Cheating on Optifast – Confessions March 28, 2012Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
Tags: cheating on Optifast, liquid diet, meal replacement, Optifast cheat, Optifast group, product, scale, side effects, weigh-in, weight loss
I stopped by recently to chat with some “Optifast losers” in the Kaiser support group, currently in the meal replacement phase, which meets immediately after my weekly Optifast lifestyle or maintenance meeting. They are just starting Week 11, I think, so more than half-way done, with transition a little over a month away.
What I really wanted to ask them is “how much have you lost??” but that’s a faux pas. Weight loss is considered to be personal and not for public sharing, mostly to avoid comparisons and bad feelings. It’s understandable. It’s hard not to feel discouraged if you’re doing everything “right” but still haven’t lost as much as someone else. Everyone loses at their own pace, based on their size, amount they are overweight, their metabolism and all sorts of other things. And of course those folks with the Y chromosome always lose the fastest, darn it! But I always sooooo want to ask anyone in the program that I run into – how much??
The topic that did come up when I was with them, before their meeting started, is the same topic that is probably the number one search term used by folks who land on my blog – cheating on Optifast. Someone in the group I was chatting with confessed to having cheated for the first time: two pieces of pizza.
It seems to me that those in the Optifast meal replacement phase fall into three groups. Group one NEVER cheats. They adhere to the product-only life religiously. Group two cheats early and often, and sometimes doesn’t finish the program. For group three, usually at least a month or two goes by before they have that first cheat. But they avoid the “slippery slope” and immediately get back on full-product. There may be a several more cheating episodes before the end, but they are few and far between.
I think never cheating is best. Do the program by the letter of the law, take a complete break from food, get your money’s worth from the program, and lose the maximum amount of weight possible. Makes total sense. Good job, group one folks.
That said, I fell into group three. If you’ve read my blog entries during phase 1, you will see that my first cheat was around week eight, when I ate a fair amount of popcorn (NOT recommended as a “cheat” food!!) when at the movie theater with my three-year-old granddaughter. I felt sick, guilty, remorseful and also was worried about the possible real physical side effects from the fat, salt, bulk, etc. of the popcorn. We did have one fellow in our group who had to be hospitalized after a fast food burger-and-fries cheat!
I went on to cheat at the most a handful of times before the end of the program. As I was telling the folks last night, even though I think no cheating is best, I have to say that my first cheat kind of took the pressure off, like the straight A kid who finally gets a B. And it proved to me that I could stray and get back on the program –very important! That’s the most critical part of that first cheat – and any following cheat. Not only should the cheat not lead to MORE off-product eating, but it also shouldn’t be followed by trying to reduce products to make up for the cheat. That way madness (and instability, deprivation, hunger, weight gain and yo-yo eating) lies.
The saddest group of course is group 2. They are never able to fully commit to phase 1, and think they can get by with eating other food while also using the products. They are also less likely to confess to the support group or program staff that they have cheated. Eventually they may even drop out, because they aren’t getting the results they want, and don’t want to keep paying money for something that’s not working. It’s certainly understandable, as it is a huge commitment and not for everyone.
So for those in Phase 1, try not to cheat, and try for as long as possible to be product-only, ideally until transition. But if you slip, don’t beat yourself up. I’ve been there, others have been there, and we’ve recovered and continued the program with success. Keep your eye on the goal and keep on going!
Hangin’ with Optifast Grads and Newbies February 16, 2012Posted by Optifast Blogger in Early Days on Optifast, Maintenance.
Tags: breaking Optifast plateau, cost of Optifast, eating differently after Optifast, FitBit, healthy habits, increasing number of Optifast products, Optifast and FSA, Optifast grads, Optifast group, Optifast Kaiser cost, Optifast newbies, optifast success, product, side effects
Using the Optifast Graduates as a Resource
Because I get questions on my blog that I don’t have experience with, I sometimes survey the Optifast grads in my Kaiser support group. Recently I asked whether anyone had to eat MORE product (per doctor’s orders) during the meal replacement phase, in order to lose weight. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it came up in a comment on my blog. One person in my group said that after a two-week plateau (that phrase alone made me silently count my blessings that I’d never even had a one-week plateau, much less a two-week one) fairly early in the program, the doctor had her switch from 6 products a day to 7 a day, for several weeks. And it did end the plateau, and she started to lose weight. As I say, it isn’t an obvious solution, but that’s why we pay the doctors the big bucks to monitor and advise us!
