Shake shake shake... Shake shake shake! Yuck.
April 3, 2007 10:15 PM   Subscribe

Starting Optifast today (Medically supervised [yes, a real doctor] fast). Can anyone give me any tips on this huge endeavor? I think this might be the hardest thing I've ever set out to do...

History: Mid twenties chick with PCOS. Due to risk, and my (to this point) inability to lose weight, my doctor referred me over to a 20 week optifast diet. Basically, I drink a shake 5 times a day, which gives me all my nutrients. I have weekly support/educational/therapy classes which focus on how to change my habits, eat healthy, and exercise once I go back on food. Twice monthly blood tests. I can supposedly expect loss of around 3 - 5 lbs a week. I don't have that much to lose (comparatively speaking to the others in the class) - around 40-50 lbs.

So. I'm feeling positive about the whole thing, and glad to be started. But - no food. No alcohol. It's tough. It's day 1. I'm sure it will get harder. How can I steel my reserve? I don't want to just zone out and distract myself, I want to learn about my habits so I never have to do this again. I'm sure I'll learn a lot in my classes, just reaching out to mefis who might have gone through something similar.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
the first three days are hardest, whenever you change an ingrained habit. tough it out two more days, and then it's much much easier. good luck anon - this is a journey that is not easy by any means, but you are well armed and well supported to succeed. my best wishes to you.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:19 PM on April 3, 2007

I'm on something similar, the HMR diet, all the same constraints, and my main advice is don't start to think that you can go off it once you've started losing weight. I don't mean totally off it, I mean the thing like "Well...a shake is 150 calories...and 10 triscuits are 150 I'll just have that instead for one shake so I don't go crazy." I hate the slippery slope argument, but it's definitely true here, at least for me. At this point, I've almost completely replaced the diet with foods I like at similar calorie levels. I know this isn't healthy, and its something I'm working on, but beware of starting that tempting slide. Additionally, as the classes go, I've found them totally useless and annoying, but that's partially because I have a nutritionist who I feel is totally unwilling to work within the constraints of the real world. So my tip from that is to try to find a nutritionist/teacher, if you have a choice of them, who you get along with. I find mine condescending and unrealistic, and so I don't take advantage of what little help she could give me.

I'm actually in a very similar situation to you, early 20s female (no PCOS though), and I can tell you that if you stick to this diet, you will lose weight, and you will lose it quickly. I know I'm not the best person to talk to since I'm having trouble staying on the diet, but I know what you're going through to some extent, so feel free to email me (in the profile) with any questions about it, or whatever.

Oh, another problem I found I had was not really being able to relate to a lot of the people in my class, a lot of them are older and have a lot of health problems, and/or a lot of them don't seem like they need to lose as much weight as me. So yeah, email there for that as well. Good luck!!!
posted by wuzandfuzz at 10:37 PM on April 3, 2007

Nothing to add here except this is the same plan that Kevin Smith embarked upon, if you're looking for an ascerbic, obscene, and generally funny take on the process. More here.
posted by Danelope at 12:06 AM on April 4, 2007

What gives you pleasure that isn't food? Do a lot of that.
posted by amtho at 5:39 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

my main advice is don't start to think that you can go off it once you've started losing weight.

On the other hand, don't become convinced that you've ruined your diet if you slip once or twice. As seawallrunner points out, the first few days are the hardest; once you're feeling a bit more settled in after day 4 or 5 or whatever, sit down and tell yourself, "ok, that's as bad as it gets. Worst case scenario, I go through that again, and I know I can handle it."

Then, if you ever get to the point where you start tearing your hair out and scarf down a candybar at work or a couple drinks at happy hour or whatever, just make yourself start over again the next day. Don't get down and think you've ruined everything. Sure, it's better to be perfect the entire time, but it's important to have an attitude other than "failure" if you slip up, since most people will at some point. Good luck!

(Incidentally, this is South Beach Diet stuff; if you're more science-y, you may be interested in reading the first couple chapters of that book, as it explains a lot about how blood sugar affects hunger and weight loss.)
posted by rkent at 6:36 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I did a similar medically-supervised shake diet about 16 years ago. After the first few days, it's pretty easy; not having to think about food is kinda neat, and the random cravings tend to be short and manageable.

