If at first you don’t succeed…diet diet again
Well, as most of you who have followed the blog since 2009, you’ll know that I originally weighed in at about 225 pounds, which put me just over the obese line. I went on Nutrisystem and a regimen of Wii exercise, and got myself all the way down to about 195. I was feeling great and looking not-so-bad.
For about a year or so I maintained about that weight. But then the Nutrisystem stopped, and the exercise became less and less. And sure enough, the pounds just started to come back.
Fast forward three years later to 2012. A few weeks ago I got on the scale again and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. The scale read 228! I actually tried one or two other scale, thinking this one must have been broken. But alas, it wasn’t.
What made me really sad about this is that I really thought I was trying…I ate salads for lunch, I avoided fast food. But despite the fact that I thought I was eating healthier and exercising, truth be told, I’d pretty much reverted to bad habits. I drank sugary drinks, I snacked a lot more at all hours of the day and night, my life became increasingly sedentary, and trips to Seattle and Hawaii where I thoroughly enjoyed the local cuisine without a modicum of self control didn’t help.
I think I mentioned about a year ago that I have my wedding coming up in October to the lovely Lisa, who gave me a friendly challenge a year ago to lose 25 pounds by our wedding. Now I should explain that Lisa is one of these freaks of nature, where if we sit down to eat the same meal (in the most recent case sliders and fries at Yankee Stadium), even if we eat the same amount, I’ll gain five pounds, and she’ll lose three! But instead of kvetching about it, I started to notice why. I’m the sort of person who, since childhood, has eaten three gigantic meals a day–with breakfast being largely optional. Lisa, on the other hand, eats throughout the day. I’m a big fan of fast food, and big honking glasses of cold soda, and snacking on bowls of Cap’n Crunch before bedtime (yes, really). These are the sorts of things that have just crept into my daily habits. Lisa, on the other hand, snacks on things like almonds and rye bread, and enjoys them.
And so I realize more than ever that weight loss isn’t about the latest fad diet. It’s about reprogramming your body and your brain to start taking on good habits. And so, I figured I’d go back to the future and try again with a packaged diet program and a Wii workout regime.
As much as I enjoyed Nutrisystem and found it very effective (so much so that I named this site in homage to them), this time I thought I’d try a competitor of theirs, MediFast (also known as TakeShapeForLife or Simple2Lose). What appealed to me about this program is the same thing that appealed to me about Nutrisystem–instead of bizarre gimmicks like taking the buns off hamburgers or eating nothing but grapefruit, this seemed on the surface like a pretty healthy choice.
And so, let the games begin. As I did when this site started I’ll give you a weekly blow-by-blow account of my progress, good or bad. I figure the Wii fitness game world is going to be quiet anyway until the fall, so we’ll go back to the basics (don’t worry, I’ll be providing full coverage of Wii U fitness games as they show up).
The Medifast program is not cheap. For four weeks worth of food, the bill came out to be $327.50, after all the online coupons and discounts I could find. That’s comparable to a month of Nutrisystem. Ordering on their Web site was pretty easy and the food came within a few days.
MediFast works along the same lines as Nutrisystem. While you’re on the program, you eat what they tell you to eat, and nothing else. In Medifast’s case, this means eating around a 100 calorie meal every 2-3 hours of the day. You’ll eat four of these throughout the day, timed in the early morning, the late morning, lunch time, the mid-afternoon. Then, you’ll have dinner, which consists of a protein and three servings of vegetables from a list they provide (this is where Medifast and Nutrisystem differ, as Nutrisystem is a lot more flexible about fresh vegetables and fruits). You’re even allowed to have a snack before bed.
The thought behind these program, of course, is that those who develop bad eating habits (like me) tend to starve themselves and then gorge on one or two big meals. That ends up slowing the metabolism to the point where the body simply becomes inefficient in burning off calories. If you’re someone like me who maintains the same weight no matter how much exercise you do, while your friend (or fiancee) loses 5 pounds just by sneezing, this might be one way to help.
Here’s what my haul looked like when it arrived.
Right away I could see differences between this and Nutrisystem. While Nutrisystem provides meals that look (and sometimes taste) like “real” food like lasagna or hamburgers, Medifast doesn’t even seem to bother. My big box from UPS contained bars and shakes and oatmeal packets and the occasional shrink-wrapped cookie.
I started the diet about a week ago, and started the morning with oatmeal. The directions said to empty the packet in a microwavable bowl, add 1/2 cup of water, and stick it in the microwave. I tried it and it looked like this.
Looks pretty bad, doesn’t it? Well, trust me, it tasted much, much worse In all honesty, it was not a very auspicious beginning to the Medifast experience. After microwaving, the “oatmeal” was in rock-hard clumps within the brown water that reminded me of an Aveeno bath. I stirred and stirred but couldn’t get the clumps to unclump. Something tells me I should have done a modicum of stirring before sticking it in the microwave.
