Development of a Tailored Behavioral Weight Loss Program for Veterans With PTSD (MOVE!+UP): A Mixed-Methods Uncontrolled Iterative Pilot Study

Am J Health Promot. 2020 Jul;34(6):587-598. doi: 10.1177/0890117120908505. Epub 2020 Mar 12.


Purpose: Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) lose less weight in the Veterans Affairs (VA) weight management program (MOVE!), so we developed MOVE!+UP.

Design: Single-arm pre-post pilot to iteratively develop MOVE!+UP (2015-2018).

Setting: Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Participants: Overweight Veterans with PTSD (5 cohorts of n = 5-11 [N = 44]; n = 39 received ≥1 MOVE+UP session, with cohorts 1-4 [n = 31] = "Development" and cohort 5 [n = 8] = "Final" MOVE!+UP).

Intervention: MOVE!+UP weight management for Veterans with PTSD modified after each cohort. Final MOVE!+UP was coled by a licensed clinical psychologist and Veteran peer counselor in 16 two-hour in-person group sessions and 2 individual dietician visits. Sessions included general weight loss support (eg, behavioral monitoring with facilitator feedback, weekly weighing), cognitive-behavioral skills to address PTSD-specific barriers, and a 30-minute walk to a nearby park.

Measures: To inform post-cohort modifications, we assessed weight, PTSD, and treatment targets (eg, physical activity, diet), and conducted qualitative interviews.

Analysis: Baseline to 16-week paired t tests and template analysis.

Results: Development cohorts suggested improvements (eg, additional sessions and weight loss information, professional involvement) and did not lose weight (mean [M] = 1.8 lbs (standard deviation [SD] = 8.2); P = .29. Conversely, the final cohort reported high satisfaction and showed meaningful weight (M = -14 pounds [SD = 3.7] and 71% lost ≥5% baseline weight) and PTSD (M = -17.9 [SD = 12.2]) improvements, P < .05.

Conclusions: The comprehensive, 16-week, in-person, cofacilitated Final MOVE!+UP was acceptable and may improve the health of people with PTSD. Iterative development likely produced a patient-centered intervention, needing further testing.

Keywords: PTSD; health disparities; mental health; physical activity; weight management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / therapy
  • Veterans*
  • Weight Reduction Programs*