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More Than Four Years Later… January 25, 2017

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Early Days on Optifast.
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So, yeah, I’ve been gone awhile. And of course, regained all the weight lost. I was in a bad place for a long time. The good news is that my life is better, I’ve recovered from the events of 2012, everyone is safe and well. And I’m now starting Optifast again, through Kaiser again, this time determined to repeat my previous success, but not my subsequent relapse. And hopefully then continue on – for the rest of my life. I’m 63, so that doesn’t seem unreasonable.

I’ve started a new blog for my new journey. You can visit it at http://sharonsolanodieter.blogspot.com/.

Only one week on product but off to a good start.

Bad Blogger – I’m Sorry July 23, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.

Apologies for my lack of postings recently – and apologies in advance for the future. I probably am going to take a break because of personal events going on.

Briefly, the four-year-old who has lived with me most of her life is moving far away with her mom to join mom’s new husband. In addition to grieving for the loss of a child I’ve basically parented for most of her life, I have serious concerns about her welfare and the environment, physical and emotional, that she’ll be living in after the move. I could give details but just trust me, it’s distressing. (But I work for the court, so know that at this point, anyway, there’s no legal recourse or intervention possible.)

I’m using the gamut of mental health resources, from antidepressants to anti-anxiety meds to visits with a therapist. But none of this negates the fact that I am broken-hearted now thinking about it, and can’t imagine what my (and her) life will be like afterwards. I have a lot of (irrational, probably) guilt that I am failing my granddaughter, failing to protect her and provide for her, though there’s nothing I can do (which doesn’t mean I don’t stay awake at night trying to think of something).

So between the meds, lack of sleep, and ongoing worry and grief, I’m just not in a place where I can focus on my blog, though I know that my health is as important as ever. I need to be healthy not only for myself, but to help my granddaughter, though what that help looks like at this point or in the future, I have no idea.

They leave town on August 7th.

Revisiting Coronado – Celebrating the Year’s Journey July 3, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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Just before embarking on the Opifast program last year, I visited California’s Coronado Island off San Diego, and did some preparation for the weeks and months ahead. And since that time, about 14 months ago, I’ve been wanting to come back, part closure, part celebration, to where I was then. Back in May 2011 I wanted to return to the island some day, and to the majestic, stylish, beautiful Hotel Del Coronado, feeling healthy – and smaller of course! 😉

You can see my posts about that time here and here.

A year ago I bought a “talisman” in the Hotel Del shops that I turned into a necklace. I went back to that same shop and bought two more (click, right, to see larger photo) which I plan to make into earrings. A year ago I wrote the “F word” (fat) in the sand and watched the waves wash it away. I took a picture and kept it as my screensaver all this time. Yesterday I wrote a new word in the sand.

A year ago I collected some small shells on the beach and kept them in my pocket the first couple of weeks. When I was hungry or low or feeling weak during those first weeks of Optifast, I would grab those shells and squeeze them hard to feel the sharp edges on my palm. They gave me this physical memory of when I stood on the beach before starting the program, vowing to be successful. They helped me continue on the path I’d set out on. While at the beach on this visit, I collected some more shells. I don’t think I need to grip them for safety anymore, but I’m taking them home anyway.

I am blessed to be able to make this trip back, to remember where I was and celebrate the success I had during the last year, from weight loss to being able to go off blood pressure medication, to greater energy, health and self-esteem.

While here I’ve done a bit of what you might call “renewing my vows” – to not go back to where I was, to continue to actively participate in healthy eating and exercise, and to turn away from unhealthy choices with the simple thought “not today” – because thanks to my increased health, I trust that there are a lot of tomorrows in my future!

I Hate Vacations! June 28, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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Actually, I love them. Well, OK, it’s a love/hate relationship. I love vacations, live for vacations, am thrilled to get out of town whether it’s a one-hour drive or a 14-hour plane trip. I love hotels, B&Bs, camping, sleeping anywhere other than my own bed. (If I’d only known this at an early age I would have picked a completely different career path.)

But that said, I hate vacations. They are deadly. No matter my good intentions, planning, etc. I inevitably lose all wisdom, knowledge and healthy living habits I’ve acquired. Bam – they’re gone as soon as I step on that plane or into the hotel or even behind the wheel for that road trip. What the heck?!!!

It reminds me a bit of my son’s fifth birthday party, which was (regrettably and never to be repeated) on Halloween. The boys all came in masks and costumes. This meant they shed their inhibitions and any notions of good behavior or even basic humanity. (I told my husband, “They don’t want to play games, eat cake or open presents – they just want to kill each other.”) They became different kids from the ones I knew.

In much the same way, when I go on vacation it’s like I shed my old persona, lose my inhibitions, and become someone different from the one I left back home, the one committed to thoughtful eating and moderation and celebrating/maintaining weight loss. Gone in the blink of an eye.

It’s almost like I believe that silly “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” idea – that what I eat and do on vacation is off the radar and that the results of my unfortunate behavior will not have consequences that follow me back home. That’s not rational, but clearly going on vacation impairs the part of my brain capable of rational thought. I’ve seen it happen over and over. And over.

I wasn’t gone long, but did indulge – I was on vacation! I told myself on the way back that even though I had eaten and drunk […fill in whatever you want here, can’t be as bad as it was…], I had also done a lot of walking, so would be fine.

Then this morning when I pulled the scale out (it’s glass, so I put it where the 4-year-old can’t reach it), and bent over to place it on the floor, I had a nasty surprise – there appeared to be more of me in my middle section. Could that be possible? The other myth of vacation weight is that it’s all water or sodium or temporary poundage that won’t “stick.” Well, something definitely appeared to have stuck. Then when I (now alarmed) got on the scale – horrors! How IS it possible that it can take so long to lose weight when it comes back so quickly!??

I was shocked and dismayed, and cursed vacations, my love/hate friend. When will I learn to enjoy vacations without these kinds of side effects?? Despite all I’ve done and learned over the last year, there’s obviously lots of room for improvement. And I’m not sure how to even start, since I always prepare and go with one set of plans and then poof, they evaporate as soon as I get more than 50 miles from home. It’s like a force field around my home town, and when I cross the border my good intentions and healthy mindset are kept behind by the border police.

I refuse to give up vacations, but I have to figure out SOME way to keep them from being so damaging!!! And it’s summer – vacations are scheduled and queued up like planes waiting to land at the O’Hare Airport on a busy Sunday evening…

From Diet to Lifestyle June 17, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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There was some discussion with a recent commenter on my blog about the difference between a “diet” (a reduced or restricted eating regime that lasts for some period of time until the person goes “off” the diet) and a healthy lifestyle or journey (by which is meant a long-term or permanent way of eating – and thinking and moving – to increase and maintain health).

Most “diets” have a transition and maintenance component which moves the dieter into lifestyle eating. Some “diets” such as the Mediterranean diet, are basically lifestyle eating from the get-go. Because in the strictest sense your “diet” just means whatever you eat, although it has come to also refer to a reducing diet. Optifast is definitely a diet in terms of being a restricted eating regime initially, then moving into transition and maintenance – the lifestyle part that I’m in now.

During the entire first 30 weeks of the program (and continuing after as well), there is a strong education component focusing on changes in attitudes and behavior, an increase in knowledge about food and fitness, and activities designed to prepare Phase 1 Optifasters for an ongoing lifestyle of healthy eating and fitness.

Our group was showered with ideas, tips and techniques, and I imagine each of us has picked up or tried some of these suggestions, as we come to terms with life after a meal replacement diet. One of the tips or ideas most useful to me is one which I also read about recently in this month’s Good Housekeeping magazine, when a reader wrote in to the magazine’s nutrition editor for advice.

The question submitted was “I’m tired of yo-yo dieting. How can I lose weight – and keep it off?” The answer from the nutrition expert was: “The trick is to choose foods you enjoy and eating strategies you can live with.” This I think is a big secret to being able to maintain healthy eating. Not just to eat healthy foods, but to like what you are eating. (I’ve blogged about this before in my post about respecting food preferences.)

You can’t force yourself to eat kale or fish or nonfat yogurt or brown rice if you honestly don’t like them! You have to figure out a way to not only eat healthy food but to feel good about it – feel satisfied and even indulged, at least some of the time. (Cheese, nuts, and yogurt with berries all make me feel this way, as does salmon, the occasional steak, and a glass of red wine or champagne once or twice a week!)

Another critical technique, certainly not new of course, is to not get too hungry. When our blood sugar gets too low our bodies instinctively go for sugar. My dad had diabetes since childhood, and we always kept candy and even sugar cubes at home, in the car, etc. for when he had low blood sugar reactions. Because that’s the most effective way to increase blood sugar. Our bodies know that, so don’t get into situations where that need for sugar overpowers our brain!

There’s no way that an eating lifestyle will succeed if we don’t find ways to eat that make us feel good, healthy, and HAPPY. And when we are happy eaters, we are much less likely to need to cheat or treat ourselves too much to high fat/high carb foods, because we aren’t going around feeling deprived.

Good luck (when the time is right) figuring out what works best for you!

Optifast Product Amounts – Wide Variation June 15, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Early Days on Optifast.
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 When I started the program a year ago and was told my “product allotment” was five a day (the minimum amount), I assumed it was based on my size at that time and how much I had to lose. And maybe being a woman. At the other end, there was a fellow in my group, 6’3” who had about a hundred pounds to lose, and he was on ten products a day. And lost rapidly at that product level.

That all made sense. But I guess it’s not that straight-forward. (That’s why the diet docs get the big bucks, right?) Because there’s a woman in my original (Phase 1) group and “lifestyle” group who I’ve blogged about before, who has a son doing Kaiser Optifast in another town. He started out pretty much the same size as the fellow in my group in terms of height and weight. And he is only on SIX products a day!!

The good news is, he’s doing well, losing weight, and NOT HUNGRY. So there’s obviously more to the equation than gender, height and weight. Maybe metabolism, activity level, BMI, who knows what else?

Her son is in week 7 and has gone from 292 to 258. Mom reported that he went to a banquet with his wife, took his product(s) and did fine – wasn’t tempted to cheat, she says. Of course, at least for me, it’s easier to withstand temptation when you are on a roll, getting results, AND there are lots of witnesses. (I know my first cheat (popcorn) was in a dark movie theater with only a three-year-old as a witness!!)

Product levels can get moved up and down sometimes (due to hunger, changes in activity levels, lab results, weight loss or lack thereof, etc.) by the program doctor, although that didn’t happen to me.

I just thought it was interesting that two men, same size, had such different product “prescriptions,” but it seems each had the right one!

Post-Optifast Progress June 14, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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I’ve  noticed something recently. Things have gotten easier. I think maybe all this talk about habits taking a long time to form, and practicing behavior till it becomes second nature, may actually be true. 😉

In the weeks and months after the Optifast product-only phase (Phase One), I did have cravings. I did feel like after the fast I needed to have certain things again, even if only once – a Mrs. Fields cookie, for example. But now, I feel like I’m past that. I don’t feel any sense of deprivation or “deserving” any of that stuff.

Two recent examples. One was going past a Chinese restaurant a few days ago on the way to a Subway for my healthy turkey sandwich for lunch. The smells from the Chinese restaurant were amazing, and I love spicy Chinese food. But it just isn’t a good choice for me – lots of fat and carbs and too much food. Even though I registered the delicious smells, the thought of changing my lunch plans never entered my mind. I felt no craving, no temptation, didn’t have to use any will power, and felt no sense of deprivation. I just registered the smell (wow, that smells good!) and kept on walking without a second thought. That was awesome.

The other had to do with this antique marshmallow roaster (so cute!) that I bought recently in an antique store in Napa. And I LOVE marshmallows. (Similar to my love of Easter Peeps I’ve blogged about before!) A few weeks after buying it, I was at a grocery store and walked by a s’mores ingredients display (put out for summer campers), so I put a bag of marshmallows in the cart thinking I could try the roasting thing with my granddaughter later that day.

After walking around with the bag in my cart for a while, I returned to the display and replaced the bag on the shelf. Because I realized that after she and I roasted a few marshmallows, that open bag would be in my house and I would end up making myself sick on marshmallows. So I put it back, and ended up selling the roaster (unused) this weekend at a garage sale. It got a good home, I got back the $10 that I paid for it, and I removed the marshmallow temptation from my life.

And it didn’t hurt a bit. No regrets. And that doesn’t mean I’ll never have a marshmallow again, and quite likely I will roast a marshmallow at Family Camp this summer. It just means that I know it’s not in my best interests to have a whole bag of marshmallows in my house.

And I’m certainly not saying that I’ll never “slip” again or eat in less than healthy ways. Just last Sunday I had a summer-fruit binge (probably a dozen plums/apricots/nectarines), but it was my first farmer’s market summer fruit, and last summer (in Phase One) I had no summer fruit and stayed away from Farmer’s Markets. So maybe I’m entitled to one binge.

But on a positive note, according to the support group pre-meeting weigh-in last night,  I am at the same weight as at the end of Phase One, 140 pounds. This was the weight my Kaiser Optifast doctor said was a reasonable goal for me at the end of Phase One, though I’d be happy to be in the 130’s. But I’m happy to be at this weight a year after starting the program, and 8 months after going back on food. Yay!

Biological Betrayal – Our Bodies Are Programmed to Regain Weight June 12, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Early Days on Optifast, Maintenance.
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This article came out last year but didn’t come to my attention until recently. It was really an eye opener. In short, it said that for at least a year after weight is lost, hunger-producing hormones in our bodies are elevated, often leading to overeating and weigh regain.

You can read the article on CNN. But listen to this: “According to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, hunger-related hormones disrupted by dieting and weight loss can remain at altered levels for at least a year, fueling a heartier-than-normal appetite and thwarting the best intentions of dieters.” And here we thought it was just our lack of will power and naughty selves that made us regain weight!

The article goes on to say “Maintaining weight loss may be more difficult than losing weight,” says lead researcher Joseph Proietto, Ph.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne’s Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, in Victoria, Australia. “This may be due to biological changes rather than [a] voluntary return to old habits.”

So we are being set up by our bodies to go back to our pre-weight-loss selves! That just sucks.

They did the research by putting 50 overweight or obese men and women on a very low-calorie diet (hey, sounds like Optifast!) for 10 weeks, then tracking their hormone levels for one year. After losing weight the subjects were monitored for a year on their hunger levels, weight regain, and hormone levels. Sure enough, the hunger-producing hormones continued to be higher than before their weight loss, their reported hunger was higher than before starting the program, and (no shock) they regained weight.

The researcher says ” “Maintenance of weight loss requires continued vigilance and conscious effort to resist hunger.” He also goes on to say that because of this type of research, doctors may provide hormones to dieters to help counteract this hormonal imbalance, similar to the way diabetics take insulin to readjust hormone levels.

I know that our Kaiser doctor offers some pharmaceutical assistance (like appetite suppressants) to post-Phase 1 Optifasters. I pooh-poohed the idea (I don’t need no stinkin’ pills) but now I realize that using a tool like this wouldn’t be a sign of weakness, but biologically sensible, since our bodies have mechanisms in place to try to make us regain the weight we lost!

