WASHINGTON — Every day around 6 a.m., Minta Davis gets a phone call.
For almost a year now, the military veteran has received daily weight loss tips by a computer-generated system through the TeleMOVE program, which is offered to veterans by the Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System.
Once 290 pounds, the Millersville resident has had a long battle with her weight. Davis tried various weight loss programs but never saw long-term results.
“I’d lose a few pounds, and then in a few months I would gain it back and then some,” she said.
Nationally, 37 percent of veterans are overweight and 41 percent are obese, said Kevin Grodnitzky, MOVE coordinator for the VA Maryland Health Care System.
Grodnitzky believes that the rate is high because most veterans were more active while serving in the military than as civilians.
“Being less active as a civilian reduces caloric expenditure, facilitating weight gain,” he said.
When Davis learned about the TeleMOVE program, it became a life-changer.
TeleMOVE is a home-based weight management program that allows busy or working veterans to get weight loss help by phone. The program provides nutrition information and professional support to veterans who want to lose weight and improve their overall health.
Here’s how it works: Every day the veteran receives a phone call, listens to an interactive education recording that offers health advice and transmits his or her weight from home to a registered dietitian at the VA, explained TeleMOVE coordinator Brooke Kanigowski.
Last year, the program helped about 500 participants and Kanigowski believes that by this time next year the number should double.
Davis began TeleMOVE in December 2014 at 224 pounds. She has lost 34 pounds and is happy to be under the 200-pound mark.
“It hasn’t been easy, but I’m making good strides,” Davis said.
In today’s society, people have easy access to relatively low-cost, high-calorie foods that can cause weight gain, Grodnitzky said.
“A honeybun dessert may cost 50 cents but provides about 500 calories!” he said.
Davis said she changed her eating habits and has started to increase her activity level by using the pedometer that the program has given her.
“I haven’t been in a fast food place…in almost a year-and-a-half now,” Davis said.
Instead, Davis enjoys vegetables. “The key thing is to eat things that are in season,” she said.
Another key factor Davis has learned: If she does 45 minutes of aerobics first thing in the morning, it increases her daily step count. With her pedometer, Davis averages between 10,000 and 13,000 steps a day.
Not only has the program helped with her weight loss goals, but Davis is also doing things that she never could do.
“Jog?” she said. “I couldn’t do it at all, but today I am jogging for 60 minutes.”
About 65 to 70 percent of veterans that participate in TeleMOVE have lost weight, Kanigowski said.
“Jillian Michaels said, ‘Think about this, no athlete intentionally gets to the finish line and stops.’ It made me stop and think,” Davis said. “I’m going to run past the finish line.”
TeleMOVE is a 12-week program but a majority of veterans continue beyond that, Kanigowski said.
Davis is one of the participants who has gone far beyond the 12-week program and doesn’t plan to stop.
She says she will stay with the program as long as TeleMOVE will let her.
“I’ve always wanted to get my weight down,” Davis said. After celebrating being under 200 pounds, she wants to see how much lower she can go.
And TeleMOVE supports her. “We are here for (the veterans) as long as they find it helpful and need that additional support,” Kanigowski said.
“Everyday I get up and it’s like, ‘Wow you can do this, you can do this!’” Davis said.