Grant Teague, 63, drank at least a gallon of milk a day, ate three loaves of bread weekly, and enjoyed a dozen donuts daily. "I grew up on a farm with a big family and was raised with the idea that if someone was kind enough to cook food for you, you had to be grateful and appreciate enough to eat it," Teague said. After Teague left the farm, his hearty appetite followed him, and when this Army Veteran tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds, it overwhelmed his 6' frame, aggravated his bad knees, elevated his blood pressure, and spiked his glucose levels. "I couldn't walk 500 steps to my mailbox without having to stop and rest on the bumper of my truck. My doctor told me I had to lose weight," Teague said. His doctor referred him to the VA's MOVE! Weight Loss program.
For Artemus Grady, 54, lots of sweet tea washed down the large bags and a half of potato chips he frequently enjoyed. It washed down the fried foods and Oodles of Noodles that he ate. It washed down the Doritos and other salty snacks. "I ate whatever I wanted when I wanted—mostly the salty snacks, which wasn't good for me because I have high blood pressure," said Grady. At 5'8.5" and 202 pounds, a triage nurse at the VA Maryland Health Care System flagged this Army Veteran as a candidate for weight loss and referred him to the MOVE! Weight Loss program.
Teague and Grady are not alone. Since its inception in 2006, more than 2,770 Veterans have participated in the MOVE! Weight Loss program throughout the VA Maryland Health Care System and the numbers are increasing. Coordinated by Kevin Grodnitzky, MS, RD, CDE, the VA Maryland Health Care System's MOVE! program classes take place at the Baltimore and Perry Point VA Medical Centers, and the Fort Howard, Glen Burnie and Loch Raven VA Outpatient Clinics. Plans are being made to add MOVE! to the Cambridge VA Outpatient Clinic in the near future. The MOVE! Weight Loss program includes classes that cover topics such as nutrition, physical activity and behavior change. Other topics include meal planning, food label reading, portion sizes, eating out and holidays, beverages, healthy snacking, motivation, goals setting, handling triggers, stress eating, physical education, and much more. The classes also cover continuing forward after a slip-up, and also touch upon psychological reasons such as stress, unhappiness and other emotions that cause people to overeat. The MOVE! Weight Loss team distributes pedometers, enabling Veterans to track their physical activity by counting the number of daily steps they take, and at each class participants weigh-in to track their progress.
"One of the most rewarding aspects of coming to the VA every day and working with the Veterans' is watching them make these lifestyle changes that affect their lives for the better. They seem to gain a sense of empowerment over their health, and it's exciting to them," said Grodnitzky. "I hear this from the MOVE! team as well. Helping Veterans help themselves to lose weight and feel healthier is so rewarding. "
Since being referred to the VA's MOVE! Weight Loss program, Teague and Grady have shed pounds, Teague losing more than 50 pounds, and Grady, 25 pounds. Both men found some aspects of the program a challenge, and other elements easy, but both men credit their success to support from family and friends, and the MOVE! team. "I miss my donuts, and I drank way too many sodas. I cut the soda out. I meet with my friends one night a week and to support my effort, they don't have the usual food there although none of them are trying to lose weight. My 8-year-old grandson was the biggest inspiration. He'd ask me every day what I weighed, and I promised him I'd go into the ocean with him if I lost the weight. This past summer was the first time in a long time I was able to swim with my grandson in the ocean," Teague said.
Grady's girlfriend helped by cooking the foods he needed to change his diet and walked with him when he incorporated a walking program into his new routine. "My girl friend is thin. She didn't need to change what she was eating, but she did for me," Grady said.
Aided by the MOVE! team, Teague and Grady changed their eating habits, began walking for exercise, increased their physical activity levels, and embraced healthier lifestyles by choosing foods and activities that aligned with their motivation to lose weight and keep it off. "The most important element for me was learning how to read labels. Do you know how much sodium is in Oodles of Noodles?" said Grady. "I had high blood pressure and didn't realize the sodium was contributing to my high blood pressure."
The days when Teague struggled to walk 500 steps and had to rely on a mobility scooter are gone. "I can walk more than 1,000 steps with ease now. When I drove my friend's motorbike, it went so much faster. I asked him what he had done to the bike to make it faster, he said, ‘Nothing. You're not 300 pounds anymore!'" Teague said, with a laugh, delighted about his increased mobility. "I feel so much better!"
Both men report ripple effects within their families. "My wife lost weight, too," said Teague, noting that she supported his weight loss efforts and ate what he ate. Grady, used his new-found ability to read labels and better understand nutrition to help his elderly father, for whom he cares. "Reading labels and better understanding nutrition allowed me to change what my dad was eating, and now his doctor reduced his medicines," Grady said.
For Teague, Grady and Veterans participating in the MOVE! Weight Loss program, the outcome is not only visible on the scale, but also in their appearances as evidenced by the compliments friends and family give them. Moreover, the cause and effect of implementing healthier lifestyle changes plays itself out feeling and looking better, being capable of doing more without becoming easily fatigued, thus fostering a higher level of self confidence.
Whether Veterans need to lose 15, 50 or even 100 pounds, the MOVE! Weight Loss program can help them achieve their goals! Veterans participating in the MOVE! program meet with a team of experts including registered dietitians, psychologists, social workers, exercise specialists, and others to help with lose weight, improve their health, and most importantly, feel better! Veterans interested in more information can attend a MOVE! orientation. Call 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7333 and ask to enroll in an orientation at your nearest location. Veterans can also check with their primary health care provider to learn more.