According to a research article published in Women’s Health Reports, 2020, a greater percentage of veteran females were found to be obese as compared to civilian women. This might seem to be surprising given that military employees are known for their fitness and well-maintained physique. However, sudden changes in lifestyle post-retirement might be one of the causes of weight gain. This includes factors like reduced physical activity and a change in eating habits. Another study compared the weight of women who stayed in the military with those who left, before and after a period of 6 years. Results revealed that the latter gained 6.3 kg whereas the former gained only 4kg in the defined time period.
Therefore, the importance of the VA Move Program cannot be undermined. Luckily, the government identified the need for such a program 2 decades ago, and since then this project has been helping veterans stay fit and healthy.
What is VA Move Program?
VA National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (NCP) has initiated a weight management program, catered specifically towards the veterans. The program focuses on promoting physical exercise, healthy diet and encourages the participants by recognizing even a minor reduction in their weight.
Basically, it counsels the participants to bring a healthy change in their lifestyle. The benefit of following Move guidelines is that the process is managed entirely by the individual themselves. However, a coordinator is there for assistance. At least one coordinator is present at each VA Medical Center. Those interested in becoming a part of this program simply need to contact these coordinators or other VA providers.
Who can participate in this program?
Ex-members of the Armed Forces who do not avail medical care via Veteran Affairs (VA) will not be eligible for VA Move Program. Only veterans availing VA Health Care are allowed to enroll for this service. However, anyone can access useful material from the official website. One such resource that is particularly helpful is the MOVE!11 questionnaires. MOVE! 11 basically inquires about any previous attempts of losing weight and records information such as weight and health concerns. Not only does successful completion of this questionnaire presents the user with a list of handouts containing information particular to their case, but also generates a report for their physician. Anyone taking the self-assessment can then present the report to their healthcare provider and ask for weight management solutions in line with their results.
Advancement was made by the VA Move Program in 2015 when an app called MOVE! The coach was developed. Just like the MOVE! 11 questionnaires, this app can also be used by anyone. The only restriction is that it can only be operated on iOS and not Android.
The main benefit of this app is that it summarizes the gist of the entire program into a 19-week guided plan.
Common Misconceptions about the Program
1. It is only for women
The truth is VA MOVE Program caters to both genders. However, in certain VA centers, “women-only” sessions might be available.
2. Participants are charged a certain fee
The reality is that this program can be availed for free by veterans.
Facilitators and Barriers to Weight Loss
The research quoted at the beginning of this article also uncovered factors that promote as well as hinder female veteran’s participation in weight loss programs. Even though the aforementioned study was aimed particularly at females, it is important to touch upon elements that can serve as obstacles and motivators for any target segment of the Move Program.
The motivating factors were divided into 2 categories; intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic factors included the aim for improved health because it would allow the individual to participate in more activities with their family, whereas examples of extrinsic factors including improving one’s laboratory reports and meeting the specified health goals, or being accompanied by other veterans who shared the same goal as the participant. Some respondents said that the program itself served as a motivating factor because it offered support and helped them get back on track if they deviated from their objective.
Factors that served as barriers included long commutes from participants’ home to the venue. Some who required individual attention despised the classroom-style adopted during sessions. Other hurdles to weight management were psychological conditions such as bipolar disorder where sufferers found comfort in eating and hence were reluctant to cut down on their diet. Structural issues such as unavailability of exercise space were also reported to be a cause of reduced physical activity.
One of the reasons for sharing these responses is that veterans who are planning to avail the VA Move Program may learn about possible motivators and hence can plan accordingly. For example, in light of the above-mentioned factors, an individual might not enroll alone but with a group of friends so as to stay motivated. Also, males or females who undergo similar obstacles such as lack of exercise space may benefit from information regarding catering this issue.
For those of you, who did not know, MOVE recommends the easiest form of physical exercise, i.e., walking. In fact, it has published a document called Handout P15 Walk that lists down useful tips with regard to this form of exercise.
Some Move sessions also provide their participants with pedometers. Basically, a pedometer is a device that records the number of steps taken by an individual and estimates the distance travelled on the basis of that.
Medications and Surgery
A common query that people have with respect to the VA Move Program is whether it involves the use of weight-loss drugs. The answer is that this mode may be suggested to a few individuals under certain circumstances, but only medicines that have the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration can be prescribed.
Similarly, bariatric or weight loss surgery may be made available to veterans under certain conditions. For example, if other means of losing weight have not worked, or the participant has any other issue that hinders natural weight loss.
We hope this article clarifies all your confusion regarding the need and importance of the Move Program and weight management. However, if you have any specific queries, we would advise contacting your local VA Center or visiting the official website for the US Department of Veterans Affairs.