Friday, November 7, 2008

Weighty Issues and Lessons

Ok - today I am answering a few of the questions many of my wonderful bloggy-friends have been asking about my weight loss program.

Let me start off by saying that a liquid diet is not meant for everyone. Talk to your doctor, investigate your options, and then make an informed decision. Education is power!

1) Why did you decide to try a liquid diet?

A few months back I would have never guessed that I would even ponder a full liquid diet, let alone stuck to one! I remember in university, when I was a varsity athlete & in great shape, my roommates did Slimfast. I rolled my eyes at them!!!

I have always been active, especially with playing soccer. Last summer, I was not happy. I felt HUGE, slow, and ashamed of my body, and of my play. So, back in June I started talking to my doctor about options. We discussed exercise programs and dieting. I started different self-paced plans, but nothing was really coming together and I was getting more and more upset. I was trying to watch what I ate, exercising - but not loosing weight. I needed help.

My doctor suggested the program offered at our local hospital. Neither of us knew very much about it - so we started investigating. For the program you had to have over 50 pounds to loose.

After the application process I just knew this program was what I needed. It was extreme - but I felt I needed an extreme solution. I also began to see the benefits (for me) to move to a liquid diet and then have a controlled re-introduction to food. I also liked that this program had mandatory group and individual meetings and support from a range of professionals.

2) How does the program work?

You can get lots more info HERE.

Basically, you go onto a liquid only diet for 6 or 12 weeks, and then have a gradual re-introduction to food. You also have a series of routine medical tests including heart tests and blood work done to monitor your health. Weekly group meetings are mandatory for the first 26 weeks, then you move to a less structured follow-up plan. You also meet with a program doctor each week and have individual sessions with other health care professionals like dietitians, physical therapists and personal trainers.

This is how my plan is set up - it does varies from person to person. During the first week of the program I restricted my diet to 1200 calories of "normal" food. Then for 12 weeks I have 4 shakes a day - for a daily caloric intake of 900 calories. Then I will start to re-introduce real food. You gradually reduce the number of shakes you have each day and replace it with strict real-food options. For example, the first week of transition you have 3 shakes a day plus 1 cup of veggies and 1 serving of protein. When I get to transition I promise to write more...well, I will NEED to write more to get my head around it all!

3) What is the name of the shakes? Do they taste good? What flavours?

The actual product is called OPTIFAST and it is made by Nestle. In Canada it is actually a prescription. The Canadian program only offers 2 flavours of shake powders: chocolate and vanilla. You can use low calorie, or no-calorie extracts to flavour if you like -
but I have decided to keep things simple.

I usually have 2 chocolate shakes a day, one vanilla shake a day and I also usually mix one vanilla shake with cold coffee once a day. I do not mind the taste. I did worry about how it would taste - but they are OK. You can adjust the amount of water used to change the consistency of the shake.

Some people use blenders, but I am lazy and use the hand shaker they gave us.

You have up to 20 calories to play with - many people use this as up to 1/4 cup of skim milk for their coffees, or to drink a cup of broth. I actually use the broth option to replace my salts if I have an extreme workout or soccer game where I sweat lots. It is actually quite refreshing and satisfying - can you friggin' believe I just wrote that about broth!?!?!?

The shake is perfectly balanced to meet all your nutrient needs. The goal is to provide your body with just enough calories to function and to get into a light state of ketosis. In ketosis your body is releasing ketones, which means you are burning stored fat. In ketosis you do not feel hungry - for real!!! I have found that I am not as moody or tired as before - my body has the fuel it needs and no junk in it. I am no longer artificially boosting my sugar levels to compensate. I actually feel GREAT!

4) Do you miss food? Do you have any cravings?

There are times when I miss food - or more specifically chewing a variety of tastes. But, I am kind of liking the simplicity of the shakes. It is like a vacation from food. It is easy and instead of dwelling on the food I am missing, I think of what I am doing to take control and what I am learning.

The shakes are sweet - so I sometimes crave salty or some of the ethnic flavours I love. But, again, I try to stay focused and think to myself that right now, no food will taste as good as I am going to feel lighter and healthier. I have also discovered a bunch of decaf/herbal teas that give me a variety of flavours.

