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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


MOVE! Program helps Veterans lose big

MOVE program holiday luncheon at the Trident Clinic.

MOVE! program participants at the Trident VA Outpatient Clinic enjoy a healthy holiday lunch together Dec. 22. Veterans brought in calorie-conscious dishes to share with one another in celebration of the hundreds of pounds they have lost as a group this year.

By Meredith Thomas, Lead Public Affairs Specialist
Monday, December 28, 2015

As holiday celebrations wrap up and 2015 draws to a close, now is the time when many people make resolutions for healthier living in the coming year. Fortunately, Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Veterans can turn to the MOVE! weight management program for help in reaching their weight loss and wellness goals.

"MOVE! is a self-managed program, which provides the Veterans with the tips and tools for success," said Charleston VAMC MOVE! Coordinator Rebecca Luhrs. "Excess weight is associated with more than 50 adverse health conditions. Many of these can be improved, or even eliminated with weight loss. We begin to see positive changes with just a 5 or 10 percent weight reduction. Losing weight improves both the quality and the quantity of life."

Many Veterans have found success with the program so far, including Caryn Cash, Army Veteran and health technician at the Trident VA Outpatient Clinic. Cash struggled with her weight for years - reaching her heaviest at 190 pounds right after leaving the military. She began attending MOVE! meetings shortly after coming to work at the VA and hasn't stopped since.

"I've lost 45 pounds, which is three pounds from my goal weight range," Cash said. "Watching that number drop has been an awesome feeling. The most important thing was learning that MOVE! isn't a 'diet,' because all diets end. To be able to get the weight off and keep it off requires a total lifestyle change."

Army Veteran Caryn Cash

Army Veteran Caryn Cash shows off her 45-pound weight loss. Cash weighed 190 pounds after leaving the military and has trimmed down and maintained her current weight through the help of MOVE!

Veterans like Cash rely on the support offered in the MOVE! environment. Participants attend 12 to 16 weekly one-hour meetings with a trained facilitator over a six-month period - and often longer - and are able to interact with other Veterans struggling with excess weight. Each class includes a weigh-in and a physical activity component, which demonstrates adaptable stretches and exercises that Veterans can do themselves at home. Additionally, the program focuses on addressing behavioral issues and helping Veterans come up with strategies for overcoming obstacles they may encounter during their weight loss journey.

"We make it a point to set individual S.M.A.R.T. goals at each meeting," said Wendy Wyatt, dietician at the Trident VA Outpatient Clinic. "These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Bound. Around the holidays, a Veteran's goal might be to eat at home before that holiday party or to bring along a healthy dish in order to avoid being derailed from their eating plan. One of our Veterans, Mr. Carl Webb, set a goal to walk without his cane and he accomplished that and is pushing even further. This is the power of MOVE! The Veterans come in here each week and learn about healthy living and support one another in making positive changes. It's wonderful to see."

And the support doesn't stop once the scale reads that goal number. Veterans often continue with the program after they have lost the weight and come in for regular maintenance checks.

Donald Walton, a 79-year-old Air Force Veteran, is one of those using MOVE! to keep his current weight in check. Walton lost 55 pounds this year - reaching his goal weight in September 2015 - and still attends meetings to ensure the pounds are staying off.

"I'll come back about once a month to check in," Walton said. "It keeps me accountable to someone other than myself."

Luhrs said it's this sort of attitude that makes MOVE! effective and helps Veterans achieve long-lasting results.

"We know for one to be successful in MOVE!, one must make lifelong lifestyle changes and this involves changes in thoughts and behaviors, diet, and activity," said Luhrs. "We also know that the longer one is involved in the program, the more likely the changes will be lasting."

"I tell other Veterans to never give up," said Cash. "I've been asked to share my story with every MOVE! class that comes to my clinic. When I talk to a class, I like to end my session by saying, 'If you are tired of starting over, just stop quitting!' I love being able to 'pay it forward.'"

MOVE! programs are now available at the main VA hospital in Charleston and at all of the facility's outlying outpatient clinics. Veterans can attend group sessions in person or participate via phone appointments through MOVE! Telephone Lifestyle Coaching. Additionally, Veterans can get help remotely through TeleMOVE!, or through the MOVE! Coach - an iPhone app designed to keep Veterans on track while on the go. Patients who have previously tried other MOVE! options but still struggle with being overweight may also benefit from more intensive medical treatments such as weight loss medications and bariatric surgery through the MOVE! program.

Veterans interested in joining MOVE! should speak with their primary care provider about options available to them at their local facility. Find additional information on the web at


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