So it’s all food (so to speak) for thought. Whether you talk to your doctor or not about appetite suppressants after losing weight, at least the results of this research should help us NOT feel bad, guilty and weak when we do overeat after dieting, and then regain some of that dastardly weight we worked so hard to lose. And for those of us determined to overcome our bodies urgings, in the words of Mad Eye Moody (for those Harry Potter fans, like me), it requires “Constant Vigilance!”

Not FAT Enough for Optifast? June 11, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Early Days on Optifast.
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A comment by a recent visitor reminded me of an issue that was not insignificant for me when starting the Optifast program, one year ago. Even though I (and the Kaiser doctors) knew that I “qualified” for the diet by having over 40 pounds to lose (the official weight cut-off), and had an obese-level BMI (more than “overweight” but  less than “morbidly obese”), before the first meeting I still worried that  I might be judged by others in the support group for “not being fat enough” for Optifast. (Apologies for using the “F Word”!)

What I feared never happened – or at least no one ever said anything to me. First of all, our group was way too nice to ever express that kind of judgment, even if they thought it. And then there were all shapes and sizes in our group – some with over 100 pounds to lose, some with less. And everyone carries weight differently. I have a lot in my chest and abdomen that can be minimized with the right clothes.  I’m sure I wasn’t the one in my group with the smallest amount of weight to lose to reach goal. And all weights and weight loss goals are confidential on the program.

But for Optifast and weight loss in general, in a funny way that reverses things in the outside world, the heavier folks have more legitimacy, more status even, than those less heavy. Frankly I think it’s good that there’s at least ONE place where it’s the smaller people who are the second class citizens! That’s overstating it, but the comment from my blog visitor was that she almost didn’t read my blog because I “only” lost 55 pounds to get close to my goal.

And I know she didn’t mean it in any kind of critical way, but in the way that, how could someone with that amount of weight to lose, relate to someone with a lot more to lose? Because those 100+ pounds-to-lose weight loss journeys are surely harder and definitely longer. There are special issues facing people with that struggle. I know, from reading other blogs, that there are unique problems to that amount of weight. For example:  I confess, I’ve never had to use a seatbelt extender on an airplane. And I feel even now like I have to apologize for that fact, in the topsy turvy world of meal-replacement or very low calorie diets.  (But I have broken a chair by sitting on it! Do I get points for that? ;-))

The visitor did stay and read some of my blog, and realized that despite her special issues and challenges, there is a LOT we have in common. Anyone who has struggled with weight issues for years (or like me, for most of my life) no matter what their current weight, can relate, I think, to others facing the same struggles. And we can learn from and support each other.

Although I know the blogs of folks who have lost closer to 100 or even 150 pounds (whether on Optifast or another program) are more impressive and inspirational, I still feel my own experiences can be helpful to others. I think everyone’s experiences are helpful! Regardless of where we start, where we end, and what we do along the way, I definitely find that those who are part of the e-community on weight loss issues are incredibly supportive and respectful of each other’s unique weight loss journey. And I am certainly very grateful for that. E-hugs all around!


Best Blog Readers Anywhere June 9, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Early Days on Optifast, General weight loss.
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I just wanted to say a thank you to all those who have posted comments on my blog over the months, especially the ones who have expressed appreciation, and who have let me know that this blog has been helpful to them. I can’t tell you how much the support and kind words have meant to me. (Note – this is just a thank you, not a good-bye!)

I’d love to give a party for my blog readers to say thanks, but 1) it would need to be a virtual party and 2) since quite a few are on Optifast, I guess I couldn’t provide any refreshments. Coffee, tea, diet soda, bottled water and sugarless gum for all? 😉 Not the same as champagne and chocolate truffles, but since the party is virtual anyway, I guess I could offer a virtual feast without worrying about calories, LOL. Although in the interests of modeling healthy eating, let’s say the “e-feast” (even Optifasters have nothing to fear from e-food) will include: jicama sticks and mango salsa, kale crisps and hummus for appetizers, then spinach salad with strawberries, grilled shrimp and salmon, quinoa with artichoke hearts and asparagus, and watermelon for dessert. Consider yourself invited!

But back to the wonderful comments I’ve received. I don’t think that the comments on this blog layout are very visible, so I wanted to include some below just to prove how uplifting and rewarding these comments have been:

“Your own blog was my lifeline through the first tough days on Optifast — I was lightheaded, hungry, confused and had SO many questions.”

“I love this post; you hit the nail on the head. I’m trying to decide whether to do an Optifast program or not and your blog has been so helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to document and share your journey with others.”

“Thank you for your blog – so enjoyable and entertaining to read as I am going through MWM program.”

“Your blog is inspiring and it’s needed for this tiny community of those participating in the diet.”

“I just want to say thank you so much for your blog, it has been my guide, inspiration and comfort on getting through my phase 1 and will continue as I go through transition and eventually to maintenance. It was very difficult to find support online at some of the more popular weight loss blogs so when I found your blog I was jumping for joy! I still have a good bit of weight to lose but Optifast has definitely helped me get that boost I needed and I feel more confident that I can lose the rest of my weight (down 66 lbs so far, close to my first of three goals). Your blog inspires me that weight loss can be successfully maintained after the program. So Optifast Blogger, thank you again for your wonderful and encouraging blog, keep those posts coming!”

“Have found your blog incredibly helpful and must admit this maintenance portion is by far the hardest. Being grateful helps alot please keep blogging you are very inspirational.”

“Thank you for the well-wishing and the encouragement you’re providing to so many by blogging! You are a refreshing voice.”

“You give me hope and inspiration. I also like all the tips along the way. Thanks so much!”

“I am grateful for your blog. I am just beginning my Optifast journey, so I am reading your beginning blogs as I move along. I find your information encouraging and supportive…and they answer some of my questions. Sometimes, you make me chuckle…and that sets me off in a happy mood to start my day (I just read “Exercise, Really???”). Your blog reads like a book and I look forward to reading my “daily chapter”. Thanks for sharing yourself!”

“Thanks so much for your blog. I am on Day 5 and it’s a big help to hear how someone else got through it.”

“Hi, thanks for this great, honest, and helpful blog.”

“It’s really helpful to refer to your posts on the ups, downs, and everything in between during the Optifast journey. Thanks again for providing a great “reference manual”–I know I will be visiting here often : )”

“I have been following your posts for the past 4 months and want to tell you how much you have inspired me as I went through my 12 week Optifast meal replacement and 6 week transition phase…Today is my first day of maintenance and I look forward to your blogs and words of wisdom. Your entries on the ups & downs of weight management on an Optifast-based program help “normalize” what many of us are going through. I appreciate your honesty and truthfulness in your writings and hope you “keep on blogging” !”

If you are like me, you live in a world which rarely provides positive feedback. We do our best as parents, spouses, employees, etc. but no one comes along and says “Wow, you are doing such a great job as a mom (or dad, or grandma, or friend, or coworker, etc.)!” unless you are very very lucky. The absence of pats on the head makes the blog comments even more welcome, because there are so few times and places where compliments are received – or at least that’s my experience. So thanks again!!

Fighting the Good (Maintenance) Fight June 5, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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I’ve blogged before about the joys and struggles of maintenance. I hate to dwell on the struggles, because I think it can be demotivating for those who are in the midst of Optifast or another stringent diet. Because we all hope, trust, and want to believe that once we’ve lost weight we’re home free and the worst is over. I know I did. Even when Optifast grads came to our support group and claimed transition and maintenance were harder, we didn’t really believe them.

But it is a struggle. Losing weight is “sexier” than maintaining. There’s the excitement of the goal, and the pleasure of seeing the number on the scale get smaller. Once back on food, it’s a rockier path. Old ways of thinking and previous behaviors are more entrenched and tenacious than one would think.

But, I keep fighting the good fight. What keeps me on the maintenance band wagon? There are the broad, more conceptual motivators, and then there are the smaller or more practical things, which may actually have more impact on me. The big things are like “don’t want to regain weight” and “want to be healthy,” etc. All certainly true.

The smaller or more practical things include:

  1. The Russian woman whose open cube is kiddie-corner to my cube and who gives me the hairy eyeball or up-and-down “once over” each morning. She knows about the diet I was on, and was somewhat disapproving and discouraging about lasting results. I don’t want the day to come where she announces with satisfaction, “Looks like you’ve put some weight back on!” (And believe me, she wouldn’t hesitate to say this!)
  2. The massive amounts of clothes I have in small sizes in my closets, and the fact that in a week we are having a garage sale and I’ve got bags of all my large clothes in the garage to be sold. I’d be SO frustrated and depressed if after selling them all, I couldn’t fit into the smaller ones in my closet!
  3. The beachy vacation I’m going on end of September
  4. Weigh-ins at Kaiser. I have missed a few (due to unavoidable time conflicts) and will miss next week’s as well, but I plan to stick with the support group and weigh-ins, which help with accountability.
  5. This blog! I want to be a role model for followers and visitors, and show that it is possible to keep the weight off after Optifast.

It’s good to have motivators when fatigue, temptation, stress, etc. interfere with our good judgment when it comes to eating and other healthy behaviors. So THANKS Olga – my Russian coworker, who is not reading this blog – for the daily full-body scrutiny! 😉

More Optifast Diet Blogs June 2, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Early Days on Optifast.

A while ago I posted links to some diet blogs, some of which were folks currently doing Optifast.

One of my commenters is just starting Optifast and is blogging. In addition, she has links to three more Optifast blogs on her site. So I am listing all four here for those who find that reading the weight loss journeys of other folks, especially Optifast peers, can be helpful.

My Optifast Journey

Optifast Gourmet

Optifast Blog 2012

The Longest Journey

Losing It Getting Fit


And if you are playing with the idea of blogging yourself, read my post on the Benefits of Weight-Loss Blogging. And let me know if there are other awesome Optifast blogs out there!

For those doing Optifast without a support group, the e-support from reading the blogs of people going through the same struggle and experience as you is invaluable.

The FitBit Fairy Came to My House June 2, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in exercise, Maintenance.
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If you’ve followed my FitBit frustrations, you may remember that I purchased a FitBit (pedometer), loved it, wore it a few months, then lost it. Head slaps. After a few weeks I bought another one – and lost that one, this time within days. Harder head slaps. Because they are so helpful as far as monitoring exercise/steps, I really wanted another one, but knew my husband would kill me – he didn’t even know about the second purchase. (They ain’t cheap – $100.)

I poured out my tale of woe (and weight loss journey) to the kind folks at FitBit and with one thing and another, was again the proud owner of a FitBit (see my post, FitBit Frustration to Forever Fan).

What I did NOT post was that, yup, (did you already figure out where I was going?) I lost that one too. Severe head bangings on the wall. At that point I didn’t know if this was FitBit-selective Alzheimers, or if I was putting out anti-FitBit vibes causing the poor FitBit to leap off of me, or whether this was some psychological thing where I was deliberately but unconsciously misplacing or losing it. I searched everywhere – all my pants, pockets, purses, in the car, under my bed, all over the place. Surely I could find one of the three! But no luck.

Then yesterday morning, the miracle! I was in the hall closet where I keep my shoes, a closet I’m in several times every day, and suddenly, there was a FitBit right there on the closet floor in plain sight! (The latest one disappeared over a month ago.) I had to pick it up and study it to convince myself it really was my FitBit, for several reasons:

  1. I hadn’t seen one for some weeks, so had to take a second look to identify it!
  2. I couldn’t believe it had materialized and thought maybe it was a hallucination.
  3. The FitBit was black and pink. Now, I really thought that all three of mine were black and teal blue like the picture above. But, no one else in my house uses a FitBit, so this black and pink one has to be mine, right? Unless it was dropped off by the FitBit fairy, which I am seriously thinking must be the case!

However it showed up, I’m grateful. I charged it last night and am wearing it today, with some FitBit bondage (ribbon, safety pin, etc.) to try and keep it from leaping off of me this time! 😉

Optifast Product vs Whole Meal: Deprivation vs Satisfaction June 1, 2012

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A recent commenter on my blog has just started Optifast and drank her first strawberry shake – and was less than thrilled. Hopefully everyone has the chance to taste the Optifast products before starting, to be sure they are palatable enough to live off for 16 or more weeks! I myself missed the orientation and didn’t get to taste them till the first night – luckily, as I’ve said before, there was at least one flavor of shake and soup I was OK with (all the bars were fine). As I’ve also said, I had to put the chocolate shake over ice to drink it – thinner and colder was better for me.

But besides the obstacle of flavor (and texture), there was another problem I had when starting the program, a feeling that this wasn’t right, to consume this small amount of stuff every day, to not have the variety a balanced meal brings, to be able to fit my whole week’s food supplies into a smallish box! It didn’t feel healthy, was just too limited, too weird, and this contributed, at least initially, to a feeling of deprivation and unease about the wisdom of embarking on this diet.

I had to do kind of a mind trick on myself. It was important for me to overcome this mental obstacle, and fully embrace the idea that these products could completely sustain me during Phase 1, and that the doctors would not have people on this diet if it was unhealthy. (Of course, not doing the diet and not losing weight is also unhealthy!)

But my mind trick was to visualize, while I was eating the bar or drinking the soup or shake, a balanced meal, which was contained in the product. As if the product was something out of Star Trek or other science fiction show, where a vending machine would serve up a pellet or something similar as a full meal. (At least the products aren’t pellets!) So I could take a bite or sip and think, there’s the starch… next few bites or sips, there’s the meat … final bites or draining the glass, that’s the fruit and veg. Because the products do have the vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, etc. that we need and are meal replacements.

It’s not exactly like I thought of a full plate of food being pureed (a la vegematic?) and reformed/served up as a bar, soup or shake (yuck), but I did teach my mind to think of the product as containing all the elements of a plate of food representing a balanced meal. Doing this mental magic also helped me to feel satisfied and not deprived. I had not just had a bar or drink, I’d had a full meal transformed into that particular product. Something like that!

Although later in the diet I didn’t need to do this so much, it definitely helped at the beginning. Whatever it takes, right?! Good luck to all those embarking on Optifast or other meal replacement diets, adjusting to a new way of life, food-wise, during those first few days and weeks…

Where Will I Lose Weight? Will I Shrink Everywhere (Like in the Sensa Ads)? May 30, 2012

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I don’t think there’s anyone who spends time online who probably hasn’t seen one of the “Sensa” ads. Sensa is some weight loss supplement – I think. I haven’t really investigated it, and I’m not here to weigh in (no pun intended) on Sensa. But I do want to mention their ad.

They have an animation showing a heavy woman (I’ve seen quite a few different women ads, but no men) who, through the power of animation, shrinks to a babe. Improbably teensy waist, and oogle-encouraging curves elsewhere. (I just show the before and after here, not the full animated “transformation”!)

Even if we all wanted the after version, that just ain’t how it happens. When I asked my lifestyle/maintenance Optfast group at Kaiser what they wished they’d known before starting the program, several said something along the lines of that they wish they’d known where the weight would leave, how their body would actually change. Because it just isn’t an overall shrink. And we don’t get to say, unfortunately, where we’d like to lose fat, and where we wouldn’t.

