Miriam Collins, TriWest Employee

Inspiration and Tips for Your Weight Loss Journey

“When I do have a meal, I want the meal to have realistic portions, nutritional value and be flavorful and fulfilling, so I can truly enjoy it.” – Miriam Collins, TriWest employee

For millions of Americans, dieting and losing weight are familiar ideas. All around us, we hear about the best ways to lose weight. Whether it’s juicing, fasting, trying the latest diet trend, or prescription weight loss drugs, it can be hard to know what to believe and what is right for you. But for most of us, meaningful and healthy weight loss often begins with small, manageable changes when we commit to a healthier lifestyle one step at a time.

For one TriWest Healthcare Alliance (TriWest) employee, Miriam Collins, it began by making small changes, shifting her mindset and accessing helpful resources. Learn more about Miriam’s success and gather some tips and resources to kickstart your own weight loss journey.

Meet Miriam Collins

Like many people, Miriam said she has always struggled with her weight. “I have lost and gained weight so many times,” she shared.

Growing up, her father’s struggle with extreme weight impacted the entire family.

Despite her own ongoing struggle with weight, Miriam had a wake-up call in 2023 when she completed a “real age” test online. This type of test is designed to assess the age of your body in terms of your overall health based on answers you give about your lifestyle and health history.

She remembers when she saw the results and read the words “morbidly obese.” Seeing those words impacted Miriam and she knew it was time to take her health more seriously.

That was enough to make Miriam ready for change and she began by accessing a helpful resource through work.Miriam Collins, TriWest Employee, before and after.

“I took advantage of my company-sponsored wellness program,” Miriam said. “Every day, I opened a daily check-in and read valuable information to support better health.”

Since taking that first step, Miriam has had a lot of success. She lost 35 pounds in 2023 and did not regain any weight! One habit she found helpful is changing the way she thinks and eats.

“I have learned to take it a meal at a time,” she shared. “I listen to my stomach. I measure the feeling in my stomach to know when I need to eat and when my stomach is full. I don’t want to wait until my stomach begins to hurt or eat just because it’s a particular time of day or at an event.”

It isn’t always easy. Miriam shares honestly that she still gets cravings at the sight of certain foods, even if she isn’t hungry. But she’s more aware now.

“I need to pay attention to these feelings, so I don’t eat when it’s not necessary,” she said.

Throughout 2023, Miriam used TriWest’s wellness program, completing challenges and accessing helpful coaching to earn the points necessary to qualify for a health plan premium discount in 2024.

And she’s noticed other meaningful rewards as well. She feels healthier and is more aware of food and its role in her life.

“Although food is an essential part of daily living, I don’t want to let food have so much control over my life,” she said. “I want food further down the list of priorities in my day.” Now when Miriam eats, she is much more mindful.

“When I do have a meal, I want the meal to have realistic portions, nutritional value and be flavorful and fulfilling, so I can truly enjoy it,” she said.

Miriam has also learned to listen to her body. “I take one meal at a time,” she shared.

When thinking about how her journey may help others, she noted that everyone is unique and different.

“Everyone overeats or eats sweets or greasy foods, or eats when they’re not hungry,” Miriam said. “Only you know when that happens. Every meal, food that you approve, is a choice.”

Miriam continues to learn more about healthy living. She gathers advice and information on topics such as nutrition, mental and physical health, and exercise. Recently, she’s started to learn about meditation and its role in our overall health and wellness. She still receives health coaching and participates in all the wellness challenges she can.

“I want to keep feeling better and stronger,” she said.

Miriam has new goals set too. She hopes to lose another 20 pounds and would like to start exercising even more.

“With the benefits and help available to me, I feel confident these goals will be fulfilled,” she said.

