Veterans with serious mental illness are at increased risk of obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and a host of related chronic diseases. Although evidence suggests that lifestyle interventions can help mental health consumers achieve modest weight loss, several studies have failed to show a benefit and most have concluded that significant challenges remain in delivering effective interventions. In 2006, the Veterans Health Administration introduced MOVE!, a weight management program that includes behaviorally based dietary and physical activity self-management support. This article describes modifications used to manualize MOVE! for veterans with serious mental illness and reports findings from a randomized controlled trial of the new intervention.
Between January 2007 and June 2009, overweight or obese veterans with serious mental illness were randomly assigned to a six-month trial of MOVE! (N=53), which includes both individual and group sessions, or to a control condition that offered basic information about diet and exercise every month (N=56). Weight and metabolic, attitudinal, behavioral, and functional variables were measured at baseline and six months, and weight was also measured monthly.
Thirty participants in MOVE! and 41 participants in the control group completed the six-month assessment, and only seven lost 5% of their baseline weight; there was no effect of group assignment on weight loss. There were no significant group × time differences in any metabolic, dietary, physical activity, attitudinal, or functional measure.
Despite the negative findings of this study, research is crucial to identify lifestyle interventions and related supports and services to help veterans with mental illness reduce overweight and obesity.