One Class at a Time at the Army Wellness Center


Sgt. 1st Class Elena Arratia works out.

JOINT BASE LEWIS, MCCHORD, Wash. — One class at a time is usually what a college student thinks is a step closer to accomplishing all university requirements toward their desired degree and goals. In my case, I was actually thinking about my health. You see, back on April 27, 2020, I made a decision that changed my life completely. 

I left an eight-year relationship behind in order to grow as a person.

With this new change in my life I wanted to take action and improve my health. I heard about the Armed Forces Wellness Center back in 2018 while in-processing at Joint Base Lewis McChord, during an installation welcome brief. I remember thinking, “this is not for me, and these services don’t apply to me.” I was under the impression I was good as far as my weight and lifestyle. I was in denial and poor food decisions were not helping.

JBLM Nelson Rec Center.

A year passed and I found myself at annual training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in May 2019. During AT our battalion S3, Capt. Gillett, mentioned the Army Wellness Center at Fort Knox and recommended to schedule the Bod Pod to a group of 10 soldiers. Out of the group, around four of us conducted the test. The Bod Pod is a large egg-shaped, seated device that uses air displacement plethysmography, or ADP, to determine body composition (fat mass and lean mass). Once inside the Bod Pod, the assessment lasts about 30 seconds.

When I got my results, they were terrible! But I did nothing. I had that on the back of my mind and, in 2020, I shifted gears to action instead of passive “sadness.” I am Sgt. 1st Class Elena Arratia, I am 36 years old and this is my experience and progress with the services, classes, and journey to a healthy life.

The new SFC Arratia.

In June 2020 I scheduled an appointment for my Bod Pod at the Jensen Gym here at JBLM and this time the process was completely different than in 2019. I was ready for change, wanted the change, and understood it was time for change. This time my heart, brain, and courage were all aligned in the universe.

All the representatives were courteous and polite and after the Bod Pod the representative gave me a list of all the classes available. On that list the classes available were upping your metabolism, Fueling for Health, Meals in Minute, Stress Manager, Retire/Transition Strong, Staying Fit Home & Away, Healthy Sleep Habits, tobacco education, and Army Combat Fitness Test preparation. I was in shock and before leaving that appointment I scheduled the next two appointments for classes. I started with Meals in Minute. This class shows individuals how to make affordable, healthy, quick and simple meals. A meal template that covered breakfast, lunch, dinners, and snacks was provided to help create weekly meal plans. I also attended the Staying Fit Home & Away where I learned to identify benefits and barriers to physical activity. This class also identifies types of equipment and exercises that can be utilized for home workouts. Finally, it develops an action plan for a home workout incorporating all aspects of fitness.

A Bod Pod is used to calculate and give you a breakdown of your body weight.

In October 2020, I took the resting metabolic rate test, which is an individualized test on your metabolism rate; in other words how many calories you need to take in every day to maintain, lose, or gain weight. I was surprised that I was supposed to eat more calories than I initially assumed. During this whole time, I have been taking regular Bod Pod tests every four to six weeks at the AWC.

At this time, the only two classes I don’t think I will take are tobacco education and healthy sleep habits. I have never used, or plan to use tobacco products, so it is not beneficial for me at this stage of my life. The second class is healthy sleep habits. As crazy as this may sound, I recovered my scheduled life and sleep habits as soon as I ended the relationship with my ex. Before I was getting five hours of sleep and now I am averaging almost nine hours every night without a problem. My performance, mood, and energy are superior compared to only getting a few hours. As you can tell, sleep habits are not a problem at all to me.

Arratia’s personal trainer Jessica DeBose.

In January 2021, I got off my butt and started attending a commercial gym three times a week with a personal trainer. I achieved the recommended guideline of physical activity for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.

In the near future I will be enrolling in the last class from the AWC, hopefully by late this year or early next year, and will request the Retire/Transition Strong Class. By March 2022, I will be completing 18 years so it will be a good start for the next chapter in my life.

Each and every class listed here helped me get closer to a measurement goal. Each Bod Pod every six to eight weeks was a way to be accountable to myself. And every day flexing in the mirror allowed me to dream again and believe in me. Leaving a relationship that was not helping me anymore was the energy that fueled my internal power to focus on my life, health, wellbeing, and overall happiness. Today is almost a year from my journey to change. Since I started the process, I lost six percent body fat, added 10lbs of muscle, and lost 14 lbs. of my initial weight. The process is not over and I gave myself another eight months, to the end of Dec 2021, to reach my goal of 28-percent body fat, losing another 10 lbs. of weight and hopefully start my dream to become an amateur bodybuilder by age 40.

For more information about the Army Wellness Center please visit:

Army Wellness Center

Phone number: 253-966-3757

Location: Building 2022, Liggett Avenue, JBLM, WA 98433

Hours of Operation 0730-1600 Weekdays


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