I always lose weight in my face first (unfortunately), then derriere, arms, and upper legs, then (eventually, to some degree) waist/stomach, and last (if I ever get that far) calves and uh, the girls. Other women I know say almost the opposite, that they go “flat” first! And having lost weight, whether in the tummy or face, there may be residuals left behind, from flab to wrinkles.

None of this is meant to imply that we shouldn’t lower our health risks by losing pounds, shouldn’t reduce the amount of fat our bodies are carrying, shouldn’t embark on Optifast or some other means of reaching a healthier weight. But just a reality check that there may be some surprises in how and where that reduction takes place, unlike in the (in my opinion, misleading) ad… (But of course not being strictly accurate is kind of a weight loss ad tradition, isn’t it?!)

Energy and Mood-Enhancing Tips for Dieters (or Anyone Else!) May 22, 2012

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In this digital age of e-information, I’m still a print magazine reader, big time, even though I tend to skim most of the magazines rather than reading every word. I skip most of the celebrity articles, and for other articles often don’t get past the first page. But if I find one recipe from the issue, one tip, one article that I can use and that provides some learning, humor or understanding of the world around me, I feel like I got my money’s worth.

One of these articles that I ran across recently, “Find Your Happy Place” by Gretchen Rubin from the June 2012 issue of Good Housekeeping, dealt with energy, mood and happiness. The article started with the statement, “It’s striking how important energy is to happiness.” And that got me thinking about early days on the Optifast diet when my energy was in shorter supply. I recall that in the early weeks of Phase 1, though not exactly tired or hungry, I often felt that I was lacking something, and could definitely have used an energy boost. And that’s true for other diets I’ve been on as well!

In case there are others in the same boat, I’m sharing some ideas from the article. The author mentions the obvious (get enough sleep) and the frequently-advised (exercise – though Optifasters are recommended to limit this in Phase 1). Some of the following ideas may also be well-known, but are still worth remembering when dealing with fatigue and mood dips:

  • Go outside into the sunlight. This almost always works for me, especially if it is warm outside– I feel like I’m absorbing energy from the sun like a plant photosynthesizing! 😉
  • Go for a 10-15 minute walk. It’s even better if you can walk in a natural setting, especially around any kind of water (a fountain if no creek is at hand), or just by some flowers and trees. Nature refreshes – it’s a fact. (There’s an article about this in this month’s O magazine as well.)
  • Listen to a favorite upbeat song. Whether it’s oldies but goodies from back in the day, show tunes, dance music, or other fast-tempo favorites from any era, music can help us recharge.
  • Talk to an energetic friend. Energy can be contagious. I would say also seek out actively happy, upbeat friends. I love being with people who are what I call “easy laughers.” I feel like such a wit when talking with them, and leave with shared laughter and a lighter mood in my  heart.

Here are some ideas from the article that aren’t as obvious, but which resonated with me:

  • Complete something on your to-do list. Actually the first step  is making a to-do list. When you feel too tired or low to actually do anything, it helps to get organized and reduce the chaos at least on paper. Then when you can cross off anything (doing a load of laundry,  paying one bill), the weight of all those things needing to be done gets lighter. As the weight of undone tasks lightens, so will your mood. (This suggestion, of crossing off anything, no matter how small, from your to-do list, is also made by therapists to people suffering from depression.) Just don’t make the list too long, as that could backfire and make your mood even worse!
  •  Cleaning up: This includes a whole  range of things small to big, from putting fresh sheets on your bed, to cleaning your keyboard and area around your computer, to organizing a closet. Do something visually satisfying, such as cleaning out that plastic thingy for cutlery in the kitchen drawer or washing the car. (This gets you outside AND around water as well!). If the cleaning up includes gathering up stuff for a garage sale/charitable donation/trash can, I find that my energy and “lightness of being” increases as the clutter disappears from my life!
  • Doing something fun: In fact I find you don’t even have to do it (yet), just plan it, make a date, get it on the calendar, etc. I think it actually helps to make plans a week or more out, because the anticipation of the fun activity lets you milk the plans for the maximum amount of enjoyment by stretching it out. And while on the topic of fun, I have to put in a shout-out for retail therapy. Once my body started getting smaller, for me there was nothing more energizing and uplifting than trying on clothes, even if I didn’t buy any!

One good thing about the Phase 1 of Optifast is that even if still preparing food for others, for a number of reasons you probably spend less time cooking and shopping for food than you did before. (Or if you are like me, no time at all.) With that extra time you can try some of the ideas above. And whether on Optifast or not, wherever we are on our healthy-living journey, energy and happiness are blessings to be sought after and appreciated!

(Stealth) Exercise Opportunities – Climb, Walk, Bend, Push, Lift! May 19, 2012

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At my last Kaiser Optifast meeting, our leader talked about reframing the way we look at activity, seeking opportunities to be active, rather than avoiding them (such as, not looking for the closest parking spot to minimize our walk back and forth from the car). Her message was that since many of our lives tend to be very sedentary, these activity or exercise opportunities should be sought and welcomed, rather than ignored or avoided.

Some members in the support group chimed in, showing that they (as Optifast grads) have already done this reframing and attitude adjustment. As an example, one fellow went with his mom to an art museum on Mother’s Day, and she wasn’t up to all the walking. He ended up pushing her in a (borrowed museum) wheelchair, including up and down a number of ramps to different floors. He said that before, he would have (at least internally) groused and grumbled and seen this as an inconvenience and burden. Now he saw it as a chance to exercise his muscles and get some cardio in, while spending time with his mom at the museum!

We are used to being surrounded by labor-saving devices and technologies, from smart phones to elevators to TV remotes. But our leader says we should be walking to the co-worker’s office rather than calling/texting/emailing, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and getting off the sofa to change the channel.

She encourages us to be alert for these opportunities. I found one recently at the grocery store, when I realized that by carrying a shopping basket (or two, one for each hand) instead of pushing a cart, I could get some arm muscle resistance work in. Again, we are so used to thinking that (of course) it is easier to use the cart that we don’t even consider the alternative. But these opportunities for exercise and activity do exist around us, and they do add up. Not being able to fit in a visit to the gym that day can be somewhat offset by the exercise incorporated into the day in ways like these.

The most common suggestion for exercise opportunities is while watching TV – stationary bikes, weights, resistance bands, etc.  However, this doesn’t help me, as I don’t watch TV! So it is a challenge to examine my everyday life and think, how can I be more active while doing this or that? The ever-present question is: “Could I be moving now?” and if so, do it!

When you are heavy, it is especially tempting to take the inactive route. Exercise and activity can be inconvenient, painful and even embarrassing when you are really overweight. The fellow in my support group who lost 100 pounds said he didn’t jog at first because “everything was jiggling,” so he just walked.  (I still have that problem somewhat, darn it!)

Everybody needs to start slow and accommodate their limitations. But it is an important attitude adjustment to see mowing the lawn, climbing the stairs, walking instead of driving, and doing any physical labor or activity as “body blessings” to be sought, not avoided. I’m going to keep looking for these opportunities to do some “stealth exercise” in my daily life. 😉

Optifast Success Stories May 17, 2012

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I attended the weekly support group last night for folks who are past the transition phase of Optifast at Kaiser – some are recent “grads” and some, like 3 or 4 from my original group, completed transition last year. But it is so amazing and inspiring to hear the stories of these people – the energy, the transformation, the new paths their lives are taking.

During the pre-meeting conversation, one fellow was asked about his weight loss stats, something normally kept private.  He is 6 ft. 3 inches, and shared the information that he started the program at 313 and has lost 100 pounds, part of it during Phase 1 and part after. His life has completely changed, in the way he eats, exercises, socializes, and lives each day. He really is the poster child for Optifast, I’ve always thought!

Another man in the program was from another group than mine originally, and I don’t know how big he was or much he lost, but I think it was quite a bit. He mentioned that he has gained 20 pounds from the lowest he was at after losing weight on Optifast. BUT, while gaining those 20 pounds he lost 2 inches! (Not sure from where – waist maybe?) He is sure that the 20 pounds he gained is muscle, because, he has now become a runner and (get this) runs a half-marathon every other week or so!!

A woman from my original group also has been transformed by the program. No idea how much she’s lost but she looks great, and raves about the energy she has now. She says they call her the “energizer bunny” at work. She’s such a fan of the Kaiser Optifast program that she is now paying the cost for her adult son to also do the program, at a Kaiser in another town. (She reported he’s lost 12 pounds in the first two weeks of that program.)

A number of the people in the group said that others in their lives (such as coworkers) don’t believe that they didn’t have “work done” or surgery of some sort – bands, etc. The results are just so dramatic that they can’t believe that a medical procedure wasn’t involved!

Hearing the testimonials at my group meeting leaves me thinking that Optifast is the best thing ever. But I know that this type of success isn’t always the case, unfortunately. One reason I think this is because I see that some of the search terms that people use when they land on my blog are for phrases such as “not losing weight on Optifast” and about plateaus on Optifast. I also know that some people do re-gain (as with all diets), and that another (big) obstacle is the cost.

Cost of Optifast

The cost of Optifast came up during our pre-meeting conversation, because I asked the woman paying for her son if the cost was the same now.  The opinion seemed to be that the non-food costs (for lab work, doctors and medical monitoring during Phase 1, program staff, etc.) are about $2700. The rest of the cost is the product, and so depends on how many you have a day. (This is prescribed by a doctor at the start of the program, and sometimes adjusted up or down for various reasons.)

I had five a day, and I think my total cost was about $4300 (product plus non-food costs). Others said around $5000. The fellow who lost 100 pounds was on ten (!) products a day, and said the cost for him was about $6000. That’s a LOT of money (even though you aren’t spending money on other food during Phase 1), but it is very clear that none of these people regrets this investment in their health and well-being – this investment in their life!

Of course unfortunately some just don’t have that money to spend to begin with. The other aspect of the cost is, that having spent that much, you really really don’t want to regain…

Latest on Healthy Eating (Nuts, Chocolate and Wine, Anyone?) May 14, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in General weight loss, Maintenance.
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I recently read an article with interesting info about healthy eating, disease prevention, and longevity.

The article stated that research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). “suggests that eating six foods daily—almonds, dark chocolate, wine, garlic, and fruits and vegetables—plus fish four times a week could cut risk for cardiovascular disease by 76 percent. “

I don’t know about you, but a diet containing berries, whole grains, green and yellow veg (think sweet potatoes, not corn!), fish, dark chocolate, nuts (almonds, walnuts), and red wine sounds pretty good to me.

As far as nuts, we’ve been hearing for some time how good they are for us, though portion control is hard, at least for me – I love nuts! (Ditto portion control on the dark chocolate – yikes!) Anyway, the article says,“The Harvard Nurses Study reports that eating nuts regularly, instead of the same amount of calories from carbs, trims heart disease risk by 30 percent. And surprising as it sounds, these high-calorie nibbles also help you avoid packing on pounds. According to a study in Obesity, weight gain was 31 percent less likely for people who eat nuts at least twice a week, versus those avoided them.” (my italics added)

Seems counter-intuitive to think about nuts helping you lose weight, but the key apparently is to get calories from nuts instead of someplace else – and of course, within an overall reasonable diet, calorie-wise.

As far as fish, another food we hear about constantly for its dietary value, it seems that there are areas of the world with unusually high numbers of people ages 100 or older, such as Okinawa, Japan, that researchers study. And though the researchers find that the inhabitants’ diets vary, they almost always include fish.

Are you tired of hearing about “portion control” yet? Well, too bad! For these long-lived folks, at least for this particular group in Japan, portion control is apparently part of their secret: “Okinawan centenarians stay lean and healthy with a cultural tradition called hara hachi bu (only eating until they feel 80 percent full).” Shall we make this our new mantra and healthy-eating strategy? (So no more eating till your tummy is ready to burst and zippers/buttons need undoing! If you visit your local neighborhood buffet restaurant, I don’t think you’ll find many folks practicing hara hachi bu!)

Thoughts on Mother’s Day: Family, Food, and Fat May 11, 2012

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I don’t blame my mom (gone 20 years now) for my lifelong weight problems. But family is definitely involved in the whole weight issue. My mom was slender, never over 100 pounds till she was pregnant. I don’t think she was ever over 120 in her life, and was around my height, 5’3”. Her sisters were slim, as was her mom, my grandma.

On my dad’s side, however, there were a number of stocky women, including my grandmother. I think it was the German blood on that side. My paternal grandmother had what I call a “uni-boob” – that is, when clothed in a dress (the only way I ever saw her), she had one mound that went from her neck to her waist where her body tucked back in a bit. Not a body type you want to inherit.

Besides genetics, families affect our weight all the time as we’re growing up (and sometimes even later), from what’s served on the table and as a reward (esp. high fat, high carb food), to comments about our eating behavior , activity levels, and body size.

My mom had me on several diets when I was in my young teens, without much success, as I recall. I know she was after me for reading too much instead of being outside. And I have a not-so-great memory of being in my late teens and eating something she thought I shouldn’t. She remarked, “So you’ve decided to be fat?”

Sounds bad, but she was actually pretty low-key about weight compared to her (slim-to-average weight) sister, my aunt, who said to me once with passion “I HATE fat!” and later in life carried around and frequently showed off (in an annoying and slightly creepy way) pictures of her three granddaughters grouped together in their bathing suits. Each year the picture showed the girls older, but always in their bathing suits, and always rail thin.

Even when my Aunt Norma was close to the end of her life and had very bad eyesight, on a visit to her house, after asking how much my (average weight) sister weighed and not getting a definite answer, she grabbed my sister’s hand, felt her fingers like the witch in Hansel and Gretel and said, “You were always big boned!” Which my sister was and is absolutely not! She has my mom’s slender bone structure, if not her same body weight.

Now my four-year-old granddaughter has suddenly packed on too many pounds, and my daughter is on her case about it. The doctor said to restrict her sweets, my sister says she’s just ready for a growth spurt, and I’m worried about news on childhood obesity epidemics. But my daughter is too outspoken with the four-year-old, critical of her suddenly heavier body, and I worry about negative self-images. In an ideal world it would be easy to keep kids from eating sweets and junk, but when you’ve got boyfriends, babysitters and visitation with non-custodial parents in the picture, all of whom want to keep the kid happy, it’s not so easy.

Moms, daughters, family, eating, weight – it’s complicated, and emotionally powerful stuff.

Anyway, back to Mother’s Day. Last year it was my last big holiday before going on Optifast. We had brunch out at a Mexican restaurant with lots of chips, cheese, and other forms of carbs and fat, and of course the requisite margaritas. This year it will be dinner at my house, with grilled salmon, artichokes, salad, and wild rice. I’m hoping it will be much easier to eat healthy! I do plan on making some pound cake and serving it with sliced peaches (if I can find some this early in the season – maybe from South America?) and some peach-flavored Tequila I bought in Mexico a few weeks ago, as a glaze. Have to serve some kind of dessert, but I plan to make my own serving super-light on the cake and heavy on the peaches!

