Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

March 31, 2013

From morning needles to walking at the mall


Jack Pickard was a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy: heavy on the meat and potatoes and light on energy, stamina and fitness.

At 5-feet 10-inches and 360 pounds, he was dangerously overweight, with a host of health problems including high blood pressure, Type II diabetes and degenerative disc and joint disease.

But in August, after he was told he had to increase his insulin medication to five shots a day, Pickard decided enough was enough. When he was offered a reprieve if he would volunteer for a new Veterans Administration weight management program, he jumped.

He signed himself in to the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center's Community Living Center in Saginaw for a 12-day residential program called Move! Intensive. Just like it sounds, the program is a more intense level of the VA's standard Move! program for veterans. It includes everything from weight loss and setting activity goals, to learning about foods and planning healthy meals, to understanding eating cues and behaviors related to overeating.

"They had 13 hours a day scheduled for us," said Pickard, 63, a disabled Vietnam veteran who is active in local and state veterans issues. "We would start walking the halls at 6 (a.m.). We had two hours of physical fitness with a trainer and walking through the day. We had nutrition, diet and psych educational classes."

By the time the 12 days was up, Pickard had lost 16 pounds and gained determination to change his life. He returned home to Kingsley and the support of his wife, Cecilia.

"My biggest success was coming home and having my wife support me and walk with me," said Pickard, who starts most days by walking at the local mall. "We ride bikes side-by-side in the living room."

In addition to exercising, he watches what he eats by reading labels, controlling portions — a piece of steak the size of a card deck, thinly sliced, occasionally is allowed — eating more fish and lean meats and vegetables, and keeping daily logs of meals and calorie intakes. That goes for eating out, too.

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