Overton Brooks VA Medical Center
MOVE! Part 2: Staff encourages Veterans to MOVE!
Myths about getting healthy prevent many from doing just that. One such myth— that eating doesn’t matter as long as one exercises— throws up a serious barrier to those seeking a healthier lifestyle.
“You can eat buffets all the time,” Charles Cao said, “but you’re not going to lose weight, even if you exercise.” According to Cao, a kinesiotherapist at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, diet and exercise are two parts of the same equation; however, without diet, the equation fails. “You have to change your lifestyle. Whatever you eat, you have to burn that and more. If you exercise but don’t eat well it’s like having a positive and a negative— and that’s a negative.”
Cao gives Veterans who participate in the program a workout plan they can use at home and the “therabands” to go with it, a type of exercise equipment that provides varying levels of resistance.
“It’s like having a gym at the home,” Cao said. “With dumbbells you need more than one to increase resistance. With a theraband you can increase or decrease resistance as much as you want.”
In addition to therabands, Cao encourages Veterans to use a pedometer to count their steps. The goal— average 10,000 steps per day, which comes out to five miles depending on the individual. Veterans log this activity, along with other pieces of diet and exercise information, on a data sheet.
“We see where the Veteran is weighing at when he or she comes in,” Cao said. “If they’re losing weight each week then we keep them at that activity level. If they stayed the same, or even gained weight, then we have them increase their activity.”
MOVE! staff members bring participants to the ninth floor gym once a week during group and Tuesday is optional (gym only). Cao is available at this time to help the Veteran’s with their exercise routine.
“If they need one-on-one coaching I can help out with that,” Cao said. “I remind them (Veterans) that everyone has their limitations. They can do the same exercises as everyone else, but they might have to do less weight or fewer repetitions. Having said that, this program can be used by everyone from eighteen years old to ninety. Everyone can be active.”
“It’s about replacing old habits with new habits,” says Jennifer Albritton. “We’ve all been asked if we’ve ‘cleaned our plate or if ‘we’re full,’ but there is a big difference between being full and having enough, meaning being satisfied, content. I like to use a gas tank analogy. If you sigh when you’re finished eating it’s like the pump clicking off when you’re filling your car. You shouldn’t keep forcing food down your stomach if you’ve had enough.”
Old habits include “bored eating,” “mindless eating” and “eating emotions,” the latter coming as a result of depression, anger and even joy, excitement. Albritton, Health Behavior Coordinator for MOVE!, says that a little preparation can go a long way in curbing these habits.
“If someone is a mindless eater, we advise them to have healthy snacks available or to focus on another activity,” Albritton said. “We also educate them on the difference between feeling satisfied and full.”
According to Albritton, new habits such as awareness, mindfulness, portion control, moderation and drinking low (or no) calorie drinks before a meal provide the keys to success. All of these habits work in tandem with diet and exercise to shed the pounds.
“Having new habits— like finding new hobbies and activities— keeps the participant from snacking,” Albritton said. “For instance, watching TV may lead to an empty bag of potato chips. When eating, focus on eating, nothing else. Put your utensil down between bites. Make sure that you eat slowly, savor each bite, and chew your food well. Go for a walk when you’re done eating. Drink that low/no calorie beverage before meals. Veterans are less apt to gain weight and more apt to lose weight if they follow these ideas.”