Fit to Fight

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kimberly Lalley
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing

Last October, Master Sgt Tamara Johnson, 87th Communications Squadron, was at a low point.  She was battling three auto-immune conditions and her stress was at an all-time high.  Her body was not healthy.  She was going through medical challenges and felt stuck.  One day while watching Season 9 of Hell’s Kitchen she found inspiration. One of the participants, Elise Harris, known as the Diva Chef, has a business that combines nutrition, meal delivery and personal training. Elise guarantees participants lose weight.  Johnson checked her out on-line with the intention to sign up for a six week course and lose weight.

It took Johnson three more weeks to build up the courage to reach out via email and then she never heard back.  She sent Elise a Facebook message and got an immediate response that would change her life forever.  For Johnson, the program has become a lifestyle change that’s not about the food or the weight.  She looks at the longevity of her life.  “Food is to be enjoyed, eaten and you can lose weight to meet your fitness goals,” she says.  Johnson was carrying 33% body fat and has dropped to 20% body fat.

One of the first changes Elise made was having Johnson eat six meals a day.  Before she barely ate three.  Her progress was slow, but eating six meals a day, her weight dropped .3 pounds in two weeks.  She kept at it and as her muscles increased, her body fat went down and her mental state improved.  What started as a goal to lose weight became a lifestyle change.  “Overall, my mind, body, and spirit have been great,” she said.

Through Johnson, Diva Chef Elise, was invited to Joint Base MDL to showcase her talents.  Elise, who is married to a Marine and lives in Quantico, started cooking at 9 years old, and considers herself a foodie. “It’s not about a diet but eating healthy and in moderation.  You can train every day and not understand nutrition.  The gym can help you conquer depression and become the best version of yourself and you can eat well,” she said. 

 She cooked up Cuban lettuce wraps for her presentation and had samples for all.  At her workout sessions and cooking session, she stressed the importance of eating carbs.  “It’s important to eat carbs, eat carbs as your first meal and pre and post workout.  Carbs don’t make you fat – not moving makes you fat.  Seasoning helps too and can help burn fat.  Food can be your supplement,” she said.

Joint Base MDL has options to assist in pursuing a healthier lifestyle.  Michele Jones represents Civilian Health Promotion Services.  She and Anna Orlov have a mobile work site and travel around the base for DoD Civilian employees and can administer blood work and do InBody, segmental muscle, fat and water analysis.  They can come to you and provide feedback in less than 50 seconds.  They also offer more than 40 health promotion topics, and wellness challenges.  Once a year, DoD Civilians can get their blood screened and get immediate results including their glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure.  They are experts in their field.  Jones points out, “We’d love to help, and it’s all free.”  For more information about their services call 609-754-1963 or go to their website:

Crista Brady Szabo, Health Promotions Flight Chief, offers a similar program for active-duty.  For those who would like to improve their time for the Fit-to-Fight test, she runs a clinic every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. She works with Dawn Pondish, a registered nutritionist, who offers one on one sessions for active-duty members through Tri-Care.  They utilize a BodPod, body fat measurement machine that everyone has access to.  For more information about their services email:

Eat First, Exercise, & Be Fit for the Fight!