My Journey began Aug. 23, 2015, after looking in the mirror at myself and realizing that I did not like the way I looked. Not only was I carrying extra weight, but the extra weight was causing multiple heath concerns. My blood pressure was 140/95, and I was pre-diabetic. I was on medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression/anxiety and blood thinners for a stroke that had occurred 13 years prior. That day, I finally realized it was past time to take my body and health back before something worse happened. I wanted to live!
My next step took me to the VA MOVE Group, located at the PACT Clinic, Corpus Christi, Texas. There, I met with the facilitators, dietician Beverly Reese and mental health specialist Amber Wilson. I joined a group of folks that were in search of the same goals that I was looking for – ways and means to lose weight, eat healthy, live a longer life and finally feel good.
I was given tools to help me get to my end goal weight of 175-180 pounds. First, a 1,500 calorie per day diet sheet, listing all the balanced foods that were good for me and healthy eating. Second, all the positive mental support from my peer group and family. Third, accountability for each other and a multitude of information to help me get to my end goal.
As with all the dieting that I had tried, I was very skeptical about this program. I can remember telling Beverly and Amber that they were going to starve me. The 1,500 calorie per day program wasn’t enough food to keep a bird alive.
I took it all in stride and began my journey. My weight was 245 pounds. The longer that I followed my program, the less hungry I became and the weight began to come off. The first week, I lost a total of ten pounds. This made me begin to think there was actually something useful going on for me. I also learned to slow down when eating. This gave my stomach time to tell my brain that I was getting full. Amber gave me a homework challenge to be the last one finished eating at my house. I accepted the challenge, and I am still the last one to finish up every evening. It really works.
A couple of things to add that helped includes keeping a daily food log of what I was eating each day and portion control. Using a simple food scale to measure portions of meat, and measuring cups for all the other healthy foods, kept me on track and accountable. You have to stick to all the tools and diet plan for it to work. If you do not use your tools properly, you begin to CHEAT yourself, then you will NOT achieve your goals. As the weeks passed, I began to notice that I would lose between three to four pounds. I also realized that if you actually moved your body, as in exercise, the pounds kept coming off. When I think of exercise, I think of Navy Recruit Training and all the running and well, if you’re a veteran, you know what I mean. I learned that simply walking, was a good way of burning calories. So, I walk my dog, Havoc, 1.8 miles each day.
The walking was good, but did not really satisfy the mental side of things. Yes, the mental side. Do you think being stressed out or anxious is going to help you lose weight? Let me answer that for you all. That would be, No. It will not, Period! In my case, I found that I wanted to eat between meals. It’s OK to enjoy a small snack between meals. But not graze. That’s when I decided to start riding a bicycle. When I was kid, I loved riding a bike.
When I first started riding again, I had an old beach cruiser. The first week, my goal was to complete one mile. After a full month of riding, I bought a Schwinn Hybrid 21-speed. It is a very good quality tool in my weight loss arsenal. It has turned out to be my best healthy-living investments.
Gradually with each passing week, I would increase my riding mileage and sometimes doubling it. Currently, I ride 16 miles per day. At the height of my riding, I managed to ride a total of 30 miles.
Riding my bicycle gives me peace of mind. It allows me to relax and let the stress and anxiety leave my body. With this, I don’t get the cattle grazing urges that I used to get. Therefore, the urge to cheat on my eating program does not affect me anymore.
The MOVE group meets every Friday. Everyone weighs in. We voluntarily share our results. We support and hold each other accountable. We also make suggestions and share ideas for success. We also talk about setbacks and brainstorm for positive countermeasures.
By the third week of December 2015, I had lost enough weight that I needed to buy new clothes. I had gone from a 38″ waist to 34″; and from a 1X shirt size down to a large.
On Jan. 22, I reached a goal of 178.9 pounds. Then, on Feb. 19, I reached 175 pounds. Currently, I am in a maintenance mode. Maintaining my current weight and continuing to eat healthy, is the number one priority for the lifestyle goals that I had set earlier. On Feb. 5, I had my yearly lab work completed. One week later, my primary care physician took me off of my high blood pressure medication. My blood pressure now averages 105/65. My resting pulse is 65.
Getting started was the hardest part of the entire program. Taking the first step was enormous. Yes, it was hard in the beginning, but the longer I progressed, the easier it got. You have to want to do this for it to happen. No one is going to do this for you. You have to be accountable to yourself, first. For me the work was hard, but the health benefits outweigh the alternative.
I continue to attend the MOVE meetings for motivation and support. I am hoping that when new folks join the group, they can hear not only my success story but, those of others as well and see that the program really works.
In closing, if you are really serious about weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle, the VA MOVE Program is the way to go. For me it was, and is, a quality of life choice. MOVE gives you all the tools and support you need to be successful. You have to make the effort. No one is going to do it for you. I am living proof that this program works. I have lost a total of 70 pounds. If I can do it, so can you. I am a believer. A special thanks to Beverly Reese, Amber Wilson and all my supportive friends at MOVE.
About the author: Samuel Manning is a U.S. Navy Veteran who lives in Corpus Christi, Texas.