As I think you've gathered, maintenance is the truly difficult part. I put the weight right back on over the next few years, and the overall success rate for fasting diets is not good. (Then again, the overall success rate for diets as a whole is not good, either.) The idea that you can change a few habits and keep the weight off is popular, and it's probably what will be espoused in your classes, but I would prepare for a lifetime of Hacker's Diet-style calorie counting after your fast. I've found that the flavorless-calories idea from the Shangri-La Diet makes it much easier to make conscious decisions about food, which also makes calorie counting much easier, but YMMV.

Sorry to be such a downer, but it strikes me as a little perverse that your doctor would put you on a fast after you were not able to lose weight while eating. In maintenance, you'll be in exactly the same position but with a slower metabolism. It's manageable -- you just have to be ready and vigilant. Good luck!
posted by backupjesus at 6:58 AM on April 4, 2007

Are you not supposed to exercise while you're doing the shakes because of the very low calories? If you can take short, brisk walks, try to do that when you feel a craving coming.

Save the laundry and dishes. Wait until you're feeling your resolve weaken, then do them to distract yourself.

Keep your hands busy. Do you knit, crochet, play an instrument, paint, play video games? I know "getting healthy" and "playing video games" seem a little incompatible, but I find it impossible to eat and play God of War II at the same time, you know?

If you don't do any of those things, maybe teach yourself to knit or crochet. Make simple blankets and donate them to a hospital or Project Linus. (There are other chapters, too.)
posted by peep at 8:49 AM on April 4, 2007

In response to rkent, that's totally true, and not really what I meant. :) I don't mean don't occassionally give in to the cravings, because for god's sake we're all human, I meant something else. Its definitely true that you shouldn't beat yourself up for that, as that's the type of thinking that leads to convincing yourself that you've already ruined your day, week, whatever. What I meant specifically is not to try to recreate the diet yourself but with foods you like. When I got used to the low calories, I started replacing a shake, for instance, with some carrots and hummus of the same calories, every day. You'd think it'd be fine, but the stupid shakes have lots of fiber and stuff to keep you full that normal food doesn't, so you end up hungry and cranky and eventually eating more. I guess that what I mean in the end is that when you splurge, splurg on something really good and don't feel guilty about it, but don't do it too often and don't try to hack the diet.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 9:07 AM on April 4, 2007

I don't have any gems of wisdom, but wanted to let you know that I'm pulling for you. I also have PCOS and know how hard it is to lose weight. I've lost 13 on Weight Watchers but still have 30-40 to go to get to where I need to be for health reasons...

I know you'll be ecstatic once you see that Optifast is working, so stick with it! This time in your life is a challenge and that's how I would look at it. You can do it, you can!
posted by susiepie at 9:51 AM on April 4, 2007

If you have to put something in your mouth, water and sugar-free chewing gum are your friends.

Plain coffee and tea too, but some people either don't want the caffiene or don't like the taste of the plain stuff.
posted by ilsa at 9:59 AM on April 4, 2007

Oh, yeah, one other thing: dill pickles were a big help when I had cravings. They're essentially calorie-free, the crunchiness is a satisfying change from the shakes, and they clash with lots of craving foods. Ice cream doesn't sound so great after eating a pickle.

(No idea whether the sodium would be a problem with the PCOS.)
posted by backupjesus at 10:46 AM on April 4, 2007

I find that brushing my teeth almost always helps take the edge off hunger/cravings. That nice clean feeling is satisfying in its own way. And I never want to ruin the minty freshness.
posted by bassjump at 6:16 PM on April 4, 2007

I have started the Optifast for the 2nd time. I lost 133 lbs. the first time but gained 1/3 of the weight back. You must understand that this is a "crash" diet. There is no guarantee that you will keep the weight off. That decision and effort is up to you.

If you program includes a maintenance program after you reach goal, you should, by all means, attend. This will help you keep the weight off. My problem was that I didn't, and gained the weight back (most of it) within 1 year.

I hope you are doing well on it since it's been a month. I found it hard the second time around, and kind of wasted the last 5 months. However, I've rolled over to a new class so I'm starting fresh.

One thing to remember, don't beat yourself up if you happen to slip, but get right "back on the horse". However, once you slip, it becomes easier to slip you will have to resist that temptation the best you can. Talk to someone, do something you enjoy until that craving passes......and it will pass!

I wish you luck in your pursuit of good health. And, BTW, dill pickles are not part of the program. ;)
posted by babyboops04 at 11:43 AM on May 5, 2007

How about an update? How's this gone?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:36 PM on June 22, 2007

Nevermind. Just realized it was an anonymous post.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:37 PM on June 22, 2007

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