WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 27, 21) --First came denial, then the shock, as television sets played and replayed the gruesome terrorist acts Sept. 11.
For service members and military family members, it was more than just watching. It was a sudden attack on our lives and everything America stands for -- freedom, democracy, hot apple pie, red, white and blue, Ford pick ups, '57 Chevys, baseball, space exploration, Harley Davidsons, Converse sneakers, sunsets, and Budweiser beer.
As we sit here as a country, in the aftermath we face reality -- the daunting task of picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off. We face the horror of the unknown -- what next?
We sit worried, jumpy, short-fused, impatient, scared, hungry, troubled, tearful, victimized, and alone. We are stressed and depressed.
Stress brings with it the ugly face of reduced feelings of security, self-worth and accomplishment. It also brings health problems like heart disease, and weight issues related to unhealthy eating.
Some people gain weight, while others lose weight. Point blank, stress is not good for the body or soul.
But there are ways to battle stress. I am reminded of the serenity prayer, "God, grant me the courage to change things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference."
For some, stress comes at us with increased workloads, longer travel times, and shorter periods of self and family time.
Yet the rut of stacking too much on our work plates must not affect what is placed on our breakfast, lunch and dinner plates. That, to an extent, we control.
Studies show regular exercise and a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruit and whole grains can enhance resistance. Our bodies are apt to fight stress better when we take the time to prepare and fuel it with well-balanced meals.
For the average person this means 50 to 60 percent of your daily intake of calories should come from carbohydrates, no more than 25 percent from fat and 15 percent from protein.
Carbs are the energy source for our bodies, without enough of them we don't function like we should. If at all possible, these carbs should be primarily from vegetables, then fruits and lastly unrefined whole grains.
These higher-complex carbohydrates (which are burned more slowly by the body) release glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream at a more efficient pace.
Examples of these include broccoli, grapefruit, brown rice, apples, baked beans, oatmeal, multi-grain and whole-wheat breads. Some indicators of not getting enough carbs are sudden, continuous headaches, the inability to concentrate, longer recovery time from strenuous physical activities, dizzy spells and a sudden lack of energy.
Fats should represent no more than 25 percent of total calorie intake. The key to this is having the fats come from monounsaturated oils such as olive oil.
Another good fat to consume are omega-3 fatty acids. These are present in most types of fish, nuts and flax seeds.
Many recent diet books and magazines claim protein should have a more predominant role in a person's diet than carbs. This concept is based on the benefits protein and amino acids provide muscles. But for the average person having 15 to 20 percent of your diet consist of protein is a good start.
Good sources of protein include lean meat such as grilled chicken, turkey breast, lean cuts of beef and fish. For vegetarians, protein alternatives include beans, soy products and supplement replacement meals like Slim Fast, Ensure, or protein drinks.
Healthy eating guidelines regarding carbs, fat and protein consumption to fight stress include:
* Eating in moderation -- eating too much at one sitting makes us sluggish and tired.
* Eating five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables per day, every day.
* Consuming enough fiber in your diet; fiber has been known to control fat consumption.
* Maintain a healthy weight for yourself.
* Limit snacks and treats. It's OK to have some every so often.
* Don't make large changes in your diet all once; work in changes over a period of time.
* Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
* Limit your amount of alcohol consumption.
The major conception with healthy eating is time it takes to prepare meals. Unless you still live in the 16th century there are things called refrigerators, coolers, freezers and dozens of other gadgets to keep things hot, warm and cold. Not to mention, Tupperware, Glad, and others have invented just as many container sizes to maintain freshness.
Eating healthy begins at the grocery store, not at the local burger or pizza joint. Avoid highly processed and junk foods.
In the end, as we sit here and battle the stress of today's tragic happenings, we can at least fuel our bodies with the right nutrients to help withstand the events to come.
Remember what you eat is important because it supplies your body with nutrients and fuel for muscle activity. The better prepared we are to eat more consistently and timely, the better success we'll have in the long run.
Although healthy eating and exercise cannot bring back our fellow Americans, it can provide us benefits that will last us throughout our own personal lifetimes.
(Editor's note: Sgt. Edward Passino, a staff writer for the Fort Belvoir Eagle, interviewed personnel at the DeWitt Army Community Hospital's nutrition care section for this article.)