Army Vietnam Veteran Herb Mitchell took his health into his own hands last year and lost 79 pounds. He joined the VA MOVE! program in March 2020 – after repeatedly declining the offer made by his primary care nurse.

Veteran Mitchell and Columbus VA dietitian Sarah Richards

MOVE! is a 16-week program focused on building sustainable habits for a healthy lifestyle. Training modules cover meal planning, grocery shopping, mindfulness and exercise plans.

Mitchell said he woke up one morning unhappy with how he looked and felt, and he decided to make a change. “Joining MOVE! was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I feel good about myself now.”

Healthy habits are key

Sarah Richards, Columbus VA MOVE! coordinator, describes the program as an education and support system for sustainable lifestyles. Healthy habits are a key feature of the program.

“Habits are important,” she said. “Of the 16 classes, half of them are about behavior, or habits. For example, how you can set up your environment to help you in your health goals and what can you change in your environment to prevent a slip.”

Group members provide support

Mitchell joined a virtual MOVE! group and says members encourage each other. Hearing others’ stories helped them not fall into certain patterns.

Mitchell emphasized how valuable Richards was in the entire process, adding “You’re never discouraged or scolded in the group. Never made to feel bad.”

Since starting, Mitchell completed the program multiple times. His parting thought for Veterans considering MOVE!: “I encourage everyone who has health issues with weight to give MOVE! a chance and put their heart into it.”

Healthy living isn’t one-size-fits-all

Army Veteran Robin Ingram discovered MOVE! through primary care and initially thought the idea was nuts, incorrectly assuming MOVE! was an exercise program.

She now admits she had the wrong perception. “I had lots of serious medical issues and thought, ‘I don’t want someone telling me when to move or what to eat.’”

Ingram joined a female Veteran MOVE! group in 2020. “They were so open and honest,” she said. “It was helpful to be around like-minded people with goals. It was like sisterhood. I haven’t felt that camaraderie since the Army.”

Before joining MOVE!, Ingram was planning to talk with her primary care provider about a home health aide.

“I was at my health bottom,” she added. “I am having very different conversations with my providers now. I am a participant in my own health now.”

Ingram lost 39 pounds in four months and encourages others facing health issues to take the first step. She now wears an activity tracker and walks over 1,400 steps every day.

“No matter how old or sick you are, you can benefit from it,” she said. “It’s not too late. MOVE! is for every age and every stage.”

“MOVE! is patient-centered and patient-driven. Healthy living isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution,” Richards added. “The program gives you the tools for healthy living and they pick the best tools for them to reach their goals.”

By Melanie Dickson is an Army Veteran who served one tour in Afghanistan and a public affairs specialist for the Columbus VA

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Published on Sep. 19, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.6 min.

Views to date: 277


  1. Robin Ingram October 14, 2021 at 7:15 am

    This program literally saved my life. It not just losing physical weight. Ive had improved mental benefits, quality of life, drive my own healthcare, rekindled relationships with family and friends, no longer focused on my pain. The 40 lbs lost was an added benefit. Talk to your primary care. This program works!!!

  2. Scott Fuller September 25, 2021 at 9:22 am

    How can I sign up?

  3. Scott Fuller September 25, 2021 at 9:16 am

    I’ve read through the article but can’t find where, or how, to sign up for the program.

  4. Charles September 23, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    Awesome! Now, how about those of us who need to gain weight and fight depression?

    • Tammi Fitz September 24, 2021 at 10:14 am

      Charles, great question! Sounds like MOVE! is a whole health program so it should work for those who would like to use natural, nutritional and whole health methods to fight depression. A bi-product of the nutritional changes and proper exercise can also be muscle gain and therefore, weight gain. Your body, your goals.

  5. Fred Zenz September 23, 2021 at 5:46 pm

    I wish it was available in La Crosse, Wisconsin!

  6. Jose Robles September 22, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    Great story, I wish the VA in Augusta could be that good in helping the vets. Also give them dental help with out limits. Like one has to be 70 percentage disability, to get dental services. Shame, shame.

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