Sincere wishes for a happy and healthy Mother’s Day to everyone. Honor your mom this weekend, if she’s still around, but make your own decisions about what to eat if celebrating together, if she’s the type that fills up your plate or urges you to eat sweets. Take that piece of cake or those leftovers “home” in a doggie bag and dump it in the nearest trash, if they aren’t part of your eating plan! The best way to honor your mom is to be a healthy happy grown-up. That’s what all parents (should) want for their kids.

For those on Optifast, best wishes for surviving an eating event and staying on product. For those in transition or maintenance, remember to take good care of yourself. And remember, too, that although food will always be here, your mother probably won’t, so focus on celebrating family more than food this Mother’s Day.

On the Cusp of Starting Optifast – Memories from One Year Ago May 9, 2012

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One year ago today, May 9, 2011, was the day before my first Optifast meeting at Kaiser. I was down on California’s Coronado Island, staying an extra day after a business trip to San Diego, and psyching myself up for the 16 weeks ahead. The trip to Coronado was a line in the sand, literally.

As I blogged about in my very first blog post here, “Preparing for the Program” (and again in
Visualization – Picturing the End of the Optifast Journey), I did things like buy a special glass for my soon-to-be meal replacement shakes. I bought a “talisman” necklace at one of the Hotel Del Coronado shops. I had my last margarita, my last Kentucky Fried Chicken. (We each have our own special addictions!)

I walked on the beach, thought about the future, made vows about (and visualized myself) returning to Coronado and “Hotel Del” all slim and healthy. I wrote “fat” in the sand and watched the tide wash it away. That picture has actually been my computer screensaver ever since then!

I flew back home on the 10th with my plane flight timed to arrive in plenty of time to get to Kaiser for the first mandatory, can’t-start-the-program-if-you-miss-it program meeting. But wouldn’t you know – flight delays! Stress, agony, panic! I rushed to the meeting right from the airport parking lot, still arriving 20-30 minutes late to the mandatory first weigh-in and meeting, out of breath but luckily still in time to be counted as “present” and able to start the program – phew!

Turned out that at the meeting, besides going over paperwork, we ordered our first week of products, so the actual meal-replacement phase didn’t really start till a week later. But unlike a few folks in the group (based on their stories), I didn’t use that next week to keep on having my “last this and that.” I’d had my first weigh-in, so I started watching what I was eating ASAP, and in fact did lose two or three pounds before the next week’s weigh-in. (On the other hand, I’d had enough last-whatever’s the previous few weeks to pack on 10 extra pounds!)

A year ago, on the brink of Phase 1, I was worried, no doubt about it.

  • Worried what it would be like to go for FOUR MONTHS without real food. Inconceivable! I couldn’t imagine going a day or two!
  • Worried about my health, and possible side effects. How would my body do on this weird diet regimen?
  • Worried about the cost – a LOT of money. It felt extravagant, selfish, risky, indulgent. I know I’ve thought before, when signing up for yet another diet program or gym membership or piece of exercise equipment, “I should be able to lose weight without spending so much money. This money could be used elsewhere! What’s wrong with me?”
  • Worried about the products themselves. I didn’t taste them till that first meeting (I’d missed the orientation), and disliked some of them, although luckily found at least one flavor from each product type (soup, shake and bar) that was palatable to me.
  • Really worried about what people would say. What would I tell family and friends, none of whom (including my husband, kids, sister, etc.!) yet knew that I was embarking on this drastic approach to weight-loss.

But despite my worries, everything worked out. As I’ve said before, I’m very happy I did the program. I lost 50-55 pounds and kept it off. Other programs work, but this one worked for me, and I’m grateful. Sure, I’d like to lose 5 or 10 more, but if I don’t, I’m OK, as long as I maintain where I am. (I do know that for many folks in the Optifast program, their weight-loss goal is much greater than mine.)

And I still would like to get back to Del Coronado to celebrate my achievement!

Stress Eating May 8, 2012

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I know I’ve posted before on the subject of stress eating (such as in my family drama post), and have commented on others’ blogs as well. My basic position has been that when bad things are happening to us and around us, we have to take extra care to be good to ourselves, and that includes healthy eating. We don’t want to emerge from bad times finding that the badness is compounded by the damage done to our bodies and our health.

That’s still my position, and my goal. But recently I’ve experienced some stress that went above and beyond other stress I’ve encountered. Stress involving the welfare of a much-loved child. Stress that had me thinking, this is horrible, tragic, and whatever it takes to survive this pain I’ll do, because nothing about me is as important as this other thing going on. So I realize that sometimes stress can be so severe, and situations so dire, that not only do we grasp desperately at whatever comfort we can find (food being an available and helpful soother, along with alcohol), but it almost feels selfish and self-centered to even think about our own wellbeing when these other things are going on.

I mean if you are thinking, this is so painful that I want to die, then why on earth would you care about what you eat?

So it’s like I have two voices in my brain, one saying, this pain (present or anticipated) needs to be numbed or I will go crazy. Since I don’t use illegal drugs, I should grab whatever is legal to help my mind not suffer so much. And then there’s a smaller voice, almost unheard, that is still saying, wait, stop, yes things are really really bad and there is heartbreak and suffering going on, but don’t make your life worse, try to find something to help the pain without hurting yourself more.

I guess the most obvious thing I should do is actually see a doctor about something that IS legal that might help. Because things may get much worse, and I should be prepared, and have some tools to face what might happen other than over-eating and alcohol. There are anti-anxiety meds and other things that help take the edge of the grief and pain that life sometimes hands us. It may be time for me to look into that, unfortunately.

I can’t see into the future enough to know whether the pain I’m anticipating will happen or not, but I do find I’m waking up with panic attacks, so I think the wisest thing to do is to try to get some help from a medical professional, rather than from the refrigerator…

Phase 1 Folks – Happy Optifasters May 2, 2012

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This Tuesday evening I dropped in to chat with some of the folks currently in the 16-week product-only Phase 1 of the Optifast Meal Replacement program at Kaiser. Their support group immediately follows the one I am attending, which is a “Lifestyle” Optifast group for “grads” who have completed transition and are in maintenance and moving forward.

I only spoke with a few in the group that night, but my sense is that as a whole those in the group are happy campers. I have heard that some in the group have been able to go off meds (blood pressure, etc.), which also happened in my group and others – and to me personally!

The two women I was speaking with were SO excited about the clothes they could wear now, and the compliments they were getting. Both remarked that their facial structure was more visible, their cheekbones were emerging, and they were receiving admiring comments from coworkers.

They spoke about being motivated to exercise, and that the “jumpstart” in weight loss provided by Optifast (both are hoping to continue losing weight after Phase 1) gave them the motivation to adopt a much more active lifestyle. They wear pedometers, exercise with their kids, and one woman even uses her garage treadmill in the wee hours of the night if she didn’t meet her exercise goal during the day!

Their excitement and enthusiasm was infectious. If I hadn’t already done Optifast, I think that I would be signing up for the program after hearing their stories!

Cruises and Dieting May 2, 2012

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Disclaimer: the subtitle of this post should be do what I say, not necessarily what I do or did!

I went on a one-week Mexican cruise (Carnival line) and got back about a week and a half ago. I did some things well, and some things not so well, but in any case will share here some lessons learned.

For one thing, the Optifast Kaiser group that meets right after mine (theirs is still product-only but nearing transition) has someone in the group who is going on a cruise this summer and was asking my advice. So for her and everyone else, read on!

Things I did well:

  • I knew there would be a lot of food, so tried to put myself in the mindset that I was NOT going to eat it all, or even most of it, but would concentrate on the high end, the quality or best food available. That meant yes to lobster tail at dinner, for example, and to the fresh pineapple dipped in the chocolate fountain, and no to the 24/7 pizza bar and the hamburger grill.
  • Since food is more or less unlimited, and you can order as much as you want off the menu, I decided to never eat something if it wasn’t really good. So the first night, trying to be good, I ordered the diet orange cake. It was a tasteless sponge cake, so after a few bites I left the rest.
  • And since you aren’t paying for the food (as you would at a restaurant), it’s fine to order, taste, and then not finish or share with someone else at the table. Yes, it may be wasteful. But these are unusual circumstances. So I ordered the “chocolate melting cake” but only had three bites. I wasn’t hungry, the cake was rich, and three bites was plenty. (It helped that I knew it would be on the menu every night, since it’s a Carnival dessert specialty!)

Things I could have done better:

  • I went to the gym the first morning at sea for the 7 am stretching class. And I used some of the machines and the treadmill afterwards. But, that was my last trip to the gym that week. Good intentions, poor follow-through. Be better than me! The gyms have a great ocean view, even if their equipment is usually limited. Ask the staff the best time to come to avoid the crowds, so that you have access to the machines. Don’t forget to pack shoes and an exercise outfit.
  • Our ship didn’t really have the nice promenade that most ships have (poor design IMO). There was a very shortish promenade that my friend and I did a few laps around once. But it was on Deck 12, and it can be very breezy on the ship when it is moving. We didn’t do it more than the one time, partly due to wind, partly to laziness. Again, beat my record for walking on the ship!! The view can’t be beat…
  • Alcohol. Alcohol on the ship is expensive. That made it easy to not buy. BUT, there were opportunities for free champagne (art auction, etc.) which my friend and I took ample advantage of. And then there’s alcohol in port. In fact, we had one shore excursion with unlimited margaritas (though we didn’t know that when we signed up for it) and one that toured two Tequila-making businesses with mucho tasting (well, we did know about that). As we all know, not only does alcohol have calories, but it loosens your inhibitions so you eat more as well. Resist! At least more than I did.

My clothes were tight by the end of the week – the scale was up 6 or 7 pounds when I got home. (There may be a scale in the gym but there was nooooo way I was going to weigh myself on the trip. If you do that, you are definitely a more dedicated dieter than I am!) But the good news is that it has almost all come off. Thank goodness the cruise wasn’t any longer, so that the fat didn’t have time to get settled for good! 😉 If your cruise is longer, try to pace yourself.

Cruises are definitely a challenge when dieting or after losing weight and trying to maintain. But, I think they can be survived with the right attitude and some healthy behavior, even in the presence of all that unlimited food. If you go, have fun while being as healthy as possible, so that the post-vacation, back-to-work depression (that I ALWAYS have) isn’t compounded by a really scary weight gain.

And I’m always available as a travel companion, who will be happy to go to that 7 am stretching class with you, and help keep you motivated!

Stretch Bands Get Old April 30, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in exercise, Maintenance.
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Not “get old” as in I’m tired of using them. Frankly I don’t use them so much that they get old that way. But they do apparently get old after time, and less resilient – I’m here to testify.

I have one at work tucked out of sight. I sit in a line of partially-divided, open-on-one-side cubicles, so my desk is at most 8-10 feet from the guy who sits across from me (as you can kind of see in the picture). Then there are two coworkers on either side of me (separated by those 5 ft high cube dividers), and then another coworker kiddie-corner from me.

Once in a while when the guy across from me isn’t sitting at his desk, I get out the stretch band, push my chair back so my kiddie-corner coworker can’t see me, and do some virtually silent arm stretches. I like to use the bands, even briefly, because I can feel my arm muscles warm up and my heart rate increase a little. I know that the results of this brief exercise last longer than just the few minutes I’m actively doing the stretches.

But back to the getting old comment. The other day I was silently stretching away, when all of a sudden there was this really loud, explosive CRACK as the stretch band snapped in two! I quickly tossed the pieces in my trash before my nearest cube neighbors rushed over to stare at me and see whether I’d been shot. At which point I asked innocently, “What?”

You may question this subterfuge, but in fact several managers ago we had a meeting where we were told NO exercises in our cubes. Someone had some 2 pound weights and was busted for doing arm lifts! Now in fact, we are entitled to a break, and if we choose to do some unobtrusive lifting or stretching, I can’t believe HR would object, esp. since at least in theory they support ergonomic exercises to prevent problems with all-day computer use. Maybe we have to do them in the break room instead of in our cube? In any case, with the memory in mind of the “no exercising” manager meeting, I sneakily try to do my arm stretches under the radar. Hence my unwillingness to fess up when I caused the stretch-band explosion!

After the crack it took a while for my heart rate to go back to normal. (Maybe I got some cardio exercise in as well?) In any case, I brought in a nice new stretch band today, and I hope it lasts a while (the other one was probably 8 months old?), since now I’m a little leery about stretching them too far!

Depressed over Post-Optifast Weight Gain April 25, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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Well, I went on a cruise last week as the guest of a friend. So, no big surprise, the scale is up, in fact higher than it’s been for probably 7 or 8 months, which is very depressing. It’s up probably nine pounds, which is really scary.

Totally my fault. I went to the ship’s gym the morning of the first day at sea and never returned. Free food, complimentary tequila and champagne, gourmet desserts and a chocolate buffet complete with chocolate fountain, wine and food pairing and other special events on board, formal dining every night with unlimited menus, chocolate-covered strawberries left in the stateroom, mango margaritas in port, etc. etc. My clothes were tight by the end of the cruise, so I knew serious damage had been done.

I missed my official weigh-in at the support group last week because I was on the cruise, missed it the week before because I had to work, and missed it last night because it was the only chance to see my son before he leaves for Germany.

So here I am needing that emergency recovery plan I mentioned in my last post. The weight is definitely over the limit I gave myself. So yes, I have plenty of fruit and vegetables on hand, prepared and brought portioned healthy food with me at work today, have a full bottle of water, plan to walk today (can’t go to the gym because I work both jobs today), plan to weigh myself every morning in the foreseeable future, and plan to go to my official weigh-in next week even though it won’t be pretty. I have an event lunch today (luckily I pre-ordered salmon) but after  that don’t have anything scheduled in terms of eating events, and will plan to stay away from restaurants and food variety in general for awhile.

Variety may be the spice of life, but it also is dangerous, for me, and for other dieters as well, I know. I was in a Trader Joes last night and oh look, there’s pomegranate kefir, dried pineapple and mango, and 80% dark chocolate bars. All healthy, right?  So what’s the harm? Plenty!! I need to restrict myself to the same old lean protein and veg, with fruit as a treat, and nonfat yogurt for breakfast. Otherwise, it’s just too tempting. The cruise was (super) fun and I’m glad I went, but it was food (and drink) “variety” times one hundred! Now I am facing the hard work of damage control and recovery…

My one year anniversary of starting the Optifast program is in about two weeks – hoping to successfully lose some of the cruise weight before then!

Weight Loss/Weight Management Tips and Tricks April 14, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in General weight loss, Maintenance.
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I thought I’d share some of the materials and information from our Kaiser Optifast Support Group. Some of the material was provided by our group leader, and some by others in the group. The tips and tricks deal with keeping metabolism up (important both during weight loss and maintenance), and help with maintaining weight loss, including catching and stopping the “drift” when unwanted pounds creep back on. Many of these we’ve heard again and again, and are no-brainers. But they bear repeating, and even if you just give one or two a try, it might help.

