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Moving with Faith and Purpose

Image of people practicing Tai Chi.

Tai Chi helped US Army Veteran John Smith to get strong enough to stand for his entire church service.

By Andrea Young
Thursday, December 9, 2021

When Army Veteran John Smith looks in the mirror, he wants to be able to see that he is living a life that reflects his faith.  After spending much of his life, unsure of whether he could even call himself a Veteran because he did not serve in a war zone, Smith now stands proud. He credits his transformation to Jesus Christ and the people at the VA who have walked him through a crucial phase in his life.

Smith is new to VA and the Whole Health model of health care.  He started at the Palm Harbor VA Outpatient clinic in October 2020 and was introduced to Nationally Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coaches, Cindy Davis, Lindsey Higdon and Amanda Grantham through the various programs he entered.  He was able to complete a Personal Health Inventory and start to identify the areas in his life where he wanted to set goals. 

“What really matters to me is to continue to live for Jesus Christ and to develop a healthier lifestyle that includes eating healthy and exercising,” says Smith.

Smith took his work very seriously and is tracking his progress in all 8 areas of the circle of health on a regular basis. He has improved in almost all areas after having set SMART goals around each area.

One area where he has seen considerable progress is his physical health and his ability to “move with purpose,” as he calls it. “I started doing Tai Chi sitting down,” he says, “now I am doing it standing for the whole session and I am even standing for our entire church service,” says Smith. “My overall health and quality of life was a 2 – 3 out of 5 when I started Whole Health, and now it is a 4 – 5.” 

Smith has also focused on the area of food and drink and has taken advantage of a nutrition group that has given him new skills in food shopping and meal preparation.  He says that prior to his Whole Health journey he craved a lot of junk food and is now drinking more water and eating much better. He says, “I am on a new journey of healing and change and I’m learning who I am and what I want to change for me, not anyone else,” he says.

As he looks at what matters in his life, Smith is considering using his talents to offer a Christian-focused adult education course in a prison to prepare people to take the GED examination. He is a retired social worker with a Master’s Degree, and he wants to share his knowledge and talents in a way that serves others.

Whole Health Coach, Lindsey Higdon says, “Health is not one size fits all. It is not enough to just hope for good health and happiness, it is a combination of mindset, habits, routines and hard work that get you there.” 

VA has trained close to 2,000 staff to be Whole Health coaches across the VA Health Care System.  Coaches work with Veterans one on one and sometimes in groups to help them in the following ways:

  • Develop a personalized health plan that is based on what matters most to the Veteran; the plan is based on the Veteran’s own goals, values, preferences, and lifestyle.
  • Partner with the Veteran with proactively taking action toward behavior change that is present and future-oriented.
  • Recognize that health is much broader than the absence of disease. The emphasis is on health enhancements/strengths rather than disorders/weaknesses.
  • Seek to support the Veteran in achieving his/her standard of optimal health that takes into account the mental, physical, and social well-being of the Veteran.


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