NewsVoice for Veterans


PowerVet study looks to help older veterans lose weight and keep it off

va obesity study web.png
Posted at 4:30 AM, Jun 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-22 08:46:18-04

BALTIMORE — Navy veteran Daniel Shimp works up a sweat while on the elliptical at the gym in the annex of the Baltimore VA. Just eight months prior, he wouldn't be able to ride for as long, or as fast, as he can now.

"I couldn’t hardly walk, my balance was bad," he said.

Shimp was pushing 260 pounds when he enrolled in the PowerVet study through the VA Maryland Health Care System in November. He's now down 40 pounds.

"I feel great. I feel better than I have in 30 years," said Shimp.

Exercising near Shimp is Jimmie Witherspoon, who served 13 years in the Army. He said a poor diet and heavy drinking post-service led him to hitting his heaviest weight of 308 pounds.

"I found out I had diabetes and that’s what kicked it off," he said when asked what motivated him to lose weight.

Witherspoon also enrolled in the PowerVet study and was 250 pounds at the time, with a goal of getting down to 222.

"I went past the 222 and it shocked me. I went from 250 to 200 and I was really proud. I was proud of myself, I was proud of the team," he said.

According the VA Department, most veterans who come to them for health care are either obese or overweight.

"The rates of overweight and obesity are higher in veterans," said Dr. Alice Ryan, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a VA Research Career scientist. "And overweight and obesity can contribute to mobility problems, not just cardiovascular disease, but how you move."

Dr. Ryan said the goal of the PowerVet study is to help veterans ages 50-75 years old to lose weight and keep it off. The first part is a 12-week intense intervention program of exercise and diet, with a cooler of prepared meals provided to the vets weekly.

Then for six months, they are randomly put into either a control group or a group where they do intermittent fasting with their calories, by reducing their caloric intake one day a week.

"A lot of people who lose weight tend to re-gain it, so what we’re trying to do is prevent that weight re-gain," said Dr. Ryan. "And we think fasting and reducing your calories just one day a week might be sufficient to keep those calories off for a longer period."

Shimp said now that he has shed the weight he has no intentions of gaining it back.

"I don’t even like missing the gym one day. I’m afraid of gaining that weight back and getting off track, its easy to do," he said.

Witherspoon feels the same way. He said the PowerVet study made a huge difference in the treatment and management of his diabetes.

"This program helped me to discontinue 4 of medicines," he said. "It's a continuous job, you can't just lose it and think it's going to stay off, its a continuous job."

The study is continuing to enroll veterans. For more information, call the study coordinator Mason Cervantes at 443-422-7234, Kristina Marcus at 443-326-6165 or, or Haley Vavrek at 443-354-2223 or