From Quit to Fit
Navy Leader Goes from Smoker to Ironman
Command Master Chief Terry Prince used to go on 10 cigarette breaks a day before he quit smoking, gained and lost 50 pounds, and became an Ironman triathlete.
The Milwaukee native recalled how upset his mother was when he returned home on leave as a young Sailor with a tattoo and a pack of cigarettes. His parents had both been heavy smokers, but had kicked the habit. They were his inspiration years later for giving it up. So did the death of an aunt from lung cancer in her thirties.
Prince quit smoking in 2001. He kept a logbook to track his behavior. He replaced cigarettes with carrot sticks and straws. He told everyone what he was doing. He avoided places where he knew smokers would be. And he relied on the power of prayer.
"I decided to quit because I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and to be a better example to the sailors in my charge," he said, adding that the techniques he employed are similar to the ones developed by Alcoholics Anonymous to help people stop drinking. "I used a combination of log entries, prayer and engaging the help of friends to get away from it."
These suggestions came from the director of the hospital at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state, who had launched a quit smoking challenge based on Defense Department guidelines. Prince, who was stationed there as a dental technician at the time, was the sole person among those taking the challenge who made it all the way to their "quit day."
He has not smoked a single cigarette since.
"What I discovered through the logbook was that 10 times a day, during the workday, I was outside smoking for about 10 minutes or more," said Prince. "That's 100 minutes - over an hour and a half per day - away from my people, away from the workspace."
And he realized that it was making him sick. "I did not feel better after smoking a cigarette," he said. "In fact I felt worse."
Although he could have received medications to help him stay off cigarettes upon completing the challenge to stop smoking, Prince decided against it.
"I wanted to do it without using the patch or gum because I wanted the nicotine out of my system cold turkey for 30 days at least," he said, adding that he had read that this was the minimum time needed to break a bad habit for good.
Now Prince, who is 6-foot-8 and weighs 250 pounds, regularly uses the gym at Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia, makes sure he gets enough sleep, and eats healthy foods most of the time. If he eats a hamburger and fries one day, he eats something healthier another to strike the right balance. His mantra is prevention, and what he calls "leaning in" to health.
Along with his wife, a psychologist and former fellow Navy dental hygienist, Prince makes health a priority every day. They go to the gym together sometimes, and he has become a big fan of several Paleolithic diet recipes she has made recently, such as a tomato sauce that includes carrots and bison.