When I had my wakeup call back in late 2008 and decided to lose weight, I didn’t have weight loss blogs to check out. I had a doctor, a personal trainer, and the public library. I read a few books about weight loss and it pretty much came down to this.
I stopped eating out. No more excessive portions of eggplant lasagna followed by a Heath Bar Blizzard. I ate the same thing every day because it was easier and I didn’t have to count calories or points. I ate egg whites in various formations, dry wheat toast and coffee for breakfast, a HUGE salad for lunch, and whole wheat pasta with faux mince and sauce for dinner. I drank water like it was my religion. I worked out every day; walking, running, Tae Bo, weight lifting, step. I did all this despite a 3 hour (in total) commute every day. I worked my ass off, literally and I lost 85 pounds.
Not knowing that “maintenance” was a thing, I had no idea what to do when I reached my goal. Well besides shop. I never really got to enjoy being at a healthy weight because I thought I could go back to my old life. I don’t have any pictures of me at my lowest weight because I thought I had all the time in the world. I did the work and now I will be thin forever!
It’s not the way that works.
Six years later and I had gained most of the weight back. I tried going on several low calorie diets where I ate a bagel for breakfast and a Lean Cuisine for both lunch and dinner. I started running again. I looked and felt better, but the weight didn’t really come off.
I didn’t qualify for weight loss surgery (which had been mentioned to me years ago, but I felt it wasn’t for me). I did qualify for Optifast and for the price of a few month’s rent, I entered the program at a local hospital. I was weighed, had a blood test, and met the larger group of people who were also participating. I was by far the smallest one there, and the only one who wasn’t going to have WLS after losing weight.
Out of all the products offered I could only eat/drink two of them. A chocolate shake and a chocolate bar. The rest of the products used soy protein isolate, which I had been diagnosed with an allergy to a few years prior. My options were limited but I was committed to the 890 calorie a day diet. I was so motivated I even shared this with my students (which backfired) so they would not be concerned when they didn’t see me eating.
I drank my water. I drank my (awful) shakes. I ate my occasional bar. I started running again. I waited for the scale to move. It didn’t.
I was hungry every second of every day. I was stressed out over my job (no one tells you in teacher education all of the little things that you need to know). I was stressed over money as every penny was paying for Optifast. I started losing my hair. I started sleeping every moment I could. The medical professionals had no idea why I wasn’t losing weight and actually had me increase my calories to about 1000/day because I was “active.”. In the end I only lost about 10 pounds and ended up dropping out of the program for medical and financial reasons.
I started having dizzy spells and my blood pressure was reading consistently low at my Optifast appointments. I was told to keep an eye on it. A few days later I was teaching a class and nearly passed out. The nurse came to tend to me, measured my blood pressure and was very worried when I got my numbers; 60/40. Not good. Even though I was well hydrated, she suspected my electrolytes were low. I had a student give me his Gatorade and when I went home that afternoon I ate a small pizza. It was amazing.
What do I think happened? My body was just done with me. It had no idea what to do. It was getting very little in the way of nutrients (I mean really, the Optifast was just processed crap and if you google it you can read the ingredients which are 10 lines long), plenty of activity, and a lot of stress.
I found a new doctor who discovered I had really, really low Vitamin D (the reason I was sleeping all the time). In hindsight, I am sure my cortisol levels were though the roof with all the stress. And while starvation mode doesn’t exist, I am pretty sure my body, with all that was going on, just had no idea what to do.
In part 2, I will finish up the ramifications of Optifast and (V)LCD’s on my body and how I learned to love whole foods.