United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
How I Lost Weight: In Thomas Day’s Own Words
Man in front of a tree
Thomas Day: After
Man in front of mountains
Thomas Day: Before

Ever since I turned 40, I have been overweight or obese. I am 6' 2" tall and over the last 26 years my weight has seesawed between 220 pounds to 250 pounds. Even though I didn’t realize it, this made it more difficult for me to get around with my disability. In January of 2009 I met with my primary care physician at VA — Dr. Richard Rose. Over the years my blood pressure has been edging up, as well as my cholesterol. Dr. Rose challenged me to lose weight and I took the challenge. Within a week, he had enrolled me in the MOVE program at the VA. Our guidance counselor is Joan Heusser, a nutritionist at the medical center. She did a great job of convincing me that it was possible to lose weight even though I had been trying to do so for 25 years. Her arguments made sense.

The concept, to me, did not seem to require a great deal of sacrifice — only a commitment of trust, patience and time. This is not an overnight weight-loss program. I caught on quickly with a passion. I faithfully count calories every day. I am always aware of what I am eating and what I can eat. I avoid too much salt in my diet and as a result I try to eat more elemental foods. I find that as I have gotten used to less salt, prepared foods seem way too salty especially those coming out of a can. I also try to eat a healthy balance of grains, fruits and vegetables. I avoid grease and fat and instead take in healthy oils such as fish oil, flax oil and olive oil. At one time, I suffered from severe heartburn. My entire life I have suffered from irritable bowel syndrome. These have completely disappeared along with a host of other annoying health problems.

Joan convinced me that daily exercise is an essential part of a weight-loss program. I also took hold of that with great enthusiasm. This is interesting because I have always felt my disability prevented me from doing any kind of physical activity. The mindset sounds sort of like this: “I’m not normal, therefore I can’t do things other people do.” But, in an effort to be supportive for the entire program I forced myself to exercise. We had to invest in a treadmill and an elliptical because I can’t drive and it’s too difficult to get to the gym every day. We have no room in our condo for weight equipment so I compromise by doing calisthenics. It was not easy at first.

I have always suffered from a very bad left knee which caused pain just to move around, let alone exercise. At the start of my exercise program, I could only do the treadmill and elliptical for short periods before the knee started hurting with pain. I would take several days off to recuperate because the knee would get stiff and swollen. But I persevered.

Even though it’s very difficult for me to walk — believe it or not, 20 months later — I can do nine miles a week on the treadmill and the equivalent of 14 miles a week on my elliptical with absolutely no pain or discomfort in any of my joints including the bad knee — which no longer gives me any problems. I try to exercise at least an hour and 20 minutes each day, six days a week. Over time, I have worked up to a daily routine of 100 sit-ups, 60 push-ups, 60 chairlifts and 40 chin-ups.

I hope my experience and my discussion of personal feelings and insights will help each of you in your struggle to maintain your ideal weight. I’m certainly not an expert and I don’t purport to be such, but I am pleased that it has worked for me personally. I appreciate that VA has allowed me to share this with you.

Thomas Day, Veteran

We have many stories about Veterans getting healthier. Don’t take our word for it; get inspired by other Veterans like Thomas Day! Read about the Success Stories who fit MOVE! into their lives; you can too.