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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

Help reduce food waste

Filed under: Food, Food waste
Roughly 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten. Learn how to cut down on food loss and waste.

Food waste is a massive problem in the U.S. Billions of dollars’ worth is wasted each year—about 20 pounds of food per person each month. But there are strategies you can use to help save valuable food resources. Food waste happens along the food chain: from the farm, during transport to grocery stores and commissaries, at retail stores and food service operations, and in your home.

Military communities are working to address food waste by ordering only what’s needed, carefully planning meals, and avoiding waste through reduction and composting. In addition, many commissaries have food donation programs for items that can’t be sold but are still safe to eat. Try to do your share at home too. Read more...

New year, new fitness goals

Do you have trouble keeping your long-term fitness goals? Interim goals will continue to fuel your motivation and make your end goal feel closer.

Do you make a New Year’s resolution every year to “get in shape” and then approach year’s end dissatisfied? The problem might be that fitness is a long-term goal that’s hard to keep in focus. Goals that seem more in reach often feel more desirable (for example, money, food, or a finish line) than ones that seem further away. For example, when you’re at the end of a race and can see the finish line in front of you, you’ll probably see the finish line as closer than it really is. However, runners who are less fit and less motivated estimate the distance to a finish line as farther than do runners who are fit and highly motivated. Whether or not the goal is actually closer, believing that it is triggers excitement and fuels effort towards achieving the goal.

That’s all well and good if you’re already out running that race, but sometimes getting off the couch is the hardest thing to do when you’re out of shape. And even if you want to get in shape, your poor fitness can affect whether you believe you can achieve your fitness goals.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get in shape. Keep your eye on the prize! The “prize” could be anything. It could literally be the finish line; the next milestone on your route, such as the building at the end of the block; or even be a post-race reward, such as a healthy post-workout smoothie.

Remember, some goals are harder to achieve than others, but you can stay the course by imagining what's coming, keeping the self-talk positive, and setting SMART goals along the way. This will help keep your motivation high and the prize within reach. Exercisers who focus on an end goal and ignore the distractions around them perceive their goal as being closer, perform better, and—perhaps most important—don’t consider the exercise as difficult. So, if you see your goals as being closer to you in your mind, you’ll have something motivating to look forward to.

Weight-loss supplements unwrapped

If your goal is to lose weight in 2017, skip the supplements. Here are two good reasons why.

Is your New Year’s resolution to try to lose weight, meet body composition standards, or just be healthier? Weight-loss supplement might be a tempting solution, but before you take one, consider this: Dietary supplements marketed for weight loss are categorized “high-risk” products. The Food and Drug Administration has found many dietary supplement products marketed for weight loss to contain hidden drug ingredients or other ingredients that haven’t been adequately studied in humans.

Not only are they potentially unsafe, weight-loss supplements that advertise “quick fixes” likely won’t help you meet your goals. There’s limited scientific evidence that weight-loss supplements alone help people lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off. Question the claims on the label, and remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

For more information about weight-loss supplements, visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQs about Weight Loss and this factsheet from the Office of Dietary Supplements.

Your year in “after action” review

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Goals, Mindfulness
Every mission deserves a thorough debrief. Why not your year? Learn how an annual AAR can help Warfighters reflect and set goals for the New Year.

Leaders conduct after action reviews (AAR) with Warfighters to provide feedback on mission and task performances in training and combat. Try doing the same at home, and conduct a “year-end review” of your personal goals.

  • What was supposed to happen? Think back to the end of last year: What did you look forward to working on? Which goals—personal, social, academic, financial, physical, and otherwise—did you set? What about your expectations for staying on track with things?
  • What actually happened? Based on the goals you set, take stock of how things went. Did you hit the mark? What progress did you make? Did any goals fall completely by the wayside?
  • Evaluate “sustains and improves.” You might be tempted to assign a label of “success” or “failure” to each of your goals once you’ve compared where you wanted to be with where you actually ended up. Instead, think of goals as a constant work in progress. Devise a list of “sustains” to highlight strategies you used to help gain some ground on important goals, underscore what went well, and understand what got you there. Reflect on “improves” to balance the scale—by acknowledging shortcomings, deficits in motivation, or resources—and draw attention to ineffective strategies.
  • What about next time? Put it all together and imagine what this coming year will look like. Which strategies will you adjust? How will you prioritize forgotten goals? Who can you reach out to for support? What resources can you leverage? What about new goals?

Remember: Intentional reflection drives purposeful action. Life is your most important mission. As the clock ticks down on this year, take a moment to evaluate what’s happened so that you can increase accountability, get focused, and feel energized for the New Year.

Ladies: Set limits on drinking

The holidays are filled with celebrations, which sometimes means temptation to engage in heavy drinking. Learn how to cope with holiday stress and avoid drinking too much.

The holiday season is here, and it’s time for parties and gatherings with family and friends. Through these good times, try to steer clear of risky drinking and manage stress well, so you can enjoy the festivities. 

Those who consume 4 or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting—or within 2 hours—are binge drinkers. Binge drinking is dangerous, and alcohol can be especially harmful to women. It can impact your speech, memory, coordination, and balance, and sometimes result in alcohol poisoning. Women are more likely to develop liver and heart problems from drinking. And drinking during pregnancy can severely impact fetal development.

Alcohol use can affect your marriage too. It can have a negative impact on other family members as well. Alcohol also is commonly used as a sleep aid for Warfighters and their spouses, but it’s ineffective. While drinking might make you sleepy, it disrupts your ability to get the deep sleep your body needs.

Military wives might be more likely to binge drink than civilians too. They might drink because of stress related to deployment, or they’re exposed to alcohol more frequently at “post-deployment” parties. Some younger wives are more willing to experiment with drinking as well. Some might binge drink to let off stress, but other, healthier coping skills can help you go the distance. Military wives report that what really helps them keep stress at bay is staying busy, exercising, journaling, spending time with family and friends, and focusing on spiritual activities.