Keeping Metabolism Revved Up

Things to try: more water, frequent meals, 7-8 hours sleep, daily sunshine, weight-bearing exercises, green or oolong tea, interval training, spicy peppers, ginger, oily fish (tuna, salmon), supplements/food-based nutrients (sufficient calcium and Vitamins B and C).

There’s research for all of these, such as the fact that fish such as tuna and salmon contain oil that increases leptin, a hormone controlling appetite. Or that peppers cause an internal calorie burn for about 30 minutes afterwards. And increased muscle mass, from weight-bearing exercise, can increase your body’s basic metabolic rate by up to 40%!

Things to avoid: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS); stress, excessive diet soda (guilty!), alcohol (ditto).

Similar research for avoidance items – for example, studies show (though this is somewhat controversial) that HFCS can make the body insulin-resistant. And stress raises the amount of cortisol in your body, a hormone which tells our bodies to hang onto fat!! (So my kids are not only making me crazy, they’re making me fat as well…)

Maintaining Weight Loss

Food-related: Things to limit: fast food, restaurants in general, high sugar/high fat foods, variety of foods (except in the case of vegetables), risky situations (buffets, happy hour, etc.), weekend “cheats.” Things to increase: fiber, vegetables, lean protein, availability of convenient meal replacement products, planned/portioned foods for the day or week.

Exercise-related: Try a group exercise or a walking buddy, use stairs instead of elevators, limit time in front of a screen (TV, computer), start the day with exercise or stretching, build exercise into your routine (park further from destination, take the long way, walk the dog, ride a bike, stand more than sit, pace rather than stand, etc.), keep gym clothes or at least walking shoes at work, in the car, wear and set goals for a pedometer like FitBit, etc.

Catching/Stopping the “Drift”

We were given a worksheet to complete, that started with “When I step on the scale in the morning, I expect to see ____________.” We were to fill in a weight or weight range that is our goal (this is for once you are in a maintenance or lifestyle phase). The sheet goes on, “If I see ___________ I will enact my early drift management rules:” Then there are rules on the sheet to be filled in by us.

So for example, I might put “When I step on the scale in the morning, I expect to see 140 pounds or less. If I see a weight over 145, I will:

Rule #1: Immediately go fill up my 32 ounce water bottle to start working on drinking more water every day until back at goal.

Rule #2: Stay away from any restaurant food until back at my goal

Rule #3: Prepare, pack or go buy at least 5 servings of vegetables to eat today and the next couple of days

Rule #4: Walk at least 45 minutes or go to the gym for the next three days.

Rule #5: Weigh myself every day until I am back at my goal weight, and then at least twice a week after that.

So this is a pre-made plan that is based on numbers you come up with, and plans you come up with, to stop weight gain and get back on track with healthy behavior. Give it a try and see if it helps!



Medifast – Another (Mostly) Meal-Replacement Diet Plan April 12, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in General weight loss, Maintenance.
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The post below is not anything official about Medifast, just some opinions and observations (you’ll need to do research on your own, if you are interested). Until recently I knew nothing about Medifast, although I’d probably seen their ads in magazines, just never paid attention. Then I saw the article in this month’s Oprah about a woman who went from 334 pounds to 140 pounds on Medifast, and who is now in training for a marathon. WOW!

So I looked up Medifast, and it appears to be a meal-replacement plan (like Optifast) but that also allows some “real” food. Although there is the recommendation to do it under a doctor’s supervision (esp. if the calories consumed are under 1200) it also appears that the products are available to anyone to purchase. But even the logo has the physician symbol, so the intent is to have Medifast dieters under medical monitoring, I believe.

Jennifer Bonner, the woman in the Oprah story, ate 5 Medifast products (there appears to be a wider variety of Medifast products than Optifast products) plus one portion of lean protein and three vegetable servings a day.  The article doesn’t say, unfortunately, how long it took her to lose weight. But I found a page with a link to a video about Jennifer, and on the page it says that she and her husband (who also did the Medifast program and lost 103 pounds) have kept the weight off for two years. Awesome!

As we all know, losing weight is hard but keeping it off is even harder. And the meal-replacement diets, such as Optifast and Medifast, are often considered more challenging when it comes to transitioning to real food. So it’s great to read of folks who have been successful in maintenance.

My thinking on weight problems and dieting is that, as with many things, you first try the easy and least drastic approach. So to lose weight, reduce sugar/bad carbs and (bad) fat, while increasing activity. If that doesn’t work, try something with more structure and support (Weight Watchers, etc.). But for those who have already tried these to no avail, then I think the very low calorie, meal-replacement approach is a very valid option, especially for those with lots of weight to lose. Because the standard 2-3 pounds a week on traditional diet programs just takes too long when you are really heavy. The thought of how much you have to lose and how long it might take can be overwhelming.

Jennifer in the Oprah story lost 13 pounds her first week and “was hooked.” Rapid results really give an incentive to stick with the program, and for most people, programs like Optifast (and Medifast, apparently) do provide significant weight loss over shorter periods of time. Although the 16 weeks of product-only seemed long when I was doing it, now I feel that losing 55 pounds over 16 weeks was quick. And I know others have lost more than this – I’m about average, according to what I’ve read.

I do think it is very important to have support when embarking on these meal-replacement, very low calorie diets. I know that having Kaiser doctors, staff, nutritionists as well as my support group of fellow dieters, were a big part of what made the program work for me. Your health should be monitored, the weekly weigh-ins are important and motivational, and the education about transition and maintenance are critical, in my opinion. So good luck if you chose a meal-replacement diet plan, but do get the support you need!

A Year Ago Easter – Time for a Change April 8, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Before and After, Maintenance.
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I started the 16 week Optifast program last May, but the beginning of the process was actually one year ago, Easter 2011. It was a picture my sister took of me on her patio last year, holding an Easter basket and checking out some eggs on the ground, that made me decide I needed to do something about my weight. I posted the picture before, but here it is.

So another Easter has rolled around. I finished the 16 week meal replacement part of the program back in September, followed by transition (up till week 30) and then maintenance, which Kaiser likes to call “lifestyle” meaning, the changes and new behavior should be part of your life now.

So I don’t know officially what week I’m on, but I’m about a month away from when I first started the program. And one year away from when I saw this picture that motivated me to do something drastic.

Here is a picture taken today, Easter 2012, in my backyard, on another Easter Egg hunt. Better, yes?

Subway Satisfaction April 4, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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As I’ve blogged about before (such as in Liking What You Eat) I don’t think that a diet or eating plan will work long-term if you feel deprived most of the time. You have to be able to keep your mouth and tummy happy. Short term, yes, we can survive on shakes or “rabbit food” or no carbs, but long term, not so much.

One of the things I do almost every day to keep my mouth and tummy happy, is to have a Subway sandwich. (And no, I don’t own any stock in Subway!) The taste, the volume, and the satiation I feel afterwards, do NOT feel like I’m dieting, which is good. This almost-daily lunch goes a long way towards keeping me from feeling deprived. I can eat “fast food” and still feel good.

First, I almost always walk to the Subway near my work, which is probably a 35-minute walk round-trip. Then I get a sandwich from the healthy list (the whole “Jared’s special” thing) – for me, it’s almost always a six-inch turkey on 9-grain wheat. Usually I take the small extra cost-and-calorie hit of adding cheese – pepper jack. I skip the lettuce (no fan of iceberg) but if they have spinach (some Subway’s do, some don’t) I’ll have that. Then I have all the veggies except jalapeño peppers. And I always ask for extra of at least one of the veggies – onions or tomatoes, or most often the bell peppers. I don’t get any dressing or condiments because 1) I hate mayonnaise, 2) mustard is so strong that when it’s on a sandwich I only taste mustard, not anything else. (Put on mustard and I could be eating flannel or cardboard and not even know it!) And 3) it just adds extra calories, and the sandwich is fine for me with just the meat, cheese and vegetables.

I also get a Diet Coke and with the sandwich, it is filling and feels cheaty, yet is “legal” for my eating plan. And I’m getting lean protein, some veggies, some dairy, and somewhat healthy carbs. (The 9-grain wheat is probably the best of the bread they have, though not 100% whole grain.)

According to the Subway nutrition chart, the total for this particular sandwich with the pepper jack cheese is 330 calories. That’s not too bad, for what I’m getting, I think. (The turkey and cheese protein is only 10 grams, but if you get the black forest ham, the calories are the same and the protein is double, according to the Subway nutrition chart at http://www.subway.com/nutrition/nutritionlist.aspx, with only a smidgeon more sodium and fat.)

My trip to Subway gives me a nice half-hour walk every day at lunch. I look forward to my Subway sandwich in the morning, and when I have it around 1, I’m full for the rest of the work day. (I might have a piece of fruit later in the afternoon for a snack.) And like I said, it keeps me happy, which is the most important thing!

Ordering Optifast April 3, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Early Days on Optifast, Maintenance.
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This post isn’t going to tell you how to purchase Optifast products. I have seen them for sale online, but when I was on the Optifast meal replacement phase, I purchased all my products through the Kaiser program I was in – this was actually a requirement of the program. And if you are planning on doing an Optifast-only very-low-calorie diet, you should be under medical supervision, and I’m assuming that your program would include a way to buy the products.

For my program at Kaiser, the ordering process is that each week when you are there for the weigh-in and support group meeting, you fill out and submit a form that lists how many products you want for each of the types – shake powder, pre-made ready-to-drink shakes, powdered soups, the bars, and what flavor for each of these. Then you pay for the products that you ordered the previous week, and pick them up.

The products ordered the week before are bagged or boxed up with your order form on them, waiting in a room adjoining the support group meeting room. During my phase 1 it was always a little depressing to compare my bag or box with others in my group, as I was at the lowest product level (5 a day), so had what seemed like an incredibly small package for a week of eating. Those with 7, 8 or more products a day had packages to pick up that were so much bigger!

You were supposed to immediately review your order form with the contents in the box, because once it left the building there were no returns or trades. The exception to this was if you wanted to arrange a trade with someone in your group – that was fine, and I did that several times.

For the first couple of months I didn’t bother to check my contents and it only came back to bite me once. Somehow I had been given all vanilla ready-to-drink shakes instead of chocolate, and didn’t realize it till I got home. Ugh! (This was just my own flavor response – others are fine with vanilla.) Luckily, I had ordered some extra product previously (which is recommended, in case you unexpectedly miss a meeting), so I got by. But I did start checking my order after that!

Now that I’m in the maintenance or “lifestyle” phase, I rarely order Optifast products. Occasionally I’ll order a box of bars, as they are nice to have around. Many in my group, however, continue to supplement their diets with a couple of Optifast products a day, for reasons of habit and security as well as convenience, I believe. But when I pass by the room with all the bags and boxes, primarily for the Phase 1 group that meets right after our Lifestyle group, it brings a rush of nostalgia, because Phase 1 was:

  • Safe and predictable – no hard choices about what to eat and how much (unlike maintenance)
  • Difficult – almost no chewing! No real food! No variety! Deprivation! Stress over cheating!
  • Exciting – what would the number on the scale be this week? How much had I lost??

Those sixteen weeks of meal replacement were a major milestone in my life, and all the fears, hopes, struggles and joys of that time come back just looking at those packages of product, waiting to be picked up by others who are now going through this (hopefully) life-changing process!

Cheating on Optifast – Confessions March 28, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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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!

“All or Nothing” vs “More Days Than Not” March 26, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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The difference between these two mindsets is one of the hardest things I have to get my mind around in maintenance. Here they are:

Mindset #1 – You are dieting, or not dieting. Black and white. If you are dieting, you’ve stuck to your plan all day, or all week, and not eaten any “bad” food. Until oops, you do. Once you stray, you are NOT dieting. Phew! Now you can eat anything, in any quantity. Because you aren’t dieting. But tomorrow or later this week, for sure, you’ll go back on the diet. In the meantime…

Mindset #2 – You make good choices and stick to your food plan “more days than not” (a phrase our Optifast group leader uses) or most of the time. But it’s not black and white. So, you ate a package of chocolate-dipped peeps in the afternoon. Doesn’t mean you now have “permission” to swing by Baskin Robbins on the way home.  You had a margarita at the Mexican food restaurant. Doesn’t mean you should then order and finish off a plate of nachos with sour cream and guacamole. You didn’t make good choices for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or even all three. But it doesn’t follow that a window of opportunity has opened up to continue making bad choices.

From a lifetime of dieting, always either off or on, my habitual mindset has been door #1 above. But I’m working on making mindset #2 the habit instead. It really is almost an alien way of thinking, one I do indeed have to mentally practice, but realizing that is part of the battle, and then actually practicing it is the rest.

I know I am very goal-oriented, and when I have a goal (weight loss) I can be very focused. But in maintenance, there’s no sexy goal or number you are trying to reach, and that can affect motivation. Seeing the scale stay more or less the same doesn’t seem as exciting as seeing it go down – although really, it should be! It just seems more boring to maintain the status quo. And the lack of that weight-loss goal can result in more “oops” moments, food-wise. I know, from comments by other group members, that I’m not alone in this.

If our life has typically been a yo-yo or roller coaster, weight and food-wise, it takes a mindset and behavior change to try to level out those peaks and valleys. I think that ideally the fluctuations in the daily calories we consume AND the weight on the scale, should look like small dips and bumps, not sharp peaks followed by whatever-it-takes to get back down. (And instead of using daily weight with its inevitable fluctuations, I read a suggestion that we should track or graph our average weekly weight.)

Having a totally level line in maintenance (stable eating, stable weight), day after day, week after week, is probably unrealistic. Right after transition, probably feeling some 16-weeks-of-no-real-food deprivation, I had quite a few steep ups and downs. But things have settled down, and I think that with thoughtful eating, with practice, and by using the “more days than not” approach, I can head (am heading) in that direction – that’s the goal anyway!

Personal Core Values, and Food, Weight, Fitness March 24, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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We did an exercise this week at my Optifast Support Group that started with looking at a long list of terms (such as honesty, integrity, happiness, spirituality, adventure) and circling all those important to us. Then we went through several iterations of narrowing the list and ranking them in importance, until we were left with the three most important to us.

Next, we were to think and write about how those core values impacted our daily decisions, especially with regards to eating and our health. The goal was to determine if our behavior was in alignment with our personal core values.

Comments made by the group were interesting. Most people had health and happiness at the top of their lists. But not everyone felt their behavior was always in line with these values. One man said these values impacted how he treated others, but not always himself. Another man said he hadn’t applied his value of knowledge and learning to health and nutrition, before joining the Optifast program. There was a discussion of whether our values had changed since being on the program, and also a discussion on short-term happiness vs long-term happiness. In other words, the short-term behavior of tracking food or exercising might not bring immediate happiness, but led to long-term happiness. People who are or have been overweight, in general I think, tend to go for the short-term rewards!

For myself, I listed self-respect, health, and fun, in that order. By fun I meant getting pleasure and enjoyment from life. I told the group that although I felt my core values had not changed in the last year, my actions and daily decisions were more in alignment with these values now than they were one year ago, before starting the program.