Speaking of big bucks, I’ve totally forgotten how much I paid (except it was a lot), and I paid through money orders that I have no record of, and got rid of my notebook (probably a mistake) in a fit of reducing clutter in my house. But I asked our group and they seemed to think we paid $360 a month for 5 months, and then $280 for another month. Those figures aren’t exactly right, but are close. So that would be around $2000. There’s a fee at the beginning for the medical exam and lab work ($250?), and then there’s the product. The more you are on, the more you pay, obviously. It’s approximately $2.50 a product. So I guess I was “lucky” (ha!) to only be on 5 a day. I think there was only one other person on 5, the rest 6, or more (for some of the guys). I’m assuming it’s based on your height, how much you weigh at the start, maybe other things. The doctor you see before starting the program sets the amount.
Also, I should note while I’m on the topic of cost, that others have reported successfully using FSA (Flexible Spending Account) dollars for the non-food part of the program cost (as medically related), so that’s good news. And some people can apparently deduct it as medical expenses when itemizing for taxes.
In talking generally about the Kaiser Optifast program, an experienced registered nurse in our group made the statement that she has learned more about nutrition in this program than in nursing school, so kudos both the program and a shout out to our particular group leader, who’s a nutrition whiz.
Talking with Optifast Newbies
I had the opportunity to meet with a Kaiser Optifast cohort who had been on product for only three weeks. The leader was checking in with them at the start of the meeting as to how things were going. Reactions were varied. One man said it was easy, he wasn’t hungry, he could join others at restaurants with no problem, and he was enjoying the new looseness of his clothes. Another woman spoke about having her bar and water in a group eating situation, and being able to refuse offered food with no problem. Another man said he did NOT feel any different size-wise (don’t know what the scale said), and that he had been feeling “cranky.” Apparently the cranky complaint had come up before, along with complaints about headaches and feeling tired – common issues when you start on Optifast, I think. Hard to tell how the rest of the group was doing. I’m hoping if I see the group in a month or so, they will all look happier and more relaxed, as well as smaller!
I was asked a lot of questions – good questions, hard questions! What was I still doing now that had helped me lose weight? What habits was I still practicing at this point? I came up with drinking water, tracking food, walking 10,000 steps – though I should be MORE diligent with all these. (Just re-ordered a FitBit yesterday as mine went AWOL a few weeks ago and I’ve given up finding it. The good news is that it’s a new and improved version. And this time I think I’m going to pay the modest annual fee for the extra features online, which others have said are helpful.) And in terms of habits, I should have also said weighing daily, and setting goals.
Most of their questions reflected that very-familiar fear and concern: after you lose weight on Optifast, what will be different? How will they not regain the weight? And what do I do differently now eating-wise than before? This was a tough question, but I definitely remember feeling the same anxieties, and blogged about it myself (see Optifast worries as an example). So what IS different? I feel like I ate healthy food before the program. But I think the problem was that I ate healthy (organic, non-processed) food AND unhealthy food (onion rings, pastries, high-fat/ high-calorie Chinese take-out), AND probably too much of both.
Now I am much more conscious of what I eat and how much, and diligent about weighing myself (almost) every morning and responding to any weight gain. I eat more vegetables, more protein, and less carbs. I plan plan plan so that I will have healthy food choices at hand both at home and at work. I do spend more time than before on food planning and prep, but I’m willing to invest that time and effort in order to eat healthier, and to know what is in the food I’m eating (unlike with food prepared by someone else, such as at a restaurant). I’ve introduced more activity and exercise into my life, also important. And I’m just more motivated – do NOT want to return to my pre-Optifast state.
I wish I had access to all the data for all the Kaiser cohorts. The one I met with this week is the 7th one that has started since my own cohort. There were about 20 people. If you put all these people and cohorts together, that’s a lot of weight-loss data! I would love to see, chart, analyze, etc. the results for this group, and for all the other people who have gone through and are going through the program at Kaiser. And then there are all the other Kaiser facilities! I hope one of the Kaiser doctors is writing or will write a research paper for a medical journal about the program and participants. I would be fascinated to know more about how all these people do, both short-term and long-term, even though I’m one of the data points myself!
Optifast and, uh, Regularity January 20, 2012Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
Tags: carbs, constipation, digestion, fiber, liquid diet, Optifast, psyllium, regularity, side effects, vegetables
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Now I actually can’t offer any personal insights into this in terms of my Optifast dieting. Maybe I was fortunate. But it is a topic I get asked about a lot via this blog. And the topic did come up at times in our Kaiser Optifast support group, though (prude I guess that I am) I always felt uncomfortable when fellow dieters freely shared information about their colonic health. I don’t personally use the word “constipation” in front of anyone other than my doctor, but that’s just me.
