Friday, February 6, 2015

Why the BCA is good for you
Navy BCA Meme, from

I'm not a fat person, at least not now. I never really thought of myself as a fat person. But the Navy made me feel fat almost from day one. My first BCA (almost ten years ago now!) was conducted at Nuclear Power School, where I had to be taped because I weighed in at 225 pounds. I barely passed the tape test, but I did pass. Between working out and watching what I ate, I managed to pass the tape test, but I never really lost the weight.

Working on a submarine didn't help matters. I was always a bigger person. It wasn't like I had a big gut either. I was, as one would call it, "big boned." It was during that time that the Navy's BCA came under fire from a lot of places, and I contributed to throwing verbal darts at a process I thought was unfair.

I went to shore duty, and while I worked out more, it didn't make a difference. At best I slimmed down to 215 pounds. I was still taped by the Navy twice a year. In my mind, I just accepted that I was going to be perpetually taped due to an unfair system.

At my command in Georgia, during my last year I sort of owned the FEP program ("sort of" because it still fell under the XO, but was being transferred to N7). I went to a few FEP sessions to workout with Sailors and I asked them about their eating habits and workout schedules. Not surprisingly, almost all of them rarely worked out, and most ate a fast-food heavy diet. I also talked to our FEP successes and heard some amazing before and after stories.

That really motivated me, so I started working out harder and really cut down my meal portion size. At the very last BCA I took at that command, I weighed in at 201, which meant I didn't have to be taped. I nearly hugged the Sailor administering the weigh-in (I'm sure he thought it was a bit strange). My working out and diet had paid off.

When I got to Hawaii, I wanted to put my efforts in full gear. I began working out almost every day using a cross-fit style workout that only took me 25 minutes to complete. I cut down the portion sizes of my meals. I also watched my snacking, because I'm the guy that can eat a whole bag of chips without realizing it. I did use an appetite suppressant to help as well. As of today, I'm down to 175 pounds. My run time is faster and it's way easier to do pushups without all the extra weight.

Needless to say, when I say the Navy's BCA works, I'm not some hyper-fit workout gym rat, nor am I a Navy SEAL that could choke someone with their big toe. I'm a normal guy, I have a family and a thousand other committments, I like to drink beer, and I like to eat real food. The Navy's BCA measurements can be met, and meeting them will make you a healthier person.

If you want to get healthier there are a thousand websites and resources to do so, but I also have some tips from my experience:

  1. Fix your personal narrative. I hear all sorts of people say "The BCA is unfair, even SEALs don't pass because of muscle mass." Guess what? You're probably NOT a SEAL. It's probably NOT muscle mass that is making you fail. You're probably NOT the less than 1% that fits that mold. Yes, Navy Times does occasionally find someone that IS in that category, but the Navy could waive the requirement, and I'm all about waiving BCA if you are maxing out your PRT. But, if you think you are somehow part of the magical 1%, you're probably suffering from the Lake Wobegon effect.

Your first step is telling yourself that you are fat and want to lose weight. Until you do that, you will not succeed. In a way, it's like being an alcoholic: you have to admit there is a problem before you can fix it. Once that is done, you'll be in a much better place to make change happen.

2. Eliminate the low hanging fruit: stop eating bad food. Do you eat fast food more than twice a week? Are you a massive fan of fried food? Does every meal have a dessert? I never used a "fad" diet (be it Atkins, Mediterranean, etc.) but I did stop regularly eating bad food. I still get my occasional Hardees Burger or KFC fried chicken, but it's not a regular thing. Cutting out the fast food easily subtracts calories from your daily intake. It also gets you checking out other restaurants and start enjoying other types of food.

3. Start small: don't buy appetizers. I made many a waiter happy by ordering an appetizer, meal and dessert. Eliminating an appetizer doesn't seem like much till you realize that they run 200-500 calories. I didn't tend to miss them, and I liked having the extra money.

4. Replace snacking. Let's be honest, a lot of people snack because they are bored. Pick up more activities that don't permit you to snack. If you do snack, measure out a snack and don't keep the open bag nearby. Also, try replacing your snacking with something else. I drink a lot more tea in order to cut down my snacking habit. Other people drink water. Both work to fill you up without bringing in extra calories.

5. Eat real food. I like steak and bacon. A good steak fills me up, but I could pound a whole box of Cheese-its and not feel full. Processed food doesn't always fill you up, but it does pack the calories. Cooking is not that hard, between YouTube and The Food Network you can learn to make basic meals for cheaper than a restaurant and far healthier for you. Also, be sure to eat some vegetables and're a grown up, not a 3 year old.

6. Social eating is dangerous! I always ate more around other people. Someone ordered wings and couldn't finish? Someone opened a bag of chips and asked you if you wanted one? Betcha can't eat just one (I couldn't). It happens, and it adds up quickly. I had to force myself to turn down food, which wasn't easy when everyone else is eating. I tended to get a glass of water, which helped by keeping one hand out of an open bag of chips.

7. Workout in a real way, with weights. Lot's of people go to the gym. Not as many actually workout. Get to the gym and make it count. If you aren't sure about how to workout, ask for a workout specialist. Almost every Navy gym has one, and they'll gladly start you on a program and help you track progress. You can get a meaningful workout in about 30 minutes. It won't give you 22" biceps, but it will keep you in shape. Also, be sure to use weights. Cardio is nice, but it's not going to kill the fat. Be sure you're pumping weights of some kind each day. This goes for the ladies as well (and no, it won't make you look like a man)

8. Use supplements if you need to, but understand what they do. I used a supplement called Garcinia Cambogia to cut down on my appetite. What Garcinia helped me do was not have the urge to eat as much, and made it easier to cut down on social eating. It's not a magic pill. Too many people think they can just take a pill and the weight magically comes off. Supplements will help you build good habits, but if you don't BUILD the habits, you won't see results.

You can meet the Navy's BCA. You can weigh less and still eat normal food. It'll help you in the end (says study after study after study). If nothing else, do it so you'll live longer and have better sex!