It’s hard to have self-respect when you have out-of-control eating, or are eating in ways you know are not healthy, whether it’s too much fast food, too much fat, too much alcohol, not enough fruit/veg/protein, too many calories, or whatever. It’s hard to have either self-respect or health when you are making eating decisions based on short-term satisfaction rather than the impact on your body of unhealthy eating.

And it’s harder to have fun when you are overweight and unhealthy – at least I think so. One woman last night said that in doing this assignment she realized that she equated being slender with being happy. We all know, really, that this isn’t true. There are lots of factors in who we are and the lives we live, and being slender won’t change most of them. But on the other hand, I do think that being heavy (significantly heavy) can keep us from fully enjoying life. It puts limits on our life. Either because we physically can’t do something we want to do (hike, ski, dance, do cartwheels), or because we feel stupid and self-conscious doing it. I know that as an overweight person I felt very self-conscious eating, say, at an outdoor café, feeling that others were looking at me thinking, “Well SHE sure doesn’t need to be eating!”

Being above the normal range of weight can affect our interpersonal skills and relationships, confidence at work and outside of work, and so many other things. So I definitely think that, unlike a year ago, my decisions now about how I eat and treat my body are more in line with my values of self-respect, health, having fun and enjoying life. Not always, not 100%, but more in line. 😉

A major disconnect between values and behavior can cause anxiety and depression, even if you aren’t aware why you are feeling that way. Corporations have meetings and retreats where they focus on company core values and how the company’s mission, products and services need to be in alignment with those values. I think it’s  worthwhile to think about our personal core values and how they can and should guide us in how we behave, make daily decisions and in how we treat ourselves.

Gratitude and Weight Loss March 22, 2012

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At our Optifast support meeting this week, our leader urged us to “practice gratitude,” especially when things are difficult. I didn’t ask gratitude for what, and she didn’t say. But I didn’t really have to ask, as there are so many things to be grateful for.

I’m grateful for having lost weight, and for my success in maintenance. I’m grateful to the Kaiser program, doctors, staff and our leader, for their guidance, education, and support. I’m grateful for the positive changes in my health, for lower blood pressure and for being medication-free. I’m grateful to the strength I found in myself to stick with the program.  I’m grateful for being able to look forward to spring and summer clothes, and to outdoor activities that I will enjoy more, due to my carrying less weight around. I’m grateful that when I start sweating under the summer sun, it will most likely be due to heat, not to extra fat!

I’m also grateful that I am NOT doing Optifast Phase 1 this summer, happy that the meal replacement phase is behind me. My whole summer last year was part of the May-September product-only phase. I missed out on grazing at Farmers Markets, homegrown tomatoes, corn on the cob, music at the park with wine and snacks, picnics in the Santa Cruz redwoods, barbeques and watermelon, cherries and all the other delicious fruits of summer. For good or for bad, food is part of our seasonal enjoyments, socializations and celebrations. I’m very grateful for the Optifast products as tools of weight-loss success, but also grateful that this summer I will be dining on more than Optifast bars, shakes and soups.

If I was back where I was last year, would I do it again? Absolutely. Give up all the culinary delights of summer? You bet. Recommend it for others no matter what time of year they’re starting? Yes again. But still, for myself, I am grateful that this will be a different summer than last year.

And yesterday, as spring was just starting, I felt saturated in gratitude: taking a walk at lunch, in the warm California sunshine, with cherry blossoms drifting down like snowflakes and the smell of pollen and new growth in the air, feeling healthy and fit and happy. “Practicing gratitude” was as natural as breathing.

Illness & Injury March 21, 2012

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These are rough patches on a fitness journey, but almost everyone runs into one or both at some time. I’ve had a double dose of these two downers lately, and they can really impact one’s progress and motivation.

It started with a serious GI infection a couple of weeks ago that involved a trip to the ER, and then several prescriptions of heavy-duty antibiotics. Too sore and sick to move much at first, then hit with the side affects of the medicine, the cure was almost worse than the disease. When your system isn’t well, it makes you feel drained, weak and spineless, with as much energy and spirit as a sea slug. The final blow was that when I finally got off the meds, I sprained my foot running after a four-year-old who was trying to escape the house without her jacket. 😉

It is really hard when you are on a roll, going to the gym, thinking that your body is adjusting to a higher level of activity, trying to increase your time running/jogging on the treadmill, and then whammy – you’re out of commission, activity-wise.

The good thing is I think I’m out of the woods – feeling better in general, and foot mostly back to normal. The bad thing is feeling like I’m starting all over, and have lost whatever I’d gained in endurance, and also somewhat in motivation.

So there’s how we might like things to be, and then there’s real life. In real life, there are problems, setbacks, obstacles, tragedies. We get sick or injured, have car accidents, lose loved ones, get fired, break up with partners, have pets go missing, owe money, have family drama, and just generally find that life has kicked us to the curb once again.

It is often a struggle to be good and vigilant caregivers of ourselves, food and exercise-wise, even when things are going well. It is much harder when things aren’t going well, when things happening to us and around us seem a higher priority than healthy eating or working out. We can feel we don’t have the time, energy, desire or motivation to pay attention to ourselves and our health.

I think all we can do while we’re in the midst of these things is to try to remember to be good to ourselves and to nurture ourselves, which doesn’t mean ice cream and donuts. We may take a break from active weight loss, but shouldn’t take a break from eating food that makes us healthy, and which in fact helps us deal with all these challenges around us. As far as exercise, initially I really felt too ill to do anything, even walk (Fitbit gathering dust), but even with a bad foot I have done a few arm band and other exercises, which helped me feel like I was still doing something fitness-wise.

I am planning to visit the gym and use the treadmill Thursday evening for the first time in weeks.  Even if I’m starting over, at least I’m heading in the right direction again, right??

Honesty about Regaining after Weight Loss March 20, 2012

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One of my recent blog commenters shared the unfortunate but all-too-common experience of regaining weight – which in her case happened to be after losing on Optifast, but which statistics show happens too often after ANY weight loss program. Two of her honest, insightful comments about regaining weight really resonated with me. I too have had the experience of regaining after significant weight loss. NOT this time (though I need to be able to say this 5 years post-Optifast, not just 5 months!), but previously after losing a large amount of weight on Atkins.

Her first comment was, “The pounds came back so fast I really didn’t realize how much I was gaining.” This is so, so true. A few pounds becomes a few more, until you start not getting on the scale at all. Next you start digging through your pile of discarded bigger clothes or buying larger clothes at the store. And your eating and clothes-buying is almost in a zombie state – you get into a denial zone where you just stop thinking about the whole thing and go on autopilot. And then, it seems in a wink of an eye, you’ve gained 20 or 30 pounds, and what’s the point? Been there, done that, got the size 2X t-shirt.

An important thing in that last paragraph is the comment about how we “start not getting on the scale.” Obesity (ugly word) research shows that weighing every day or several times a week is connected with permanent weight loss. Now, I actually think that it could be the result, not the cause:  those who don’t regain don’t stop weighing – because the scale is their friend! But whichever way it works, chicken or the egg, it is true that once you stop checking your weight, it will likely go up. Whether it’s a symptom or a cause, avoiding the scale is a red flag. Skipping weigh-ins and hiding our eyes from the truth just makes it worse, in the long run. Checking the scale regularly keeps us in touch with reality, and out of that zombie or autopilot denial zone. It’s critical to face the damage and react – the sooner the better, but NOW is always best!

Her other comment was, “So much about weight loss is psychological, thinking you aren’t yourself when thin, feeling like it isn’t you, and then putting on the pounds consciously or unconsciously because it’s how you see yourself.” This is also a problem that I see mentioned in the blogs of many, many people who have lost weight and are struggling with maintenance and self-image. And as I responded to this commenter, it is true for me also. I was buying size six (!) pants recently at JC Penny, and had all sorts of different thoughts and emotions in my mind. Elation that I fit into a size six (though they are as tight the proverbial glove), fear that tomorrow they would be too tight, disbelief that I was actually buying pants in this size, and that fatal disconnect between the image in the mirror and the image in my brain.

So those size six pants?  I’m lovin’ them, but it’s only March. There’s that fear – will they fit come June, July, August…? Am I wasting my money? Am I delusional to think I can wear these pants this summer? (BTW, I’m not nearly a size six above the waist.)

Do we really sabotage ourselves, because we have some internal set point that we have to get back to, weight and image-wise? That would be so sad. And I don’t think it has to be true. Because other commenters on my blog who HAVE successfully maintained significant weight loss for years, have talked about self-image and how it can be changed over time. One commenter said it might take months, or even longer, but we can get used to seeing the new us, and identifying with that slimmer person in the mirror. A suggestion was made to take lots of pictures of the new you and put them around as reminders of who you are now. And body image therapy was suggested if the problem seemed to continue. I’ve never heard of that, but am sure there are folks out there who help with this issue.

Luckily, I don’t have anyone significant in my life who does not support my weight loss, but I know some people have spouses, and/or other family and friends, who are more comfortable with the “old you” and who encourage sliding back into old habits. Of course, this makes successful maintenance and claiming that new self-image all that much harder.

I acknowledge the problem, understand the struggle for myself and others with weight issues, but believe I can succeed. It’s part statistics (there ARE folks who keep the weight off long-term – I’ve even blogged about the weight loss registry), part determination (I refuse to give up), and part leap of faith, that I will be one of those who maintain, stay slim, and get to keep wearing these size six pants!

Colleagues Who Can Make You Fat (A Review) March 17, 2012

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The article “Colleagues Who Can Make You Fat” came out this week in the Wall Street Journal, concerning diet-sabotaging treats and behavior at work. Though I agree with the article, I did have some mixed feelings, because I’m both a victim and a perp of this “crime.” I’ve certainly broken healthy eating vows by eating donuts during staff meetings, homemade goodies in the break room, and Chinese food at team get-togethers. BUT, I’ve also brought in my share of cupcakes and other homemade goodies to work, either leftovers or food baked especially for coworkers. In my defense, I can only say that most of my coworkers are hungry men not watching their weight who are very appreciative of anything homemade. There are a couple of women who, like me, are sometimes “watching” and sometimes not, and who have once or twice given me grief for bringing in temptations when they are in a sweets-resisting phase, which has made me feel guilty.

I certainly don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s dieting or healthy eating downfall, and I definitely also know how one slip can derail a history of successful resistance. Of course I would never tease anyone about what they are eating (or not eating), or push food on them, or in any way attempt to change their mind about healthy eating choices – that goes without saying. I have been the victim of ALL these myself, both when on Optifast and at other times. I had a boss who didn’t hesitate to publicly chastise me (with “humor” of course) for my “disgusting” healthy food choices when hers were the opposite.

I found the article’s suggestions about “pushing back” helpful – rehearsing ahead of time how to react at a work potluck, for example. I know one person who visualizes themselves ahead of time making healthy choices. I’m guilty of taking the non-confrontation approach – taking the cupcake handed out to me at my desk, and subsequently burying it in my trash. Especially when I was on Optifast, and didn’t want all the people I work with to know I wasn’t eating. We have one person at work who for years has never attended a work potluck or holiday celebration because she’s always dieting, which I understand, but which is also kind of sad, since she misses out on that socialization.

Some work environments are more diet-toxic than others. The inner offices at governmental agencies, hospitals and nursing homes, teacher breakrooms – these are notorious for having snacks and goodies and potlucks galore. And meetings everywhere, of course, either as a lure to get people there, or to survive the tedium of having to sit through them.

Our team has a staff meeting every two weeks with rotating assignments to bring in snack. I often will bring in one homemade carb item, and then also something healthy, like a basket of tangerines or strawberries. I like the idea of the fruit-and-yogurt buffet mentioned in the article, and wonder how that might go over if I try it at an upcoming staff meeting. (I’m the assigned snack-bringer week after next!)

Where I work, I don’t have the problem of the colleague happy hour invitation – not something we do in our office. (Or maybe we do but I just don’t get included!) But that would be even harder to resist, or to attend and maintain healthy eating habits, at least for me. Even worse would be client meals, where you don’t want to offend.

The problem is that some people really can indulge occasionally in food and drink with no ill effects. But there’s others, and I’m one, that find it much harder. But I do think things are changing, so hopefully respecting each other’s personal choices and being supportive of healthy eating is a growing trend.

I know one person in my Optifast group, who was preparing for a half-marathon, and found that the comment, “I’m in training for an upcoming race” was a very effective and acceptable way to deflect food pressures. I like it!

Sleep and Weight Loss March 16, 2012

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The relationship between sleep and weight loss is in the news a lot, and certainly in our Optifast program, sleep was one of the standards for which we were (and still are) urged to have goals, along with water consumption, exercise, food consumption, etc. At least seven hours a night are recommended, a goal I don’t think I’ve reached in years.

The funny thing about sleep and weight loss is that at first, it’s counter-intuitive that more sleep helps. You might think that since there’s so little activity going on while you are sleeping, the awake state would be bound to use more calories than being asleep. So the less time asleep the better, in terms of weight loss, right? No.

The lack of sleep negatively affects weight loss on a number of more subtle fronts. One, which I think we’ve all experienced, is that when we’re tired, we just naturally reach for more calories. Can’t take a nap? Grab a candy bar for that sugar shot of energy. Reaching for carbs and fat seems a natural thing to combat feelings of fatigue.

Another negative impact of the lack of sleep is more medical, and was explained previously by one of the Kaiser physicians who spoke to our group. I’m no doctor, so probably don’t have this exactly right, but the idea is that while we are asleep, especially in deep sleep, our bodies make hormones. Low levels of the hormone leptin are a sign of starvation and tell our bodies to eat more. So the inability to produce enough leptin due to not enough sleep means that we are extra-hungry during the next day when we are awake. There’s also a relationship between sleep and the hormone ghrelin. Studies have shown that people who are sleep-deprived have more ghrelin that those who get eight hours of sleep. And ghrelin is, horrors, an appetite stimulant – just what we want, right?

If you “Google” sleep hormones hunger, you will see numerous articles about this issue, such as this one in Scientific American, “Sleep Deprivation Tied to Shifts in Hunger Hormones” (after you skip the ad).

I wish they did tests for this and could tell me whether my leptin and ghrelin levels were normal or not!

My problem getting sleep is multiple. First, most nights I put my granddaughter to sleep, and sometimes this doesn’t start till 9:30 (due to work schedules, visitation with her dad and other factors) so I’m lucky to get to bed by 10:30. And then I sometimes actually want a few minutes to read, blog, etc. So let’s say I get to sleep by 11, though truthfully it’s closer to midnight. And my alarm goes off at 5:15 am. So that’s 5 or 6 hours sleep, IF I sleep straight through. I leave for work at 6:30 am. And some days I work 4 hours at a second job after 8 hours at the first job. Also, my granddaughter recently moved to her own bedroom so I’ve been leaving my bedroom overhead light so she can find me when she gets up in the middle of the night (an average of once every night or two). I think having the light on keeps me somewhat wakeful, and also I’m waiting to hear her get out of bed, and then she often comes and wakes me up, either due to nighttime fears or bedwetting. NOT a relaxing night sleep.