Tips for Beginning Your Weight Loss Journey

Miriam’s journey and success provide many key tips we can all use to begin our own weight loss journey. Discuss your goals with your primary care provider and how best to achieve them. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Use helpful apps or tools. Miriam accessed a company-sponsored health and wellness program to begin her journey. Check out what your employer may offer to help you improve your health. You can also look into apps or tools online for keeping track of steps, calories, foods you eat and more. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers MOVE! Coach, an app you can download that’s filled with helpful resources such as a food diary, exercise calculators, challenges and more.
  • Start small. Find small things you can do to begin getting healthier. Like Miriam shared, she takes it one meal at a time. Maybe your small change is trying new recipes for eating a healthier breakfast. Maybe it’s taking a 20-minute walk before or after work. Maybe it’s giving up your daily soda for a flavored water.
  • Slow down and listen to your stomach. We are all guilty of distracted eating – eating while we’re on the go, while we’re working or watching TV – but this habit can really disconnect us from natural signs of hunger and fullness. Miriam talks about learning to practice mindful eating – slowing down and paying attention, so your brain and stomach can communicate, and you can stop eating when you’re full.
  • Increase your activity. This doesn’t have to mean putting in hours at the gym or completing a marathon. It can include anything that gets your body moving more and sitting less. Think about small ways to get more movement into your day, including housework or yardwork, walking the dog, hiking, swimming or dancing. For activities that can be done from a seated position, try this VA tai chi video or this VA seated joint mobility video.
  • Learn more about nutrition and healthy eating. Notice that when Miriam described her weight loss, she didn’t use the word “diet.” Instead, she gathered information about healthy eating and started making better nutritional choices. Begin by reading about the nutrients your body needs and get some new recipe ideas. VA has entire cookbooks, recipes and cooking videos available online to help you get started.
  • Plan ahead. If you know that you struggle with healthy snacks after a long day or eating fast food at night, try to plan ahead for those moments. Use a free evening to prep healthy snacks or dust off your crock pot for some make-ahead meals. Check out this article about the benefits of meal prepping.
  • Find your why. For Miriam, learning she was considered morbidly obese was enough for her to begin making meaningful changes. It’s important to have a reason why you want to lose weight, so it can serve as motivation when things get tough. Is it to improve your cholesterol or blood pressure numbers? Is it to relieve joint pain so you can resume an activity you once loved? Is it to improve your ability to get around with your kids or grandkids?
  • Set realistic goals. Miriam’s goal for this year is to lose 20 pounds and to begin exercising more. She has the resources in place that she’ll use to reach her goal. It helps to have a goal that is realistic and measurable with a plan to make it happen. For example, “losing 10 pounds” may be too vague or difficult to measure. Instead, your goal could be to lose 10 pounds in six months by walking three times a week and eating a healthy breakfast each day.
  • Think about what may be stopping you. If you’ve struggled with losing weight for a while, consider what factors might be at play. Is obesity something that runs in your family? Do you find yourself eating for emotional reasons? Are you unable to be as active as you’d like because of chronic pain or a sleep disorder? If so, you may want to explore VA’s Whole Health Program, which considers factors unique to your health and your goals in order to help you find a healthier path.

Helpful Resources

Even if you’re ready to make a change, it can be hard to know where to start. VA offers several resources to help Veterans and their families with everything from recipe ideas and cooking skills to weight management programs and apps.

VA’s MOVE! Program is an evidence-based weight management program that assists Veterans in achieving meaningful weight loss, improving their health and reducing their risk for chronic health conditions. MOVE! provides Veterans with support to make changes to their eating patterns and increase physical activity. Every VA medical center has a MOVE! coordinator who is available to assist you. Talk to your local MOVE! coordinator or your health care provider to see if MOVE! is right for you.

VA’s registered dietician nutritionists are food and nutrition experts who can help you review your personal eating habits, explain how your food and lifestyle choices are impacting your health and help you create a personalized nutrition plan to help you reach your goals.

VA’s Healthy Teaching Kitchen program offers Veterans nutrition knowledge, cooking skills and guided practice so you can cook at home and create healthy dishes on your own. The classes – both online and in person – provide simple, quick and tasty recipes including heart-friendly meals, carbohydrate-controlled recipes for diabetes and more. If you’re ready to get started on your own, Healthy Teaching Kitchen has a YouTube channel with more than 100 cooking videos. Try something new, like this healthy strawberry dessert recipe or these peanut butter overnight oats for an easy breakfast.

VA cookbooks and recipes are a great resource when you’re looking for new recipes to improve your health. Look up easy dinner ideas like this crunchy taco salad recipe made with lean ground turkey and veggies. You can also find recipes and handouts specific to losing weight such as noticing signs of fullness, recipes for infused water, and more.

By following some of these weight loss tips and accessing the resources designed to help you, you can begin making meaningful, healthy changes to your lifestyle just like Miriam.

Thank you, Miriam, for sharing both your weight loss journey and success with us!

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