Still, a diet is a diet, so I figured I’d stick to it.
When 10:15 AM came around, I was in the office and starting to get pretty hungry, which I saw as a good sign. I had a “Fruit and Nut Crunch Bar”.
Now when I heard that I would get to eat bars during this diet, I was envisioning something the size of an old Willy Wonka bar. This bar looked about half the size of a traditional granola bar. I made a point to chew carefully unlike the traditional way I eat bars like this which is to inhale them.
This was not bad tasting, and it lived up to its name of being fruity and crunchy. It’s sweet and I believe the crunchiness is soy that’s puffed up to resemble rice. While not the best culinary experience I’ve had, it did the job of satiating my hunger.
As 12:00 rolled around, it came time for me to prepare lunch. I took a paper packet out of the Chicken and Wild Rice Soup and read the instructions–put the contents in a “deep bowl”, add a cup of water, microwave for 2 and a half minutes, stir, let rest for a minute, and then microwave another minute. I didn’t have deep bowl, so I thought I’d be clever and divide the soup into two paper cups.
I could see why they told me to use a deep bowl, because after about two minutes the soup gushed out of one my cups like I’d struck oil. After cleaning up the microwave, I combined the two cups.
The soup wasn’t much better tasting than the oatmeal from the morning. There were a few scraps of freeze-dried chicken, one or two grains of rice, some freeze-dried carrots. It seemed almost like cruel and unusual punishment that outside my window are food trucks with cheesesteaks and burgers and pizza and gyros. But again, a diet is a diet.
As 3:00 rolled by it came time for a Vanilla shake. That’s right, another packet of powder. Between the oatmeal, the soup, and the shake, by now I’m starting to feel like a mad scientist brewing up concoctions with water and powder.
I didn’t have my free “shaker cup” handy, but in a fit of inspiration I took a Fiji water bottle, a Post-It note, and improvised.
As you can imagine, I ended up with a lot of white powder all over my shirt, my pants, and my desk. Luckily no one stopped by that I had to explain it to.
Believe it or not, the taste of the “shake” was not bad and was probably the best tasting thing of the day. Although it did have a somewhat chalky residue. It did the job of clearing away the 3:15 PM hunger pangs, though.
As evening rolled by, I treated myself to a salad at Cosi. While technically it didn’t fall into the guidelines of the “one lean and green meal”, I figured it was close enough–it had about the right amount of salmon, plus lettuce and mushrooms and stuff on the list of approved veggies. I didn’t ask them to hold the carrots or the edamame, which I suppose would have sped up my weight loss, but at some point you just have to draw the line of wanting to stay human.
Funny thing–after a day of eating powder and water, I enjoyed the salad almost as much as a Peter Luger steak. I’m not sure if that’s an unintended consequence of being on Medifast, but when it comes time for you to enjoy that “lean and green meal”, you really do.
In the evening, I treated myself to another bar, and I also did about 30 minutes of riding on the Cyberbike and lifted some weights. I think one critical thing when on these diet programs is to remember to exercise–cardio will use up the fuel from whatever carbs you’re allowed to eat, and gaining muscle mass will make the burning of those calories much more efficient.
My initial thoughts about Medifast? I’ll be totally honest–I thought Nutrisystem’s food wasn’t great, but compared to this it may as well be gourmet fare. But of course, that’s not what Medifast markets itself as. As with Nutrisystem (but taken more to the extreme), I see it more as a way to build up good habits and to get the body used to those habits. Eating more small meals a day is better than gorging on big meals. Eating leaner, healthier foods is better than loading up on grease and salt and sugar. These are all good lessons to keep even after the diet is over. I suppose if I had opted for a Medifast program with a “coach” like Simple2Lose that’s exactly what the coach would be telling me (plus, the coach would probably berate me for eating the edamame).
In a lot of ways, I see going on Medifast as sort of like putting your body through basic training in the Army. For a few weeks you give up your freedom and flexibility in order to learn some discipline. Just by forcing myself to do “five pre-apportioned small meals a day thing”, it really opened my eyes to how much food my body doesn’t need that I snack on throughout the day without even thinking. I love ya, Cap’n, but our late night rendezvous have got to stop.
My early opinion is that the food is definitely a step below Nutrisystem, and that’s a pretty low bar to start with. You’re basically making “meals” out of packets of soup powder, packets of shake powder, and dry nutrition bars. Granted, they keep you from getting too hungry through the day as long as you space them out right, but I won’t kid you, it’s not the most pleasant experience. Perhaps the point is that when it comes time to go off the diet, you’re thrilled to be eating “good” food like rice cakes, fresh fruits and veggies, and tuna sandwiches on wheat again.
And so, the saga begins anew. If you haven’t done so already, “Like” this site on Facebook by clicking in the box to the right to encourage me to keep going!