I know in general high protein diets, due to their lack of vegetable and fruit fiber, can cause problems slowing down digestion. Although some Optifast diet programs allow some vegetables during the meal replacement phase, ours didn’t.
Certainly initially our group leader and I think the Kaiser doctor who spoke with us did bring up the topic. In addition to the cure-everything-that-ails-you recommendation to drink ever more water, as I recall they did suggest adding psyllium into the Optifast shakes or sugarfree beverages (like Crystal Light). I think psyllium comes in husks and in powder form, and even in tablets. I don’t know the pros and cons of the different forms. I know there are some (minimal) calories added when consuming psyllium, but don’t think it’s a concern. It’s mostly indigestible.
I believe you can buy psyllium at pharmacies and health food stores, and possibly in bulk at stores like Whole Foods. These days it can probably be found even at regular grocery stores like Safeway.
There are also these (relatively new, I think) gummy fiber sources, that look and taste like kids vitamins, but which have 5 grams of fiber and few calories. I’m seeing them advertised a lot lately in magazines. A victim of marketing, I bought a container of these recently at a Walgreens. I don’t think it hurts (and may help) to pop one or two of these a day, but of course I’m no medical expert so would suggest anyone with this problem consult their doctor or at least a diet program consultant.
Now that I and my group are in maintenance, we can (and are encouraged to) eat lots of high fiber, from fruits and vegetables to beans and whole grains. For those with carb addictions it’s probably safer to try to get the fiber from vegetables, if possible. Artichokes, broccoli, swiss chard and spinach all seem to be good sources, based on the fiber chart at http://www.wehealny.org/healthinfo/dietaryfiber/fibercontentchart.html.
Our group leader says that we are supposed to get 25-30 grams of fiber a day, but the average person in this country only gets half that. So if you can eat fiber foods, have at it. If you can’t and feel your digestion is being impacted by a high protein diet, there are fiber sources like psyllium that should help.
I know folks in our group blamed weight ups and downs on irregularity. Don’t know about that, but It IS better for your health to have a regular, well-functioning digestive system, so do get help if it’s a problem.
Soda on Optifast September 9, 2011Posted by Optifast Blogger in transition.
Tags: caffeine, Diet Coke, Optifast, salt, side effects
First, I’m talking diet soda. There is of course a big difference between drinking a “real” Coke and a Diet Coke. Both have caffeine (and a whole slew of other additives) but the Diet Coke doesn’t have sugar or calories.
There have been some questions or statements by folks in my Optifast group about things they have eaten, drunk, or added to products (or food, now that we’re in transition), that made me think, really? You really didn’t know that that had calories, sugar, fat, etc.? It’s kind of funny. I’ve realized that being a woman who has dieted most of her life means I have a very different knowledge-base than a man who maybe has never dieted, never thought about calories, and honestly doesn’t know what’s in food. One fellow, for example, had been putting sugar and cream in his coffee because we are allowed to have coffee, and he always drinks it with sugar and cream so just assumed that was OK, without realizing that he was taking in additional calories.
Now both regular (“sugar”) soda and diet soda have lately had a lot of bad press, probably justified, about their relationship to weight. For some reason unknown to scientists, even no-calorie, no-sugar diet soda is associated with folks who are overweight and have weight-related health problems. Of course, maybe there’s no connection other than that some overweight people may drink diet soda because they want to lose weight! Statistics can be weird. But I do know that all my friends, family and coworkers are quick to email me any anti-soda articles they stumble across.
That’s mostly because I am a Diet Coke addict. Pre-Optifast I was probably drinking 100 oz a day. (Now, I do put a lot of ice in my glass – I only drink fountain Diet Cokes, not from the can or bottle – so rationalized that I was also getting lots of water.) When I started Optifast we were all told to drink only 16 ounces of caffeinated beverage a day. I don’t drink coffee (or tea), but that was still way less than I was used to, and I did get a caffeine-withdrawal headache the first couple of days. But reducing my Diet Coke consumption was part of my commitment to the program.
I have been pretty good about this restriction, especially in Phase 1. During the week I typically walk on my lunch break to a Subway (about 30 minutes round trip) to get a Diet Coke, and that was the only one I had all day. On weekends or vacations I am a little more lenient, usually having two. (And I’m pretty sure each one may be 12 or 16 ounces, even with ice.)