It’s fine to enjoy a drink or two at a holiday party, but it’s important to know your limits and drinking patterns. If you’re concerned you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol, understand the signs and symptoms and get help.

The scoop on lentils, peas, and beans

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Fiber, Nutrition, Protein
Beans, once thought of as a poor man’s food, are trending. Learn more.

Lentils, peas, and beans can provide a protein-rich boost to your meal plan. They contain healthy carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and valuable minerals such as potassium, iron, magnesium, and folate. Also known as legumes or pulses, these foods can help balance your blood sugar and keep you fuller longer, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. Eating legumes also might lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and even some cancers.  

Legumes are inexpensive too. At just pennies per serving, they’re cheaper than other forms of protein. What’s more, they’re delicious and can be eaten in different ways!

  • Dried. These varieties always require cooking, but cooking times vary. For example, lentils and split peas cook in about 10 minutes. Tip: Avoid soaking legumes—and save more time—by cooking them in a crockpot instead.
  • Canned. Keep low-sodium or sodium-free varieties on hand for salads and soups. Tip: Cook instant rice, mix with black or red beans (drained), and season with garlic for a quick meal.
  • Specialty packs. In a hurry? Grab ready-made meals, pastas, and bean blends from your local grocer. Remember: Ready-made foods tend to cost more, and they’re typically higher in sodium. Tip: Add 1 cup of sodium-free beans to your specialty pack, which lowers the total amount of sodium per serving.

Legumes help keep you “regular” too. A ½ cup serving contains roughly 25% of your recommended daily fiber. One carbohydrate in legumes ferments in the gut, causing gas. However, this mostly diminishes as you eat them more frequently. If gas becomes problematic, cook legumes thoroughly, rinse them well, and gradually increase your fiber intake. And keep in mind the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommendations for 1–3 cups per week, depending on your age. So, try to eat them more frequently. Make sure to check out the Bean Institute's easy recipes too.

Savoring: your strategy to total fitness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Find out how your total fitness approach to savoring positive experiences builds stronger relationships and improves overall health, wellness, and resilience.

Savoring is a total force fitness strategy you can use to create, maintain, and enhance positive emotions, which can help boost your well-being and performance. It’s intentionally paying attention to past, present, and future experiences, and purposefully trying to appreciate them. When you savor an experience, you hone in on the positive moments and replay them in your mind. The focus is on prolonging or even intensifying the good emotions you attach to a particular situation.

Savoring can increase your happiness. It might even help you gain a new perspective or insight as well. Read more...

Phenibut concerns

Is it okay to use “smart pills” or anti-anxiety dietary supplements that contain phenibut?

Phenibut—also “β-phenyl-γ-aminobutyric acid” or “4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid HCl”—is found as an ingredient in some dietary supplements. These supplements are sold for a variety of uses, including sleep, stress reduction, and nootropic (“smart pill”) effects. Phenibut is a drug developed in Russia and Latvia, where it’s used as to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, insomnia, and other conditions.

In the U.S., phenibut is neither a controlled substance nor a prescription drug. But that doesn’t mean it’s “okay.” Phenibut is a synthetic substance—it’s made in a laboratory and doesn’t occur in nature—which means it doesn’t fit FDA’s definition of an acceptable dietary supplement ingredient. It’s similar to the FDA-approved drug baclofen.

There are reports of adverse events associated with phenibut use, and some evidence suggests that continued use can lead to dependence and increased tolerance, which means an increasingly higher dose is needed for the same effect. Withdrawal symptoms include visual and auditory hallucinations, muscle pain and twitching, heart arrhythmia (tachycardia), nausea, vomiting, insomnia, sensitivity to sound and light, and separation from reality.

Although FDA has not yet declared phenibut illegal for use in dietary supplements, we advise caution.

Bounce back after a breakup

Everyone experiences a breakup differently. Some people are able to rebound quickly, while others struggle with intense emotions and insecurity. If you’re having a hard time moving on, keep reading.

The loss of a romantic relationship—whether through divorce, separation, or breakup—is a distressing event. It sometimes can be challenging to move on, especially for those who might question their self-worth.

Be aware of your anxiety. Highly anxious people tend to be more emotional after a breakup. They might become preoccupied with what happened and sometimes turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-soothe. Effectively managing your anxiety means you’ll be better able to leverage the breakup and improve yourself.

Focus on personal growth: Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” Maybe this breakup will help you clarify future expectations of your romantic partners. Perhaps you can reframe being “alone” as now having more time to be with friends and family. Write out what led to the breakup to help lessen negative thoughts about your split too.

When your relationship ends, it doesn’t have to mean you lose sight of your own goals. If your ex didn’t help you meet your goals or wasn’t supportive of your pursuits, then breaking up can help you shift your focus to what you want to achieve on your own. Concentrate on finding new, more effective sources of support as you move towards reaching your goals.

Expect other relationships to change too. Particularly after a divorce, it’s likely that you’ll lose contact with some people, including your in-laws or your ex-partner’s friends. Yet, you’re also likely to meet new people and expand your social network. You might find comfort in new friendships with others going through similar situations as well. And soon enough, you’ll be ready to date again.

Make stress your ally

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Stress doesn’t have to be your enemy. Learn how to make it your ally.

Stress is unavoidable, especially for Warfighters and their families. Alleviating or overcoming your stress is one way to cope, but you also can learn to embrace it and make it your ally.

You might believe that stress is out of your control, and the only way to cope is to avoid it. The good news is there are many ways you can respond to stress. Try the following strategies to turn stress from enemy to all. Read more...

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