Why I get my health care at VA: Navy Veteran Dick

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After retiring, Dick, a former Navy chaplain, gained some weight, enough to limit his activities and make him unhappy. His VA doctor helped him achieve his weight loss goals with a comprehensive program.

VA helped you with a specific medical problem. can you talk about it

I didn’t realize it, but over time after retirement, I started gaining weight. And in 2002, my doctor at the VA hospital, on a regular check-up, said I had to seriously think about it because I was obese. At that time I weighed 271 pounds.

“The mass clinic saved my life.”

So she got very worried and sent me to the so-called mass clinic at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis, it’s called MOVE! now.

How did that make you feel?

Terrible. Absolutely terrible. I couldn’t tie my shoes. I couldn’t bend down and put my socks on. Every time I walked up the stairs, I basically had to pull myself up. It was the most horrible feeling I’ve ever had because I couldn’t do the things I used to do.

How was the inpatient program?

I was admitted to this clinic in August. We had a wonderful nutritionist and the chef was phenomenal. We would eat 800 calories a day. And that was it. Now, I think I was with about eight other men. A few of them weighed over 300 pounds.

I had to spend two weeks at VA, 800 calories a day, two hours of physical fitness at the gym a day, plus lectures and videotapes. And basically, I’ve learned that everything I’ve been told about gaining weight is true.

I just never paid attention to it. And the bottom line for me was whatever I put in my mouth, I had to go. Period. It was that easy.

In December I was down to about 190. I lost nearly 100 pounds through the program of simply teaching myself that I should have listened to what I was being taught. And paying attention to what I eat and what I do to balance it out.

The mass clinic basically saved my life. Being overweight was so difficult that I don’t know if I could have survived it. So it basically breathed a whole new life into me.

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Bronwyn Emmet is a Public Affairs Specialist with Virginia’s National Veterans Outreach Office.

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