Another interesting thing I noticed, however, which made it easier to cut back, is that Diet Coke didn’t taste nearly as good when I had a low-salt diet. Soda tastes better when I’ve eaten something salty, whether its vegetables or a burger. Now I often didn’t even finish the soda – but still crave those first cold, bubbly sips on a daily basis. And it makes a good “treat” for me – something from the old days, something that isn’t an Optifast product, and something that I can legitimately order from and consume at a fast food restaurant!
I don’t plan to go back to a high-salt diet, or back to my 100 oz Diet Coke drinking days, and hope I can continue to limit them to one or two a day. Not only is it costly (even with the current $1 sodas at McDonalds) but in general I don’t like putting a lot of additives and artificial ingredients in my body. So another positive outcome from the Optifast diet program!
Cheating on Optifast – A Retrospective August 29, 2011Posted by Optifast Blogger in Fourth month on Optifast.
Tags: cheating on Optifast, Kaiser, meal replacement, Optifast group, optifast success, product, side effects, weight loss
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Since tomorrow is my last day on Optifast all-product phase 1, and since one of the most common search phrases that cause people to land on my blog is “optifast cheater” or “cheating on optifast” I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences on this topic, from the vantage point of 16 weeks on full meal replacement.
I have not done much cheating. Probably none the first six or seven weeks, meaning NOTHING other than the five Optifast products went into my mouth, food-wise. There have been two times at restaurants that I can think of that I ate a “real food” meal, but they were low-cal “fit fare” offerings, though I still shouldn’t have done it. There was also the “popcorn incident” involving maybe 2 cups of movie-theater popcorn. I think that was my first-ever cheat on the program, and I regretted it.
I do find that it seems harder, as it gets closer to the end, to not grab an olive or two off someone’s plate, or a bite of baked chicken in the fridge, or a cashew or two from the nut jar, but these are still rare occurrences, and involve very small amounts of food. Part of the reason it has gotten harder is that I’ve lost quite a bit of weight, am closer to goal, and will soon be on real food again. Somehow this has made it easier for me to justify that bite of real food. But it would have been better to resist.
To me, cheating on Optifast is different than cheating on other diets. It is a medically supervised diet. The doctors expect you to follow the program, and they base their decisions and care on the assumption that they know what exactly you are eating. The program is also expensive, so cheating on it is cheating yourself, big time, in terms of money and successful weight loss.
Also, it is medically dangerous to eat food that your system is no longer accustomed to, and may no longer have the digestive enzymes to process. We had to sign a disclaimer at the beginning that we knew about these dangers, including gall bladder attacks. One person in my group was hospitalized and on morphine after a high-fat cheat. So that’s both scary and motivating with regards to not cheating on Optifast. (All this is different from being on partial Optifast, where you’re just using the shakes or other products as partial meal replacements. I’m talking about the full meal-replacement phase.)
One speaker to our group who had been in a previous Kaiser Optifast group, when asked about her group’s weight loss and reaching weight-loss goals, bluntly said “Those who weren’t successful cheated.”
When you put all this together, it is a pretty convincing argument to completely forgo or severely limit ANY off-product eating during the meal-replacement phase of Optifast, in my opinion! People considering Optifast should think hard about whether they will be able to limit their food intake to just the products for an extensive time. On the other hand, I have to say it was easier than I thought it would be, to be on the program with these strict food restrictions. And I am certainly glad I was brave enough to sign up, pay for, and commit to the Kaiser Optifast program, as I’m very happy with the results!
Coffee Cake and Accountability August 10, 2011Posted by Optifast Blogger in Fourth month on Optifast.
Tags: accountability, cheating on Optifast, coworkers, food, Jenny Craig, Kaiser, side effects, weigh-in, Weight Watchers
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So at the staff meeting this morning I had a face-off with FOUR different coffee cakes brought in by a coworker for our meeting snack. Since there were only 7 of us at the staff meeting (two on vacation), that would have worked out to more than half a coffee cake each! And coffee cake is a favorite of mine, and one of the flavors brought in (Cheese) is my favorite favorite. (There was also Blueberry, Cinnamon Strudel, and Lemon I think.) Man, in the old days I would have had a piece of each – as did most of the others at the meeting!!