Or maybe I’m just restless at night because it comes with age? I know my sister, three years younger than me, takes sleeping pills almost every night and couldn’t sleep without them, but I won’t do that – hate pills. I do drink diet coke but caffeine has never bothered me.

So I guess I could try a few things and see if they help:

  • Turn my bedroom overhead light off, but make sure the hall light is left on to help my granddaughter get help, or put a softer lamp close to the door, away from my bed.
  • I could try not having caffeine after, oh, 5 pm.
  • I’d like to be able to get ready for work in 45 minutes and switch my alarm to 5:45 to get another half hour there, but I have to fit a shower in somewhere, and often am doing important food prep before leaving for work. Not good to leave the house without healthy food portions! But, I guess I could try harder to do some of this on the weekend (food prep, not shower!), when I have a little bit (but not much) more time.

There’s also the question of sleep apnea, common in people who are overweight, and which can disrupt sleep. I was actually diagnosed with it a few years ago, tried without success to wear the headgear that helps with oxygen levels, and then figured after losing weight that I didn’t have it anymore. But, I should probably get retested.

I have tried wearing my Fitbit to monitor sleep, and may try again, but I’m such a light sleeper, and have such trouble getting back to sleep, that even having it on keeps me wakeful. This was also true for the sleep apnea gear. Sigh.

Our Kaiser doctor did tell the group, as I mentioned in a previous blog, that one woman he knew of in Optifast Phase One was doing everything right but not losing. Turned out she was not getting enough sleep. She was able to make that adjustment, and the scale started moving down.

So it IS important both during weight loss and maintenance to get enough sleep. Lord knows we don’t need our hormones sabotaging us and telling us to eat more! Hope you are getting your 7 or 8 hours, and I’ll try a few things on my end to hopefully improve my sleep situation…

Hey Losers! Win a Trip to NYC! March 15, 2012

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My current issue of Good Housekeeping magazine has a contest that some of you might want to enter, esp. if you’ve already lost significant amounts of weight, AND have a good before and after picture.

The page on the magazine site says:

“We want to celebrate your weight loss by giving one lucky “loser” a dinner with Dr. Oz!

Follow the instructions below to upload a photo of yourself before your weight loss, as well as an after photo taken within 30 days of entering the contest. In the space provided, please answer the following question in 200 words or less: What was the hardest thing about losing weight and how did you get yourself to keep going?

All entries will be judged by Good Housekeeping based on the inspiration, originality, and dramatic results.

One winner will receive a meal with Dr. Oz and GH Editor-in-Chief Rosemary Ellis, as well as tour of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. Prize includes round-trip coach air transportation for one person from major airport nearest winner’s residence to New York City and one night’s hotel accommodation. (Value: $2000.00)”

Doesn’t that sound worth entering? I’d do it, but think there are more impressive weight loss stories than mine in terms of amount lost. Also, they probably aren’t going to give it to an Optifast loser – I’m just guessing that they’d want the story to be about weight loss that any one could manage, without paying alot. But I could be wrong. And I don’t have good before and afters anyway.

But some of you out there should enter! You’ve got till April 30, so even could do a bit more losing if you want. Here’s the web address: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/sweepstakes/22577.

Good luck!

Pre-Optifast Kaiser Questionnaire – One Year Ago March 14, 2012

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I was going through my “My Documents” folder the other day looking for something, when I ran across a PDF copy of my Kaiser Permanente Medical Weight Management Program Pre-Program Questionnaire that I completed almost a year ago (April 2011), just before starting the program in May. It was interesting to look back at my answers, hopes, and goals from one year ago.

Also interesting to recall what was being asked about by program administrators. Clearly, they were looking for red flags that might get in the way of folks being successful on the program, or issues that should maybe be resolved before starting the program.

The questionnaire asked about:

  • Job satisfaction – I answered an 8 out of 10 – hmm, that might be a little high!
  • Whether I’d lost weight before – when, how much, whether regained, and why. For why, I said “overly confident that I wouldn’t regain, bored with dieting, eating on vacation/cruises.” Sounds about right!
  • Whether I’d ever had any significant physical symptoms or emotional reactions while attempting to lose weight or after losing weight, whether I’d been treated by a psychiatrist and/or psychologist, and whether I can accept compliments about weight loss (why yes I can – bring ‘em on!)
  • Health problems and medications (I was taking hydrochlorothiazide for high blood pressure – not any longer,yay!)
  • What’s my weight loss goal? I put 40-50 lbs. So I exceeded my goal!
  • Whether I’d tried a meal replacement program before, and, “Why did you choose this program?” I answered, “Tried everything else! Need structure, accountability, simplicity of choices!” The Kaiser Optifast program certainly delivered all three of these.
  • “How do you think your life will change if you lose enough weight?” I answered, “Fit into my clothes, enjoy physical activity, lower blood pressure, live longer!” Well I think the first three of these have come true, and hope the last one will too!
  • Smoking/drinking/drugs, physical activity (I said, none!), and your support group (who might help, who might hinder)
  • Attitudes towards support groups – since attending a weekly support group is mandatory for at least the first 30 weeks, and recommended through something like week 70 or 80 (!), there are questions attempting to gauge your willingness to participate in a group like this. The question reads, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable do you think you will feel discussing your eating and exercise habits with people in your group?” I marked the scale at 9 out of 10, with 10 being very comfortable. True that! If anything, I’m an over-sharer 10+ on the scale. 😉

When I was completing the questionnaire I was motivated to be accepted in the program, of course, but didn’t tell any lies either. The current questionnaire is linked here, and I see they’ve removed some of the questions, maybe just to streamline the application process, or because they felt certain questions/answers didn’t matter as much.

Reviewing this pre-program questionnaire was interesting, and just reminded me how fortunate I was to find the program, and also to be able to afford and complete it successfully.

Fat Clothes March 11, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Before and After, Maintenance.
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As I’ve blogged about before, I have almost no pix of me at my top weight – due to digital deletes, tossing out prints and negatives, hiding behind any animate or inanimate object when having my picture taken, and using Photoshop to blur double chins and slim down. (I’m an expert with the clone tool!) I couldn’t imagine ever wanting those pictures, but of course it would be nice now for dramatic before and afters.

And then, as I’ve slimmed down and eliminated clothes that were too large, I’ve also diligently and efficiently removed them from my house, so didn’t even have “fat clothes” to show off, as one Optifast grad did who came to speak to our group when we were in the first month.

But, I was trying to make a dent in the stuff in my closet recently and did come across the white capris that I used for my weekly Optifast weigh-ins between May and September, and also a top that was pre-Optifast. So here is me wearing that outfit last night, and what I was wearing yesterday before I changed.

Unfortunately my photographer just turned four (March 8) so they aren’t the greatest shots and are taken from a 42-inch-high perspective. 😉

After picture:

Pre-Optifast clothes on (without me holding the pants out you can’t get a good idea of the size):

Holiday Candy Sabotage March 5, 2012

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I don’t consider myself a big candy addict, and chocolate isn’t something that I fantasize about. But there are some BIG exceptions. Dark chocolate, with nuts, caramel, and/or marshmallow? I’m there. I’m actually a sucker for anything marshmallow, and if it’s covered with dark chocolate, so much the better.

So my question is, why do so many of the holiday candy displays have to be full of chocolate-covered marshmallow somethings? Santas (Christmas), hearts (Valentine’s Day) eggs, chicks and bunnies (Easter), etc. I’ll be minding my own business in a Walgreens or Rite Aid, innocently shopping for shampoo or batteries or wrapping paper, when I’ll turn the corner and aaaaaahhhhh! There are all the chocolate marshmallow holiday candies on display, reaching out to grab me!

It’s even worse, post-holiday, when they all go on sale. Because I’m always one for a bargain. That chocolate-covered marshmallow Christmas tree, come January, is half off. Or even 75% off!! HOW, I ask you, can that be resisted? I’m being attacked on two fronts – love of chocolate and marshmallow, AND love of saving money. Is that fair?

The other day I almost succumbed – it was a near diet disaster. I was in one of these Walgreen-type stores, buying something innocent like a bottle of water, as I recall, when I accidentally turned onto an aisle with the remains of the Valentine’s Day candy, on sale at some huge percentage off. This made entire heart-shaped boxes with a pound of candy on sale for practically pennies. So not only did my mouth start watering at the “chocolate nuts and chews” written on the box, but I considered the incredible savings to be had due to the mark-off.  As if that wasn’t enough, THEN the devil on my shoulder started evilly whispering, “No one bought you a box of Valentine’s Day candy this year. Poor you. You deserve one of these lovely red boxes full of yummy treats!”

Of course, none of this was rational. Because rationally, the type of candy being sold at clearance in this store was not very good candy. And it’s not “saving” money to buy something you don’t want or need. AND the reason no one gave me a big box of candy for Valentine’s Day was probably because they knew I might have given them a smack for tempting me off my healthy eating plan.

But the irrational part of my brain told me to buy that candy, get in the car, and then more or less tip the box into my open mouth.

Now I just happened to be on my way to my weekly weigh-in at my Kaiser Optifast support group, which probably helped me resist. (Though that devil did suggest I blow off the weigh-in, saying “By next week the extra weight from this candy will surely be gone!”) I did resist, and I did pay attention to the rational part of my brain, and I did move away from the gravitational pull of all that discounted holiday candy. I felt the lure, but I triumphed over it.

But I made a note to myself –stay out of these stores until after the post-Easter discounted marshmallow Easter eggs (AND all those cute marshmallow  “Peeps”) are all gone. Or at a minimum wear blinders, and try to avoid the candy and post-holiday sale aisles!

Fitbit Frustration to Forever Fan! March 2, 2012

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First, if there’s anyone who doesn’t know what a Fitbit is, the short(ish) answer is that it is a pedometer used for counting steps (with LOTS of additional features for tracking sleep/overall activity/floors climbed, plus stopwatch and more) which wirelessly connects to a website to update your stats. The website provides additional online features such as tracking food and anything else, for that matter. It is very small, and can be worn on a waistband or bra. Costs about $100, and comes with charger/computer connector, optional holster, and wristband. See the Fitbit website for more info.

The Fitbit frustration, as I blogged about recently, was due to my having lost my second Fitbit within 6 months, the last one before the packaging had even been picked up by the weekly recycling truck! All my fault, not Fitbit’s, other than that it is small – but that’s a feature not a flaw. In any case, due to a suggestion in a blog comment here (thanks!), I contacted the Fitbit company, which is practically a neighbor, located in the Bay Area of California. And all I’m going to say is, they have fantastic – and sympathetic – customer service, and I’m a forever fan! Now I’m back on track, monitoring my daily steps.

The somewhat funny thing is that in my emails back and forth, I promised (to avoid losing yet another one) that I would wear the Fitbit with the armband rather than on my waist band. So when I got the Fitbit, I tried to put the “armband” around my upper arm, but it no fit. So of course what did I think? It must be my dang fat arms! Everyone else can use it on the arms, but not me! So I ended up wearing it on my wrist all that day. And wow, I had some great step statistics. My Fitbit (the sweetie) even sent me a congratulatory email on how well I had done on my first day!

Here’s the thing – it IS a wristband, not an armband, and it’s not meant to be worn during the day to count steps. It’s for wearing at night, on the wrist, to monitor sleep.

So, I’m trying the on-the-bra location instead of the on-the-waistband location and hope that the upstairs location will work better in terms of it not getting lost. There are two issues though. One is that I have PLENTY of stuff already in my bra, so the Fitbit makes a small, additional but hopefully imperceptible bulge. The other is that, since I’m so paranoid about losing it, I’m constantly running my hand over my chest to check that it’s there. I try to be subtle, but worry that my coworkers will think I’m groping myself…

This picture from my website shows a graph of my overall activity for the current day (historical charts are also always available). This was viewed in the morning, so at first I thought that most of the graph was grey because I was sleeping. But it says sleep is excluded! So I think grey is just the default and most of the day hasn’t happened yet. But the chart was from about 10 am, so some of the day had happened, and I’d only had 27 minutes of non-sedentary activity so far. Ugh! Good motivation to get active, so that at the end of the day there is as little grey as possible!

Like most food tracking sites, when you enter a food item (here, eggs) it comes up with a list to choose from. And you can add more.

There’s definitely a magic to monitoring things, in my opinion, that just naturally makes you want to improve. I find that I’m so much more focused on getting walking/activity in when wearing the Fitbit. And for the first time last night I tried the sleep monitor. It was less than 6 hours, so my new goal is to try to get that over the six-hour hurdle, at least, on a regular basis. I know it should be more, but I’ll start with a goal of 6 hours.

Measuring and monitoring are key to our health and fitness journey. We can’t track our progress towards our goals unless we monitor how we’re doing.  Monitoring food intake is important, but takes work. The great thing about the Fitbit is that it makes monitoring activity, also important, almost effortless. Love it!

Couch Potato =>Wannabe Jogger: Thoughts February 28, 2012

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In the YMCA gym that I joined last month, I have sometimes snuck envious looks at the runners on nearby treadmills. I want their bodies. It’s not just that they are slim (usually) or young (often) but it’s mostly that they are smooth, compact, and firm – no jiggly parts. When I jog I feel like a galumphing rhino on two legs. So no, this picture here is definitely not me. But, I’m persevering.

Since adulthood my body has rarely been required to move faster than a walk. But I’m finding some benefits in forcing it to move at a faster pace. Not, I should point out, a hecka lot faster – when I jog on the treadmill I set the speed to 3.6 miles (with a 3.5 incline), and when I jog I move it up to 4.4, typically. (Besides being out of shape, I have short legs…)

My routine at the gym has been to jog 2 minutes, then walk a couple of minutes (till I’m not huffing and puffing) and repeat, for about 30 minutes. At the outdoor high school track last weekend, I walked one lap, then for the next five laps I jogged half the lap, walked the other half, then finished with another walking lap.

What is my motivation? What are the discernible benefits? The main one so far, and a significant one to me, has been that it actually makes my allotted exercise time go by faster. Walking for 30 minutes on a treadmill, even with a close captioned news station in front of me, is still boring. But when I’m either in pant mode or recovery mode most of the time, I find it goes by faster!

This weekend, when I used the track on both Saturday and Sunday, I slept LOTS better at night, both nights. So I’m counting that as a benefit too.

Besides these immediate benefits, I’m hoping for some long-term ones. I’m hoping my time-before-I-start-huffing-and-puffing increases. Which means I’m hoping I can increase the percentage of time jogging. And maybe jog at a faster pace? And increase the overall time I’m doing all this, to help get ready for a 5K this coming weekend, and hopefully future, possibly longer, “races.”

I’m also hoping I get less jiggly –though the time for me to aspire to one of the bodies I see on nearby treadmills has passed, I fear. I don’t think jogging can accomplish the de-jiggling – that may need to come from the resistance machines in the room next to the Y treadmill/cardio room. I also use those machines for about 20 minutes when I’m at the gym, in addition to the resistance bands and weeny weights (4 or 5 pounds) I use at times, at home and at work.

