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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Healthy Vets are on the MOVE!

March 13, 2014


"Army Veteran Henry Marshall proudly displays his TeleMOVE Program weight loss results. Photo by: Tami Schutter, Public Affairs Trainee
“Are you ready to start your health check now?”

This is the first message Veterans at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center receive on their new “Health Buddy” weight management tool when they enroll in one of the medical center’s two free weight loss programs.   Hundreds of Veterans are already reaping the benefits of MEDVAMC’s MOVE! And TeleMOVE! Weight loss programs and many more are expected to enroll in 2014. 
"I tell everyone I need to lose weight so I can get a girlfriend,” says Army Veteran Henry Marshall, wearing a white and black polka dot bowtie around his neck, an Army t-shirt and a big smile. 

Marshall has been through MEDVAMC’s MOVE! Program twice, lost 50 pounds and has plans to go through another session to help him lose 50 more.  “Every time I graduate to a new goal, I treat myself,” says Marshall.  “I like to go buy myself a new outfit as a reward for my weight loss.” 

Both the MOVE! and TeleMOVE! Programs help Veterans lose weight and learn habits to manage their weight and keep them healthy. 

The TeleMOVE! Program is geared toward those Veterans who are unable to come to the hospital for group sessions.  All Veterans enrolled in the program are issued a weight loss management companion, called the Health Buddy. 

The Health Buddy is a device that the Veterans interact with on a daily basis to help them stay on track with their weight loss program.  The Health Buddy asks Veterans a series of questions about their habits, gives them weight loss facts and helpful tips, and monitors their symptoms.

“Health Buddy tools are great for those Veterans who are unable to visit with a dietician on a regular basis,” says Jennifer Sugg, dietician with the TeleMOVE! program. “Even though the Veterans don’t talk directly to us in the TeleMOVE! program, we are still able to review the information they input, and if their health changes, we are able to follow-up with them.”

“I decided to start the TeleMOVE! program after my physician said it would be good for me,” says Robert Gomes, a Marine Reserves Veteran that has lost about 150 pounds on the program.  “It was time to put-up or shut-up, and now that I’ve lost a significant amount of weight I feel healthier and more confident.”

Gomes described a couple of instances when he had forgotten to weigh-in, and, in response, a concerned dietician called him to make sure he was still on-board with the program.

“It’s really great to have the support to keep you on track,” states Gomes.

“Whether Veterans are getting help from us to improve their health or strictly for weight loss, the overall benefit of our programs is priceless,” says Jordyn Forsyth, dietician with the MOVE! program.  “We want our Veterans to be successful, so we let them choose the goals and we are there to support them.”

According to the American Heart Association, 60% – 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese.

"Army Veteran Bob Guthrie discusses his nutrition program with Carey Smith, Registered Dietitian at MEDVAMC. Photo by: Tami Schutter, Public Affairs Trainee

Diseases that can be caused by being overweight or obese are diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and thyroid disease, just to name a few.

“I was what doctors consider morbidly obese,” says Bob Guthrie, an Army Veteran who has lost about 50 pounds on the TeleMOVE! program.  “I haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease yet, but my primary care physician recommended I lose weight and get healthy before I got to that point.” 

The MOVE! and TeleMOVE! programs not only allow Veterans to communicate about their weight loss program on a daily basis, but they are also able to meet one-on-one with a dietician, a psychologist, and a doctor about their weight loss goals. 

“These Veterans get the support they need to reach their health goals,” says Forsyth.  “The patients choose their goals, and our program works better than others because we follow their needs, not the other way around.”

“Most of my physical activity consists of walking at the Memorial City Mall,” says Marshall.  He also states how life changing the MOVE! program has been for him, and boasts that ever since he has joined the program he has stopped smoking, lost weight, and has gained a lot of self-esteem. 

The MOVE! program offers all of the tools a Veteran needs to help manage their weight, including individual pedometers, weight loss medicine and surgery information, group sessions, grocery tours, cooking classes, and a walking group that began meeting for one hour campus walks starting in January.

“It really motivates me to go to the group sessions,” says an excited Marshall.  “I am a very competitive person and we challenge each other to always do better.  I thought I was doing well when I was walking 4,000 steps a day, but then I heard other people in the group session say they were walking 15,000 steps a day!”

If a Veteran wants to get information about either of these weight loss programs, talking to their primary care physician is the first and most important step.

There are currently 200-250 MOVE! program participants and 245 TeleMOVE! participants.

“As long as our Veterans are willing to stay with the program, they will be successful,” says Forsyth.  “Even if they have to complete the program several times, as long as they stick with it, they will lose weight and learn how to manage their weight for the rest of their lives.”

For more information about the MOVE! program, please contact Jordyn Forsyth at (713) 791-1414 ext. 26166.