One of the things that saved me was that this evening is my weigh-in at Kaiser, and there was no way I was going to binge on coffee cake on weigh-in day! Not to mention that last week we heard about someone in our Kaiser Optifast group being hospitalized because he did a high-fat cheat (burger and fries). So, I wasn’t really even close to cheating. But it did remind me of one of the reasons I picked this diet plan – because there are weekly group meetings and weigh-ins and accountability, which I definitely need.
I have been on other diets that theoretically had accountability, including Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers. But basically I would just stop going when I fell off the wagon, and not go back. There was another program that I joined, paid the first month’s fee of $100, weighed in – and then never went back!!! (Easy money for them.) But since this is at Kaiser (where they have my “permanent record”) and they know how to track me down (and would, I feel sure), along with a significantly higher financial investment, there is a level of accountability that I’m not going to ditch. And for which I’m grateful. Especially now, having survived the meeting without digging into the coffee cakes.
First Weekend on Optifast May 23, 2011Posted by Optifast Blogger in Early Days on Optifast.
Tags: cravings, dieting, fasting, liquid diet, meal replacement, Optifast, Optifast shakes, product, side effects, starting Optifast
Phew – weekend was harder than weekdays. I think because on weekdays I’m on a regular schedule and not around a lot of food, basically. My office is in a kind of industrial area. And since I have a part-time job in the evening, I’m pretty busy! Weekends have more down time, and more reminders of all the foody things I normally do, like pick up breakfast at Jack in the Box on the way to garage sale shopping, eat at a restaurant with my granddaughter at the amusement park, etc.
I was also tired a lot. Taking a three-year-old to an amusement park can be tiring at the best of times, but when eating only enough to keep a bug alive, it’s even more tiring. But I told myself all the walking was good exercise.
I have to say I did experience hunger, or cravings, or something this weekend – my body was saying, eat something already! I think the first few days I was living off the fumes from previous meals. Now my body is saying, this is all you are giving me? Really? REALLY??
The funny thing is my three-year-old granddaughter (pictured) seems to love all the Optifast food. She demanded to taste one of my bars and had a crying fit that I wouldn’t give her a whole one. Then I let her taste the strawberry shake (actually I was pretty happy to share – though I know I need to drink it all myself) and she loved it! Go figure. She can be the Optifast poster child.
This weekend I also learned to always bring an extra product along. An event I was at took way longer than planned and I was left hungry and off schedule as far as consuming the meal replacements. I also need to order more extras since I accidentally left too many shakes at work and ran out at home over the weekend. Lesson learned!
Optifast Days 1, 2 and 3 May 21, 2011Posted by Optifast Blogger in Early Days on Optifast.
Tags: cravings, dieting, meal replacement, Optifast, Optifast shakes, side effects, starting Optifast
Help – it’s started! I’m trying to take it one day, one hour, one meal replacement at a time. I can’t think about how long before I’ll eat real food or I might go crazy. The leader emphasizes that we are just taking a break, and that the food will still be there when we are done with the program. But hopefully we can forge a healthier relationship with it at that time. In any case, I downed my first shake and thought, OK, not too bad, and it made my stomach feel not hungry. The bars I actually like, and the tomato soup was the highlight of the day, sad as that is to say!
Having the one diet coke a day is lovely. (My only real side effect, I should mention, was a slight headache, no doubt due to the reduced caffeine intake.) However, this diet is so low salt that the Diet Coke isn’t as good as it could be if I’d just eaten salty nuts or beef jerky. But can’t think that way.
The biggest problem, other than lack of variety and volume, was the strawberry shake. First of all, these aren’t shakes. The chocolate “shake” is much more like chocolate milk. The strawberry drink has a flavor that makes me think of drinking a cup of Amoxicillin or some other flavored liquid medicine! Unfortunately, not only do I have a strawberry drink a day all this week, but I ordered seven more for next week. Hopefully I can get through those, but I won’t be ordering any more. The vanilla (on a taste test) tasted like playdough to me, so guess I’ll be living on the chocolate. (And the chicken soup tasted toxic. Good thing I like the tomato soup.)
Hunger. Well, I don’t feel like I’m starving. Actually I feel pretty good. I won’t let myself think about food like Thai curry, Chinese Kung Pao, chips and salsa, fresh peaches and plums, Breakfast Jack sandwiches, caramel-covered marshmallows, and some of my other favorites. Can’t go there! Like I said, most of the time I really don’t feel hungry, but there are certain times when my stomach growls loud enough for my coworkers to hear it – embarrassing!