Each Airman is responsible for maintaining a healthy lifestyle in order to stay fit to fight; however, developing a routine workout schedule and eating right can be difficult. This is where Geri Seal, the health promotion program manager assigned to the 28th Medical Operations Squadron, comes in.
“Air Force Health Promotion is the art and science of making healthy behavior the obvious choice through education, the available choice through policy, and the popular choice through marketing and community engagement,” Seal said. “I utilize this mission statement in the areas of nutrition, fitness, sleep, tobacco and community involvement.”
Seal said her work typically includes a general health briefing with new Airmen going through the First Term Airmen Center, Right Start, noncommissioned and senior noncommissioned officer professional enhancement courses and more specific briefs that a squadron can request.
She also meets with 25 to 30 members a month for one-on-one appointments, to check biometric measurements or to talk about nutrition, fitness or other health topics.
“When a member comes to the office, there is more to their story than just ‘I want to be healthier’ or ‘I need to pass a PT test,’” Seal said. “I get to hear more of their story and that really helps me understand how to get a strategy going for them.”
Seal’s desire and enthusiasm in helping people achieve their health goals stemed from an early interest in physical health.
Being raised on a farm on the east side of South Dakota with 18 brothers and sisters, the kids worked on their chores and lived off the fat of their land, but the idea of “healthy” and “non-healthy” was never really discussed.
It wasn’t until she attended a jazzercise class with her mother that her passion for exercise and physical health really ignited.
“Growing up we went to a lot of wedding dances where we loved to dance [polka and two-step],” Seal said. “I think from that experience to actually putting exercise movements to [jazzercise] is what sealed my love of health and fitness.”
At the age of 17, Seal decided to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
“After I joined the Marine Corps in 1984, I always struggled with my weight and, to a certain degree, the [physical assessment] test,” Seal said. “Back then, I only wanted to learn more about how to lose weight and how to get a better score. I soon learned there were so many more benefits to taking care of yourself than just losing weight and improving my test score.”
Seal has used fitness as the major coping tool in many of the adverse moments of her life. Keeping her health and resilience strong didn’t take just a few days of work – it’s something that’s been developing over time.
“Motivation is internal for me now,” Seal said. “I have my ‘why’ in life. If you have a ‘why,’ the ‘how’ is very easy. My ‘why’ now is hiking with my 31-year-old son or staying active with my grandchildren, riding my horse, walking my dogs, or just plain feeling good. I encounter all the external distractions like everyone else, but instead of thinking about those, I just change my thought pattern to a healthy substitute.”
When Airmen and dependents looking to live a healthier life through nutrition and fitness visit with Seal, she provides resources such as handouts and pamphlets. She also uses models of food to demonstrate serving sizes and how different types of food affect dietary proportions.
The resources and methods Seal provides to Airmen are ones she uses herself.
“I do try to practice all the strategies that I give to Airmen,” Seal said, “things like lying your workout clothes out the night before and scheduling in workout times or planning a meal the night before. It keeps me on target.”
For Seal, the best part of her job is building relationships with the Airmen and dependents on base. Whether it’s seeing a change in a person’s attitude or appearance, that return makes it worth all the work and effort she puts forth.
“I would encourage everyone to have a starting point in their journey to a healthy life,” Seal said. “Ageing will bring a whole new appreciation of your health, so don’t wait until tomorrow, New Year’s, a class reunion - you fill in the blank - to take your health seriously. Make an appointment with your doctor to get some basic blood work done or with [me] to get baseline numbers of simple things like height, weight, body fat, waist circumference and blood pressure. You will thank your future self.”
To make an appointment with Geri Seal, call 603-385-6250.