Veteran Robert Jarousak, who served his country in both the Navy and the Army, has struggled with his weight for years.
“I used to eat anything I wanted, at any time I wanted, day or night,” said Jarousak. “When I ate at a buffet, my plate was piled high with food. I would usually go back for seconds, plus have several desserts. I would also drink at least four Mountain Dews a day and exercised very little.”
Recent studies have revealed that the Veteran population has a weight problem. As of 2019, about 80% of Veterans nationwide are overweight or obese. Distressingly, obesity is linked to chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It is also associated with arthritis pain, injuries, and muscle atrophy.
During his yearly check-up, Jarousak’s physician was concerned when the veteran’s liver function test results came back abnormal. He immediately referred Robert to a specialist who confirmed fatty liver disease and prediabetes.
Choosing a Plan
Weighing 276 pounds, Jarousak met with Clinical Dietitian Misty Loafman at the Lawton VA Outpatient Clinic in March 2018. During their conversation, Misty listened to his doubts and offered several options for him to lose weight and improve his overall health.
Jarousak thought VA’s 16-week MOVE! Weight Management Program might work for him. He began working closely with his MOVE! Care Team and his Primary Care Team to address not only his diabetes, but also his other health concerns.
Obesity can be addressed with small steps that can lead to big results. Evidence shows that even a 5% reduction in body weight creates a meaningful effect on overall health and reduces risks for chronic illnesses.
“In MOVE!, I learned the bottom line was eating and drinking fewer calories and exercising more,” said Jarousak. “This meant tracking my daily calories and reading food labels to make healthier food choices.”
With the encouragement and continuous support of his MOVE! Care Team, Jarousak started slowly by walking every day. At first, he could only walk about ten blocks. Eventually, he increased that number and started running. After hearing about Misty’s running adventures, Jarousak decided to try a 5K race. Since that first event, he has participated in several others and ended 2019 by running the Honolulu Marathon.
Road to Success
To date, Jarousak lost 88 pounds.
“Now that I have started my diet and exercise program, I eat a lot healthier,” said Jarousak, who says he found success by setting goals, keeping a daily food journal, and being mindful of his caloric intake. “I’m crushing my run times, setting personal records, and I’m committed to a healthy lifestyle. I’m also looking forward to doing more this year. To other Veterans, I say, ‘Are you ready to improve your life?’”
MOVE! is a weight management and health promotion program designed to improve the lives of Veterans. MOVE!’s core ideas — encouraging healthy eating behavior, increasing physical activity, and promoting even small weight losses — are easy to follow and based on the latest in nutrition science.
“MOVE! is available for all Veterans at all VA health care facilities. MOVE! coordinators provide direct support and assist Veterans in meeting their weight loss goals,” said Loafman. “We also offer TeleMOVE!, a telehealth option using in-home messaging technologies, and MOVE!Coach, a mobile app providing anytime fingertip access to tools and resources. But, I think the best part of the MOVE! is that it really works. I’ve seen it personally.”
Each year, about 120,000 Veterans nationwide participate in the MOVE! Program. In fact, the participation rate in MOVE! is more than double the 2-3% rate in similar private sector programs. At the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System, about 2,000 Veterans join annually.
If you would like to learn more about how MOVE! has helped thousands of Veterans achieve their weight loss and health goals, read these MOVE! Success Stories.
Audrey M. Umhoefer is a chief at the Veterans Experience and Patient Advocacy, Acting Public Affairs Officer, Oklahoma City VA Health Care System