What I miss most is dinner time with my family. I have decided not to participate in the dinner hour - for personal reasons I decided I did not want my 3 young children to see me not eating. So, I make the meal, serve it and then escape - I either go for a walk, go to soccer, to the gym or go blog. Therefore, I do not miss food, but the social and family-bonding that takes place during food-related activities.

5) What have you learned so far?

Oh, I have learned so much about my old eating habits, old insecurities, and about the relationship I had with food. I have also learned a series of coping techniques and strategies for keeping the weight off. Look over to the right sidebar - I am starting a little list!

I am amazed at a few things:
  • how little FUEL the body needs to work efficiently

  • how easily other emotions can be mistaken for hunger

  • how good I feel when I am not eating crap

  • how much I use to eat BEFORE I ate - taste testing while cooking, snacking and stealing from the kids

  • how I need accountability and I will ALWAYS need to watch my weight and work hard at maintaining a healthy weight, and

  • how much I deserve to be happy, healthy, active, and to feel beautiful, inside and out.

Our weekly meetings cover a whole series of topics including portion controls, journalling, coping strategies, exercise programs, label reading and food preparation, and creating support systems.

I like how the behaviour specialist tells us that not everyone has will power - but you can have skill power to make the the right, informed, healthy decisions needed to succeed.

Another HUGE lesson I am learning each and every day is what foods I do not need. This is a bit of a strange concept to explain. Before, I believed totally in the "everything in moderation" theory. But I am plagued with the "all or nothing" mentality too...a deadly combination! I still believe in moderation, but my attitude has changed a bit. For example, it is OK to have a chocolate bar - but now I need to ask myself, do I REALLY want that chocolate bar. I really think my food choices will change. At the end of the 12 weeks I will have made it through multiple stresses, challenges and cravings without junk food or comfort food. Therefore, why do I need those bad food choices to help cope with life situations??? So, I have learned that there are foods just not worth having and that the high they gave me or the comfort they gave me was artificial. I now have new and better coping mechanisms.

I have learned so much...and have lots more to learn!

6) What is your weight goal?

Believe it or not, but my main goal is not number-oriented. Instead, I want to be healthy and fit. I want to have fun playing my soccer, be competitive in my soccer leagues, feel good about myself and enjoy being active with my family.

But in terms of pure numbers - my initial goal was to loose 10% of my body weight - I did that at week 7. Now I am working towards getting below 200 pounds. At the end of the 26 weeks I hope to have lost at least 50 pounds - then I will re-evaluate. I am never going to be 102 pounds - but I may decide to start maintaining a healthy, active 175 pounds. The program doctors have told me that 170-180 would be a good goal for me.

Realistically, results on this program can vary - but many people loose 10% of their starting weight by week 6 and then loose 5-10% again by week 12. Most people have an increase during transition, but then by monitoring their diet and following an exercise program they begin to loose again.

Well, this post is getting very long! I think the bottom line for me is that this program is working. It is a tough one - a strict one, and an extreme one - but the benefits, lessons learned and the successes I have had to date make it all worth it.

As you have read in previous posts, there have been challenges. But in the end, I know that I will meet my goals and I will be successful in maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Failure is not an option. My love of life, my love for my wonderful husband and my amazing kids outweigh any struggle or challenge I may face.

Thank you all for your support.

For now, I will keep shaking, and keep loosing and learning and rediscovering myself.

Keep the questions and comments coming!


Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

Sounds pretty amazing, a complete transformation on how you view food's role in your life. I am a total emotional eater! You are learning so much and you are sticking to it, which is even more amazing. Good for you!

Anonymous said...

i hadn't commented before because i thought the whole thing sounded wacky and even dangerous. but this post has convinced me there are some serious benefits to the program.

i wish i could have a vacation from feeding my kids.

bernthis said...

first time here. Former Canadian. They finally just gave in here and handed me an American Passport. :) Just wanted to say, I'm behind you in your quest to get healthy and I know there are many others out there that wish you only well.