#VADidThat: A weight management program that’s so much more

For Marine Veteran Robert Christensen, the Vietnam War was the catalyst for a life-altering battle with his weight.

“I didn’t know I had PTSD,” Christensen said. “I just knew I had a lot of stress and everything that comes with PTSD. I started going to food and alcohol for comfort.”

Christensen gained significant weight that seriously impacted his overall health, forcing him to use a walker and limiting his mobility. He tried just about every diet to get his weight under control but after each diet he would gain the weight back and then some.

That’s when his VA doctor referred him to the MOVE! Weight Management Program and the paradigm shifted for Christensen.

“I think MOVE! has really helped me because it helped me identify what foods I should eat,” he said. “It helped me identify my stressors and why I went to emotional eating, and it gave me a good plan moving forward.”

From one-on-one to group settings

MOVE! is a lifestyle change program available to Veterans in all VA medical centers and facilities. Its core tenets include healthy eating, physical activity and behavior change techniques that help create long-term successes.

The program is administered in a variety of settings, from one-on-one sessions with a dietician to group settings to a mobile app. And everything can be done virtually to ensure everyone stays safe during the pandemic.

MOVE! is administered in so many different ways because each Veteran has a unique set of health needs and goals. MOVE! works with a Veteran’s whole health team to ensure that the Veteran is engaging with the program to help them achieve their goals.

“We celebrate even small, meaningful weight changes,” explained Mary Williams, MOVE! program coordinator. “Evidence shows that this type of program with frequent contact helps achieve the most significant weight losses.”

Helped almost one million Veterans

Since its launch, MOVE! has helped almost one million Veterans discover a healthy lifestyle and helped half of these Veterans achieve clinically significant and long-term weight loss. This includes Christensen, who lost more than 100 pounds since enrolling in MOVE!.

“I don’t use the walker now,” he added. “I go up and down the stairs without a problem.”

While he did a lot of work to change his habits, Christensen notes that the frequent contact with his program coordinator made the most significant impact. “I believe Mary is the key,” he said.

For her part, Williams notes that working with Veterans like Christensen is “The best part of my job. I’m here to help empower them to do the work.”

Because of MOVE!, Christensen now has the skills he needs to create and maintain a healthier lifestyle. And he hopes other Veterans, struggling with their own health, seriously consider enrolling in the program as well.

“The MOVE! program is not only about weight,” he said. “The MOVE! program is about changing your lifestyle.”

Visit the MOVE! Weight Management Program website for more information about how it works and how to enroll to start your journey towards a healthier future.