications Center, I went to the fitness track to participate in events led by a physical training leader on those days.

Learning portion size and drinking the right amount of water was no easy task. For the first week I literally wanted to chew my arm off because I was hungry, and choking down room temperature water wasn't that pleasant either. After the first week it became a way of life for me. I can only drink plain water if it is ice cold, so I add Propel flavoring or Crystal Light flavoring to my water. I found that I can't eat more than a portion now. 

Oddly enough, those boot camp sessions were actually fun and exhilarating. The instructors keep it fresh each and every time I go. You learn how to live within your profile but get fit while doing it. You learn a lot about your muscle groups and how to perform exercises correctly. 

The program gets results. In one month I lost 21 pounds and an inch off my waist. I have gone from a size 14-16 to a size 10-12. I just recently retested for my fitness test and smoked it - from a 67.88 to an 84.06. I took the bike test. I scored 38. This is far better then I have ever scored on my fitness or bike test in my career. I thought that was amazing. 

In November, I was given the results of my latest cholesterol screening by my doctor, who has been testing me for five years. He sat me down and handed me the July 2007 results. He asked me what my total cholesterol was in July - 216. He muttered October 2007 - 141. I thought I heard wrong. Then he continued July HDL - 40, October HDL - 46; July triglycerides - 218, October triglycerides - 54; and lastly July LDL - 132, October LDL - 84. I was stunned and he was amazed. He stated that the Vytorin he had put me on three months earlier had assisted but most of it was the lifestyle change that I chose.

If I can just inspire one individual to take control of his or her life and health and chose a lifestyle change, I will have done what I now feel is my mission as an American and an NCO in the U.S. Air Force - to help everyone I can to get healthy. I have more energy and feel better than I have in my whole entire life. 

I encourage each and every one of you to take the free healthy living classes given at the Heath and Wellness Center. It is truly education you can't do without. And, I would love to see you at the boot camp, which I still attend even though it is not mandatory five days a week anymore. 

The boot camp classes are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6:45 to 7:45 a.m. at the base gym. Give it a try, you might just like it. The instructors keep it new, and it never gets boring. 

Thanks to all who took time to read my story. Hopefully, it might inspire you to choose a lifestyle change. It could literally save your life and possibly your military career.