I should mention that post-Optifast I think I was MORE jiggly than pre-Optifast. I think it is hard to lose 55 pounds, especially rapidly (16 weeks) and not lose muscle. Hence some of the jiggle. And with spring and summer ahead, I may have to give up my standard jiggle-hiding three-quarter-length sleeves, so in addition to helping with less galumphing, I am motivated to reduce the jiggle, especially for my arms.

While I can’t say that doing cardio or resistance is terribly fun (I haven’t experienced any walker/jogger high yet!), with hopes for a firmer future I plan to keep on truckin’.

Goals, Again February 25, 2012

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And again about the class I took a few weeks ago at work (and blogged about before). The workbook finally arrived that was missing at the time of the class, and I’ve discovered more lessons in the class that can be applied to our weight loss/fitness journey, especially related to goal-setting.

Goals have been a key part of my Optifast program. We learned how to set good goals, S.M.A.R.T. goals, where the letters may stand for different things but usually start out with specific and measurable. Being accountable for goals was also urged. We had exercises in our weekly support group meetings where we told a partner a goal for the next week (related to food, walking, water consumption, etc.), and then accounted to them about that goal the following week. And at almost every meeting, even in my current “Lifestyle” (maintenance) phase, we log how we did on our goals for the previous week and what our new goals are, on a sheet that gets passed around to everyone in the group.

Now, back to the workbook I got for my class where I work. Among other things, it says, “Research shows that you have a 40 percent chance of achieving a goal if you write it down, 65 percent if you write it and share it with someone, and 95 percent if you write your goal, share it and follow up with an accountability partner.” Which of course is exactly what we did in our Optifast support group!

This last week (somewhat dismayed at my weigh-in “blip” that hadn’t gone down) I did a spreadsheet for myself on with goals on water, exercise and food tracking. I was diligent using it most of the week. And it paid off at my subsequent weigh-in – I had lost 4 pounds. Although I didn’t have an accountability partner to share goals with, I did write down my goals, which gave me a lot better chance of achieving them than if I had just thought, “Oh, I should drink more and exercise more this week, and track my food,” and then forgotten all about it.

The workbook also has some good suggestions (as part of “Action Planning”) for reviewing your progress (or lack thereof) on the goals you set. It recommends that you check your progress with the following questions in mind:

  • What did you accomplish?
  • What did you learn by meeting or not meeting your goals?
  • What should you do differently next time?

So if you are consistently not meeting your goal of say sleeping 7 hours a night, probably something has to change. (You can put the blame on me if you end up telling your snoring husband he has to sleep on the sofa…) Or if you aren’t meeting your goal of drinking 64 ounces of water a day, something different needs to happen (extra water bottle for your desk at work, buying bottled water for the car, etc.). If we just keep setting goals without reflecting on whether they were met and why not, it’s kind of like the hamster in the wheel.

The big goals – losing weight, getting fit, becoming healthy – are made up of lots of little goals, so the better we are at setting and achieving those little goals, the more likely we are to reach our big ones.

Good luck with our short-term, specific, measurable goals this week, and our long-term, we-can-do-it goals!


When Can I Go Back to Eating “Regular”? February 23, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in Maintenance.
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This simple short sentence/question contains a diet trap – the seeds for diet failure, the recipe for weight maintenance disaster, and the kind of thinking that results in such sad statistics on weight regain after weight loss. But who among us has never thought it?

I know I’ve said this before, but no matter how much lip service we give to the idea that we are making permanent changes in our lifestyle and behavior, there is an irresistible idea that once we’ve lost weight, we can eat “regular.” Like everyone else.

The thing is, I don’t think everyone else eats the “regular” way that we may imagine or that we may have eaten before. True, there are teenaged boys, still growing, with water polo practice at dawn or hours of skateboarding after school, who can devour an entire pizza and half a chocolate cake and still be a beanstalk. But most people aren’t ingesting high calorie foods on a regular basis and staying slim. They may occasionally treat themselves to sweets, chips, margaritas, Cheesecake Factory eggrolls, ginormous mall cinnamon rolls, etc. But I think that is the exception rather than the norm, and they adjust and compensate for the over-eating, maybe even automatically.

So if we think that we can eat freely with no consideration for quantity or calories, including eating those high-appeal and high-damage foods that we tend to crave, we are sadly mistaken. That is not “regular” eating. We can never go back to that kind of “regular” if we ever did eat that way. That is not the way that regular people eat, who are not overweight. I actually think that a lot of us weren’t really eating in massive excess, but any routine overeating will slowly but surely put the pounds on, esp. if we aren’t very active. Regular eating must be eating mindfully, eating for health, and eating within the calorie range appropriate for our size and activity level.

The Optifast program, during the sixteen weeks of meal replacement, can be seen as a time to “reset regular” – to re-define, re-imagine, re-think what our regular is. Rather than just being a break from regular eating, it is a time to readjust what we realistically can and should eat on a regular basis. Yes, we can eat “regular” after losing weight. But it needs to be a “new regular” rather than the pre-weight-loss regular.

On the other hand, there’s another diet trap here. Feeling deprived! If thinking “I can never eat ‘regular’ again” means feeling continually deprived, that’s bad. Because none of us are going to be able to sustain a feeling of constant deprivation. See my blog about “Respecting Food Preferences” related to this, but we each need to figure out how to stay happy, food-wise. Whether it is finding/cooking low-cal/low-carb substitutes for past favorites, being able to eat a small amount (like my leader’s espresso cup portion of ice cream), or having planned “cheats” once in a while, no one should feel (despite my last post about veggies!) that we have to live forever on broccoli and Swiss chard. 😉

Here’s to “regular eating” that allows us to eat happy, live healthy, and thrive!

CSA – My Cup (Plate, Lunchbox, Fridge, Tummy, etc.) Runneth Over… with Veggies! February 22, 2012

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First, vegetables probably don’t show up on anyone’s dying-to-eat-some trigger-foods list. Presidents stick their noses up at them, we may remember wilted, canned, overcooked stuff on our plate from childhood, and they’re just so green. But I honestly believe that to maintain weight loss, we (or at least I) have to embrace the value, virtue and variety of vegetables!

I am so fortunate to live in California, where produce is grown locally in every season, where we have year-round farmers markets, and where something called CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is available, at least where I live. I don’t know about the rest of the state/country/world but hope there might be something like it. The way CSA works, at least for me, is that I pay a weekly amount, and a box (from a local farm or farm cooperative) is delivered to my house every Friday. Another CSA I belonged to had a designated neighborhood location for picking up the box. You can choose all fruit, all veg, or a combo. And you can customize (what you do or don’t want) or just take the default. Sometimes there’s a small or large box to choose from. And I think you can choose once a week or every other week. I pay $31 for the weekly box, plus add on a dozen eggs (some CSAs have other things you can add on – honey, etc.) I take the default for contents, and then take the challenge to cook and eat everything that comes each week, whatever it might be!

The winter boxes have included oranges, pears, apples, lemons, and tangerines for fruit, and onions, spring garlic, squash, lettuce, broccoli, Romanesco broccoli, boy choy, spinach, chard, potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, and more for the veg. (Summer boxes have even more variety, and incredible fruit.) I use a lot of vegetables in breakfast egg scrambles, and at lunch and dinner in salads and in a homemade soup I make over the weekend. (I freeze individual jars of soup for the end of the week.)

And I have to comment that if you’ve never seen Romanesco broccoli, I think you’d be amazed. It is stunningly beautiful (as well as tasty), with the stems in a logarithmic spiral, and each bud composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another recursive helical arrangement of cones. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason, but I just look at it and think, “Nice work, God!” 😉

The CSA is good for the farmer because he has a more predictable income source, with local consumers to reduce middlemen and transportation costs. And there are often other bennies for subscribers, such as recipes, newsletters or blogs with pictures and news from the farm, farm tours and events, etc.

This picture shows my kitchen counter in the morning when I’m getting ready to cook breakfast and pack my lunch for work. The bowl has broccoli and cauliflower I cooked the day before, and take in baggies during the week just for snacking. The jar has some of the soup I made over the weekend, with a broth starter. (Sometimes I add lentils or other things to the soup in addition to vegetables.) Then there’s a couple of carrots for snacking, the salad I’m taking for lunch (I’ll add a can of tuna when I’m ready to eat it), blueberries and yogurt for mid-morning snack (both from the store), and the pile of veg I’m going to chop and put in the breakfast scramble – chard, bok choy, and asparagus (the asparagus from the weekend farmers market) with CSA eggs.

The picture on the right shows the vegetables for my scramble cut up and in my cast iron frying pan, with ¼ or ½ inch of water. I put that on the burner and cook/steam/boil for a little while. I know how much water to put in so by the time I’m ready to add the eggs, the vegetables are cooked and the water is almost gone. But if needed I can add more water. And you could use some olive oil. Sometimes I do. When the veg is cooked I put in two of my CSA eggs and scramble. The eggs pretty much cook on contact.

Then this last picture shows the scramble ready to eat. I usually add some red pepper flakes, curry power, salt, and other spices while I’m cooking. It’s more colorful when there’s ruby chard or red peppers. It may look like a lot of veg to not very much egg, which is sort of true, but there’s enough egg to hold it all together and make it taste like scrambled eggs, rather than just scrambled vegetables! 😉 It’s very filling – there’s a LOT of it! – and of course it’s nutritious. And tasty! I especially like it with onions or leeks, and mushrooms are another great addition.

I have to really eat a lot of vegetables every day in order to empty the fridge for the next CSA box. This helps fill me up so I’m rarely hungry enough to go on any kind of feeding frenzy. And it has the advantage that I don’t run out of food in the fridge during the week. As long as I buy yogurt and some protein for the salad (which could also be beans, chicken, etc. instead of canned tuna or canned salmon) over the weekend, I have a lot of each day’s food covered.

The food is fresh, local, organic, and full of good things for my body. Without too many calories, carbs or fat. This makes me happy!

If you want to learn more about CSA’s or see if there’s one near you, see links (such as the Local Harvest one) at http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml#find.

FitBit Frustration February 21, 2012

Posted by Optifast Blogger in exercise.
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I can’t believe this. The first FitBit I had lasted maybe a month before it went AWOL. The second FitBit? That I bought less than two weeks ago for another $100? That I wore exactly 1 day and one (I’m guessing) hour? Already gone. Lost, vanished, evaporated, finito. I just barely got it charged and the FitBit software downloaded onto my computer. I wore it Saturday, then put it on Sunday morning and the next time I checked, in the car but still in the morning, it was not on my pants. For the last couple of days I’ve been looking in the house, the car, my clothes, etc. Nada. #$%&!

So, it must just be me. I know others that have the same one for months and months, no problem. Maybe my tummy flab pushes it up and off my waistband? Maybe my girls knock it off? Maybe I’m just incredibly unlucky?? But I sure don’t have yet another $100 to waste on a toy that won’t last more than a couple of days.

I know women who tuck it into their bra. Maybe that works better. For me, too bumpy. A review of FitBit and another product called “Bodybug” at http://tweakfit.com/fitbit-vs-bodybugg-reviews recommends getting some kind of necklace doohickey to attach the FitBit to. Makes sense, on hindsight. Or I wish it came with insurance against loss, like my cell phone. I’m just so frustrated – with myself.

I’m not blaming FitBit. I’m sure it’s a wonderful product. I liked the first one well enough to order a second one. But I’m done with it. I obviously need a different way to track my steps. . Something more firmly attached to my body, less likely to disappear. I know there are watchband type devices, though supposedly less accurate. I think I’m going to visit the brick and morter running shop about a mile away this week and see what they’ve got.

A guy I work with who runs recommends a GPS speedometer, but I think that’s more for tracking short-term walks/runs so you know your speed, etc. rather than counting activity all day long. Plus those GPS devices are over $300 I think. And big and bulky.

Now I’ve got two FitBit chargers, if anybody needs one.


Emotional Stress, Drama at Home, and Overeating February 18, 2012

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Like so many of us, I feel that almost-irresistible urge to eat, especially comfort food or high fat/high carb food, when I’m stressed, especially by family drama. I won’t name names, but I have family members who know all my buttons and who, for example, routinely take advantage of generosity to the point of my feeling used, or who respond to reasonable requests as if I’m the biggest, uh, let’s say witch, on the planet. And when feeling abused by family (or other people or situations), I respond by wanting to be kind to myself (since I’m feeling that no one else is), and typically food AND alcohol are (regrettably) still the first things that come to mind. Quick, readily available, relatively, cheap, and very effective (at least at the time of the pain).

It’s fine to say take a bath, get a massage, work in the garden, get your nails done, call a friend, read a book. These may help, and are certainly valid suggestions, but they generally aren’t as quick, cheap, available and effective as food and drink. Yes, we self-medicate with food, and booze, but sometimes one needs that medication to get through the day – or night – right? At least, it sure feels that way sometimes.

The ironic and yet true thing is that instead of being kind to ourselves, we are being the opposite. We are sabotaging ourselves, we are contributing to our health and weight problems, and we are setting ourselves up for more pain long-term, due to weight gain, guilt and recrimination.

Now, I think that it’s OK to sometimes have a piece of chocolate or glass of wine after a bad day, as long as it isn’t in excess or the start of out-of-control eating. But if the chocolate or wine is going to be just the beginning of a binge spiral, it needs to be stopped. Because then we are just hurting ourselves the way the others have hurt us. And why would we want to do that?

What I Do That Helps

What I find helps me is a little mind game I play. Say I have a blow up with Family Member X and am feeling frustrated, angry, sad, you name it. I’m in pain, and want to numb the pain. I think about raiding the candy drawer (left over Halloween candy) or my husband’s cheese and salami stash, or heading to the local Mexican restaurant for chips and a margarita. Sugar, fat, alcohol – the drugs of choice. But what I tell myself is, if I do that, then they (Family Member X or whoever) win. Not me. If I hurt myself in that way, start a spiral of unhealthy eating, it’s like I’m on their side, not my side. If I’m on MY side, then I need to be good to myself. And being good to myself does NOT equal out of control eating or drinking. When I’m feeling “I’ll show them!” why would I do something that will make me fatter and more miserable? If I really want to “show them,” then I need to do the opposite of binging – stay in control, stay healthy, keep my weight down, look good, respect myself.

It’s kind of juvenile (“take that, I’m NOT going to eat that cookie, so there!”) but when we’re angry and sad, don’t we kind of regress to those primitive childlike emotions? So if I respond like a child (saying, although not directly to them, “No, you can’t make me eat a bunch of junk food! No, you can’t make me resort to alcohol just to numb the pain you caused!”) isn’t that OK? If I feel like by NOT giving in to emotional eating, I’m “winning” by being good to myself, and it helps, then I think it’s a valid thing to do.

It would be even better if I could take this further, and instead of my response to their behavior making me resort to unhealthy eating, I responded by taking a walk or run, putting on an exercise video, or hitting the gym: being good to myself in a long-term way (healthier, fitter, slimmer) rather than a short-term way (mind-numbing calories). That will really show them. No, you can’t make me hurt myself!

But the bottom line is that the simple idea that if I binge (due to their behavior), then THEY win, can help me stay in control.