Wanna lose some weight? Let the VA help!

gettyimages 92174036 Wanna lose some weight? Let the VA help!

Seventeen year-old Marissa Hamilton (R) walks with friends during a morning walk at Wellspring Academy October 19, 2009 in Reedley, California.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children in the US ages 6-19 years are overweight or obese, three times the amount since 1980. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

I want to lose a little weight. Well, “want” is a strong word.  I “need” to lose a little weight is a better verb, if I’m going to be truthful.  I knew that in a corner of the Veterans Affairs’ website, there’s help for that kind of thing, so my first stop was the HealtheLiving Assessment.

The assessment takes about 20 minutes to complete. You’re asked a series of personalized questions about diet, exercise, weight, the medical history of your family, alcohol and tobacco use. You’ll end up with a confidential report that talks about different choices and risks you should sort out. The first thing you’ll notice is your “health age.” Mine is 54, sadly I just turned 53 last week.  But according to the assessment, there are things I can do to lower my health age.

First, according to the VA, I need to lose weight; fine, I totally agree. Next this thing says I should get up and move once an hour while sitting. I should also start eating more fruits and veggies every day and cut down red meets a bit.  My assessment says I need to find ways to manage stress better and I’m working on that.

As far as health choices, the assessment rates you on diet, physical activity, stress, tobacco and alcohol use and safety. The assessment will also show any health risks you should be aware of.  On mine, I don’t have a lot of risks to worry about just yet.  The report says I have about a 25 percent chance of developing heart disease before age 90, but if I make some better choices, I can reduce that to about a 15 percent chance.  Good to know.

Really, my assessment says I need to eat a little better and move a little more. The VA has a program in place to help and it has a very easy name to remember, MOVE!  And there are several different ways to get involved with the MOVE! program too.  The MOVE! Coach app is for vets who want to manage their weight on their own.  Quick check-ins with a clinician keeps you on track.  The app is only available for iOS devices, but an Android version is in development.

MOVE! Group Sessions show the most evidence for success. These are clinician-led groups that meet regularly and follow a structured format.  Some medical centers even use video conferencing so more veterans are able to participate.  There are even some long-term groups for weight maintenance.

If you’re a person who needs reminders to stay on track, TeleMOVE! may be your way to lose weight.  With this method, you’ll have daily interactions with clinicians by using in-home messaging technologies when needed.  If you need even more motivation the MOVE! Telephone Lifestyle coaching is for vets who need the one-on-one contact with a weight management coach.  If you’ve tried MOVE!, but continue to have problems with weight-related issues, you can discuss weight loss medication or even bariatric surgery with your physician.

Another really good resource, not just for weight management but overall health in general is the VA’s National Center for Health and Disease Prevention.  Preventing diseases is easier than dealing with them once you’re sick.  The VA has a very easy to understand schedule for recommended preventative services, and it’s broken down into what men should think about as well as recommendations for women too.

Remember, preventative healthcare is complicated.  You should talk to your health care team and come up with a plan, together.

Connect: @JonathanVets1 | Jonathan@ConnectingVets.com

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