HAWC dietitian walks the walk

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
It's 5 a.m. as the sun slowly creeps its way above the horizon. There's a calmness in the air as one side of the world slowly becomes alive again.

Her feet lightly hit the pavement in a syncopated motion, step after step. Unlike many who are still sound asleep, she's wide awake.

For eight miles, every day, in rain or shine, Jacqueline Maillet, 341st Medical Operations Squadron Health and Wellness Center dietician, can be seen briskly making her way along the River's Edge Trail in Great Falls, Mont.

While some may question a seemingly monotonous hobby, others may envy her dedication to the sport of running. For Maillet, there's nothing she'd rather do.

"I was in sixth grade when I ran my first running event," said Maillet. "I later started wanting to become involved in nutrition as a teenager because as a competitive runner in high school, I knew that nutrition would have a positive effect on my performance. I knew that in order to improve myself, nutrition would be a great career field to enter because running was my passion. Nutrition later became my passion too."

While her weekends are filled with organized running events, on a typical day at the HAWC, Maillet can be seen conducting a weight management class, utilizing a body composition by air displacement instrument or conducting a one-on-one session.

"From a nutritional aspect, I see anything from diabetes, to elevated cholesterol to weight management," Maillet said. "It's a great variety of things [I do] and it keeps the job interesting."

But for the 100 Team Malmstrom members Maillet sees on a monthly basis, they have the opportunity to catch a rare glimpse of someone more enthusiastic about their occupation than most.

"To see people succeed in whatever it is they're trying to do - lose weight, become healthier - that's my favorite part," Maillet said. "When people improve their lifestyles, they feel better, stronger, more empowered and it seems for a lot of people, the change is good in every aspect of their lives. It improves the relationships with their loved ones and makes them feel more confident about themselves. It creates an overall positive change and that makes my job very enjoyable."

One of Maillet's most important aspects of her job includes working with active-duty Airmen who currently cannot meet the Air Force fitness program requirements.

"I listen a lot," she said. "It's almost like counseling in a way - especially if I'm in an individual session. I try to help them come up with their own solutions. Preaching and giving people solutions is not necessarily what people need or what will work for them. I cater to the individual. I find focusing on having them come up with a solution works best. I can tell them to run 10 miles every day and eat healthy five to six meals a day and do everything perfect, but it doesn't fit into everyone's lifestyle. Changes can be as small as cutting back on soda drinking to two cans a day. They set the goal and once they've mastered one, they go onto the next."

Whether she's running on a cross-country trail in Great Falls or providing nutritional advice to members of Wing One, Maillet continues to be a role model of fitness, health and overall wellness.

"I get just as excited [as other people] when they get good results," Maillet said. "Seeing that people are so happy with their accomplishments, that's very satisfying for me. My goal is to continue being a positive role model for the people I serve here at Malmstrom. I think a very important part of my job is to be a role model; I'm not just preaching. I walk the walk and I think that's important for people to see that."

Three most important things to remember, according to Maillet:
Consistency is important - Eating healthy and exercising regularly is important. Try to make fitness a part of a daily routine.

Have a backup plan - Have a backup plan if injured or on vacation. Even if a normal routine is
interrupted, try finding another solution for staying as active as possible. A gym is not necessary for fitness.

Fad diets don't work - A lifestyle change is necessary in order to make healthy eating and fitness a permanent routine. Making small changes can reap great rewards with just a little effort.