• Janis Schole

Reminiscing About Optifast

As of today, I've lost 211.5 lbs and I'm feeling like I've got my momentum back again (after 7.5 months of dilly-dallying).Today, someone in a bariatric surgery group I belong to asked how much everyone lost while on their pre-surgery Optifast liquid diet, as she'll be starting hers soon. That got me to thinking about how this stage of my weight loss played a part in my overall success.Optifast is a complete, nutritionally-balanced meal replacement drink, and some refer to it as a protein shake because it contains 22.5 g of protein and 225 calories per shake. It must be medically supervised, to ensure you're losing the weight safely.Some patients at the Edmonton Bariatric Specialty Clinic found that they hated the taste or consistency of Optifast, so those people were placed on other meal replacement drinks such as Ensure, instead.Most people are only on the liquid diet for two weeks before their surgery. It's done to shrink their livers, making more room for the surgeon to work, but it's different for everyone, depending on how heavy they are, and other circumstances.I drank strictly Optifast meal-replacement shakes for 8.5 months (4 shakes per day, totalling 900 calories). Prior to starting that regime, I had lost 67.1 lbs. over the previous 10.5 months, through healthier food choices and portion control.During that 8.5-month Optifast phase, I lost another 82.9 lbs. My Optifast phase was unusually-long because I needed a hysterectomy first, before I could have my gastric sleeve surgery, and we wanted to get my weight down as much as possible first.It worked well, and I actually enjoyed the liquid diet, which cost me $2.71 per shake. The only way you can order it is with a doctor's prescription, and once I was transitioned back to regular foods, the clinic would no longer give me prescriptions because they wanted me to eat normally.To keep the shakes interesting, I customized them by using a wide selection of zero-calorie syrups, instant coffee crystals, baking flavouring extracts, zero-calorie Mio, Crystal Light and Kool-Aid liquid flavors (cherry is my favorite), and spices like cinnamon and pumpkin spice. By changing them up often, I never got bored and actually liked Optifast. I ordered half chocolate and half vanilla, sometimes drinking them plain, and sometimes adding my own flavors to both.Since I transitioned back to normal foods, I've continued those weight... 61.5 lbs so far... and ideally, my goal is to drop another 42 lbs. through healthy eating and a combination of exercise and calorie restriction.My experience has been that, if I expect to lose weight, I must get my mind in a place where I can handle some hunger pangs. Sure, I try to eat as much filling, healthy food as I can (protein and non-starchy vegetables are the most useful in this regard), but, ultimately calorie restriction is essential, and that leads to hunger. It also helps to keep myself busy/distracted and I pamper myself with black, flavoured coffee instead of snacking.In some ways, white knuckle "starvation" isn't sustainable in the long run, because sooner or later, you go off the rails and have a "food bender." However, it also teaches you behaviour modification, and I think that's why temporary liquid diets are helpful. They shrink your stomach and get you used to living on a small volume of food (300 ml of water mixed with 54 g of powder).It allowed me to learn how to follow rules that lowered my total daily caloric intake. It also made me more mindful and appreciative, once I transitioned back to a portion-controlled diet full of a variety of food tastes and consistencies.It was a training exercise that helped me to adjust my thinking, and it showed me that I could overcome the obstacle of short-term sacrifice for long-term benefits to my health and progress toward my goals. It was temporary and demonstrated that I am resilient and able to accomplish more than I ever thought I could.My food choices and portion control don't have to be perfect, but by looking at the big picture, I can still lose weight through a combination of balance and restriction. If I stick to healthy choices and caloric restriction 80% of the time, I can indulge (within reason) 20% of the time, and not feel resentful that I'm missing out on anything.It's more of an art than a science, but with the right forgiving, never-quit attitude, I've learned how to move mountains! ⛰🏔🗻🌄

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