News | Oct. 7, 2021

A Better Fit

By Tech. Sgt. Charles Johnston

For New Hampshire Army Guardsmen, physical fitness isn't an option.

Soldiers must train year-round for annual strength, cardiorespiratory and bodyweight tests to ensure operational readiness.

But for those needing extra help with their regimen, a little expert advice can't hurt. Enter Heather Taylor, a civilian dietician with the state's wellness program. She was hired a year ago this month to help the NHARNG address readiness and retention issues with guardsmen who struggle to meet the Army’s strict height/weight standards.

"I'm basically here to educate and help people work on their goals for meeting their weight requirements," Taylor said.

Additionally, Guard leadership hopes Taylor's expertise will help soldiers pass the new Army Combat Fitness Test—a demanding combination of events which includes deadlifts, pushups, running and weighted sled drags.

"Nutrition is a key component to a soldier's overall health, readiness, and ability to sustain the fight," said Col. Richard Oberman, program director. "You put the right type of fuel in your vehicle to ensure it runs and does not leave you on the side of the road, so everyone should reach out to Ms. Taylor to understand the right mix of food to fuel their bodies for maximum performance."

At Taylor's disposal is a cutting-edge body composition scanner, a faster and more efficient method than a hand-held measuring tape. The 3D imager enables clients to compare changes from visit to visit.

"Seeing [body] composition change is encouraging," Taylor said.

Taylor also advises soldiers on how to recover from injury as well as address other health concerns such as hypertension, cholesterol, and even digestive issues.
To date, more than 500 soldiers have sought Taylor's services. One of her many success stories includes Staff Sgt. Ashley Maxner, a North Country recruiter.

"The plan was to incorporate changes into my diet and exercise regimen that were sustainable," Maxner said. "It was about making small changes that would have a big and long-lasting impact."

With Taylor's tutelage, a custom nutrition routine was tailored around Maxner's specific needs and goals.

"The results are definitely proof that it's working," Maxner said. "I'm down 30 pounds since January."

She raves about her weight-loss journey and how others can benefit from Taylor's services.

"Heather is approachable, knowledgeable, compassionate, open-minded, funny, and most importantly, non-judgmental," Maxner said. "This is someone who genuinely wants to help every soldier she can, so why not let her help you?"

Like she helped Staff Sgt. Steve Prewitt of the 941st Military Police Battalion.

"Heather helped me to understand that I needed my family involved and aware of my fitness goals," said Prewitt, down 17 pounds in five months. "She has even met with my spouse to discuss our meal planning and dietary needs."

Taylor's dietary advice helped Prewitt complete the Norwegian Foot March, a grueling 18.6-mile fitness event, to earn the coveted foreign award.

But Taylor is just a guide. Real change begins and ends with each individual.

"You have to come up with your solutions and your own ideas, and we'll see if that's really matching what your goal is," Taylor said. "That's kind of my approach. Some people are like, 'I just need structure.' I don't give you structure. But eventually at the end of the day, you need to be able to do it yourself. You need to put on your big girl or big boy pants and be able to plan out a day for yourself."

The dietician’s services are available for all NHNG soldiers. Based at the state military reservation in Concord, Taylor can be reached at 603-227-1519.

"I love doing nutrition counseling, because I feel wholeheartedly that nutrition can literally save people," Taylor said. "There's just something about the magic in food that can really help people change the way they feel, and it's just a really cool thing to see."