BY MARY WICOFF
While other people were putting on pounds over the holidays, Deanna Wharwood did something unusual — she lost weight.
The Navy veteran said she owes it all to the MOVE! program, offered at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System in Danville and at other sites. The national program is designed to help eligible veterans lose weight, keep it off and improve their health.
Wharwood said she lost 6 pounds over the holidays, and has lost 21 pounds since she joined the program four or five months ago.
“I think the program is awesome. I think it’s a tremendous asset to veterans,” she said.
Wharwood, 45, is enrolled in the traditional weight-loss program, where she meets in person with consultants.
However, the program also offers a Tele-MOVE! option, which allows veterans to get weight-loss tips and weigh themselves at home.
That option is convenient for someone like Noel Bowers, who lives near Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. Bowers, 62, was an Army intelligence officer with the Special Forces during the Vietnam War, and is a retired stockbroker.
Bowers has lost 30 pounds over six months, and — best of all — he doesn’t need some of his blood pressure medicine anymore.
“I hope to get off all medication,” he said, adding, “I have a long way to go yet.”
The Tele-MOVE! option uses an in-home messaging device and scale. A veteran weighs himself once a week, and the results are registered with the VA Danville office.
At a certain time each day, the veteran accesses the monitor to see questions, statements and education tips to help the veteran achieve his or her goal. The daily information and the weight are monitored by a health professional over a secure Web site.
To use Tele-MOVE!, a veteran must: have a body mass index indicating overweight or obesity, a VA primary care provider, landline phone and stable electrical source, and must be able to use technology and complete daily sessions.
Both Bowers and Wharwood said the weight has come off without them doing anything dramatic — just making small changes in their lifestyles.
“It’s a change of life. You need to get used to it,” Bowers said.
While both Bowers and Wharwood rave about the program — both the traditional and at-home options — Beth Peralta is happy about their success. Peralta, a dietitian, is coordinator of the MOVE! program, which has been around since 2006. However, it’s growing and offering new options over the years.
She especially hopes to see the Tele-MOVE! program grow. About 30-35 veterans are enrolled now, but the program can handle 70-80, she said.
That in-home program is good for veterans who live far away, work full time or have transportation issues. Sometimes, people prefer to do the program on their own.
A veteran is enrolled a minimum of six months, although he or she can opt out earlier. The person returns the monitor when he finishes the program.
There are 84 educational lessons spread over three months, so that keeps the program interesting.
Wharwood, who is a small business development consultant in Danville, prefers the traditional weight-loss program. She attends group sessions once a month and meets with Paul Haussy, a kinesiotherapist, for exercise three times a week.
Besides Haussy and Peralta, the other person on the MOVE! team is Amber Cadick, health behavior coordinator. The three take turns leading group sessions. The groups, which meet twice a month, attract five to 10 veterans each time; spouses and significant others are welcome to attend.
Cadick said her role, as a psychologist, is to talk to veterans about the thought patterns that cause them to overeat. She gives them tools on how to break the cycle of eating when upset, and encourages them to find substitutes, such as a hobby.
Cadick said she wants veterans to be healthy, adding, “They fought for our country, so I want them to live life to the fullest.”
Veterans have to be recommended for the MOVE! program by their physician, and have to be registered in the VA system.
Wharwood said enrolling in the system is easy and painless, and all a veteran has to do is call the general number to get started.
Wharwood, who was a hospital corpsman, was out of the service 13 years before she enrolled. “Everybody has been fabulous,” she said.
To learn more, visit the Web site http://www.move.va.gov or call the VeteransAffairs Illiana Health Care System at (800) 320-8387 or 554-3000, and ask for Beth Peralta.