Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ARTICLE: Injured Gulf War Veteran Uses VA Program to Lose Weight

Written by Kelli Grant, KELOLAND TV - Sioux Falls,SD,USA

(Sioux Falls, S.D.) - Members of the military are often in the best shape of their lives. Basic training can be strenuous and the muscle starts to build and the fat melts away. But as some veterans age, they begin to notice, like most of us, that their military physique ended with the war they were fighting in. But the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center has been working to change that and is giving veterans back the spring in their step.

When we first met Desert Storm Veteran Rodney Merfeld back in December, he had dropped more than 50 pounds.

After being injured during the war, his lifestyle changed. He became limited in what he could do...that is until he found the MOVE program at the Sioux Falls VA.

“The MOVE program keeps me accountable for that. If I'm accountable to somebody else that also helps me a lot,” Merfeld said.

The MOVE program, which stands for Managing Overweight or Obesity in Veterans Everywhere offers a well-rounded support system...including not only dieticians, but also psychologists, physical therapists, pharmacists and social workers.

And it's a program that's definitely needed.

“Three quarters of our veterans are overweight or obese,” said MOVE Program Coordinator Amy Eisenbeisz.

When Merfeld was in the Army, he weighed 275 pounds...he lifted weights daily and was a runner.

But as he aged, his weight crept up...and his heaviest day was when he reached 375 pounds. Now he's back down to 332...but it hasn't been an easy battle.

“I kind of fell off the wagon, I guess if you wanna put it that way..and I gained 20 pounds back,” Merfeld said.

That was after we met him last year...but thanks to the weight-loss program, he's lost almost every single pound he gained.

“It seems to be people are losing the weight and they're doing well and then it's easy to kind of fall off and make it so it's not as much of a priority,” said Eisenbeisz.

But the program is working.

Remember 72-year-old Arnie Tronson? When we met him in December he had already lost 113 pounds. He was almost wheelchair bound...and was on oxygen 100 percent of the time.

“I feel 100 percent better. The VA has been good to me,” Tronson said.

He feels better because that weight just keeps melting away. To date he's lost almost 150 pounds. He started at 444 and is now down to 296.

“Thing just changed my whole life kinda - instead of sitting around doing nothing,” Tronson said.

Now Tronson rarely uses his oxygen and gets around a lot easier.

“I'm volunteering four days a week. That makes me move more and I try to do some at home,” Tronson said.

Both Merfeld and Tronson are committed to the program - attending weekly meetings with other veterans.

“We sit and talk about how much we lost or how much we gained and we kind of give each other moral support with that,” said Merfeld.

Merfeld's goal weight is 291 pounds...it's a goal he's determined to meet and with the MOVE program he's confident he'll get there.

“I'm going to take it a couple pounds at a time. If I lose 2 or 3 pounds, maybe four pounds in a week, then that's good enough for me,” Merfeld said.

And at a celebration at the VA, the veterans were recognized for all of their hard work. The 200 to 250 veterans involved have lost more than 4 thousand pounds. Arnie Tronson was the biggest loser...losing 31 percent of his body weight.
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