Medifast: The Beginning

{ Friday, March 5, 2010 }
I could already write novels about my THREE whole days' worth of experiences on Medifast, so it's hard to know where to begin.

Yes, there are plenty of details, and I'll get to those. But I think for my sanity, I need to explain why I'm agreeing to take such a regimented approach to losing weight.

The Medifast program works like this: Medifast makes a bunch of prepared and almost-prepared foods. You eat any five of them (they're all interchangeable) throughout the day. You supplement this with one meal you make yourself, following their guidelines.

The foods are all low in calories, low in carbs, high in nutrients and high in protein.

All-in-all pretty simple.

So, from a 30,000-foot view, here are, FOR ME, what I see as the pros and cons of this program, off the bat.

In The PROs Column...

At this point, I want to be taken out of the driver's seat. I want to be off the grid.

When I have all the food choices in the world and just ("just") have to make good choices, I tend not to. I come close, yes. But I am QUEEN of the slippery slope. If having X means giving up Y later, I'll have X and then find a way to convince myself that Y is fine, too. (And since I'm having Y, I may as well have Z...)

A great example of this is the Weight Watchers points system. It's one of the coolest weight-loss ideas in the world, and I SUCKED at it. Too many choices, too much room for error.

Again, though, I want to be clear. If I'm trying to lose weight, I don't "err" by eating a bag of potato chips or a box of cookies. I pretty much don't even buy those things. Like, ever.

If I "cheat" it's by allowing myself giant portions of something otherwise reasonably healthy. It's by not eating enough during the day and then having a gigantaur dinner plus like, gallons of wine. It's by small indulgences several times a day that I tell myself don't "really" matter but that do, totally, add up.

It's by taking liberties with dietary guidelines, little by little, every day, until I'm not even dieting at all.

Medifast, with its prepared meals, is taking me out of the game. Hitting the reset button. The slope isn't slippery because there is no slope.

You eat only what they give you to eat. You eat only as much as they give you to eat.

It's restrictive, yes. It'a also a relief.

"Food" as I've come to know and love it, is out of the picture for now. I kind of can't have anything, so there's no way for my sneaky self to get all sabotage-y.

In The CONs Column...

My guess is that most people don't warm to the idea of the Medifast program for a few key reasons:
- They want to make all their own food
- They want more variety in their foods
- They want to eat more "real world" food

Which aren't my hesitations at all. I mean, not really.

For the reasons I stated above, I don't mind that I'm eating pre-packaged foods. I'm also a creature of habit, and am perfectly happy to have my meals totally routinized within the Medifast spectrum.

For these reasons, though, I really HATE that the program starts out with one meal being totally open-ended. And not open-ended like, "do what you want." The meal needs to fit very restrictive criteria, so you're basically eating a controlled amount of calories, protein, greens, and almost no fat.

And that's really hard for me. Much harder than eating packaged foods I don't have to think about.

It means I DO have to shop, DO have to cook, DO have to make incredibly difficult decisions about meal planning every day. This, in turn, makes me cranky. I mean, if I'm supposed to know how to prepare this kind of meal, why couldn't I just be eating this way all the time and skip Medifast altogether?

Of course, the answer is obvious: Because I wouldn't just be eating this way all the time.

And yeah: if the theory is to "learn" new, better, long-term eating habits, you can't rely on pre-packaged foods forever. You need to be able to know what the hell you're doing when you re-enter the world of unprogrammed foods. I get it.

But man, it's hard to make this transition all at once. On the one hand, you have to gear up mentally to take yourself out of the normal food world for a while, and accept the Medifast meals as your standard. On the other hand, you also have to embrace eating and cooking in entirely new ways.

It's kind of like sending me in two totally different directions, and it's hard to embrace them both at the same time.

THE OTHER giant, huge, how-on-earth-will-I-do-this hurdle is going out to eat.

Frankly, there's no way I would have agreed to this diet a couple years ago, when all my social activities centered around eating and drinking out. And you know? I was very, very social. I did a lot of eating and drinking/socializing, because they were one and the same.

Now that my life has shifted gears entirely, "going out" has become more of a rare and special occasion. There's no running out to happy hour with my work friends anymore. No work lunches to manage every single day. No going out to dinner and staying for drinks, even just with my husband, just because we feel like it.

But I still LOVE to do it. And I am completely unwilling to even try to convince myself that going to a nice restaurant and ordering a plate of greens and a Diet Coke is just as good and fun and satisfying as anything else I could order. That is just never going to be acceptable.


I am willing to make two big shifts.

1) Eating out way, way less often.

2) NOT treating going out as a reason (or excuse) to go crazy. I won't limit myself to steamed broccoli, but I also need to stop thinking "OH, I'M OUT" means I should order the fattiest, fry-iest thing on the whole menu. And then have it with extra cheese. Plus 80 million cocktails.

* * * * * * * * *

So, that's the birds-eye view. More details to follow.


txsjewels said...

interested to follow this. i had a medifast consultation, but honestly, didn't think i had the discipline to stick to it and never started it. i like your perspective of taking yourself off the grid with food choices. makes good sense. and it's not forever. will keep reading.. ..

Green said...

One of the things I have to remind myself when I go out to eat, or am contemplating eating something unhealthy is, "I can come here again another time," and "This is not the last serving of french fries that will ever be available in the world."

Personally, right now in my life, I go out to eat VERY infrequently, so it often feels like it's my last opportunity to eat a crepe at Frjtz or whatever. But in general, it's never the last opportunity to eat something that tastes good. This concept is something I got from reading an interview with a food critic who was asked how she kept her weight down. It really made a difference in how I viewed eating.

riseyp said...

i can totally see where you're coming from on the cons. seems like the meals should be 100% pre-packaged for the first 2 weeks, to get you used to that initial big change.

however, at least you are aware of the reason they designed it the way they did, to teach you up front how to apply the principles long-term. and you are so right: life as a SAHM away from SF simply minimizes the number of opportunities you'll have to fall off the wagon. good problem to have!!

i personally believe that consistent (and positive) visualization (aka posting great insights like these here) makes a huge difference between success and failure. being mindful and conscious about eating has been my number one goal.

very much looking forward to hearing more along the way...

Lyn said...

I started Medifast last week and so far I really like it! I am weighing in tomorrow and excited to see results. I'll be following for YOUR results, too!

Jocelyn - Henry's Mommy said...

Hi! I have been on Medifast since September 10 (yes, almost SEVEN months). I have lost over 70 pounds, and am only about 5 lbs from my goal. It's a wonderful program that WORKS!

What I wanted to tell you is that I go out to eat at least once a week. And I stay on plan. There are so many options if you go to the right places. I usually order grilled fish (no creamy sauces), steak, or chicken. I ask for extra steamed veggies instead of rice, potatoes, or pasta. I usually ask them not to add the sauce or the butter or the fattening part, but I still want the seasoning. If I order a salad, I have them leave off the croutons or nuts or chips. Yes, it's a hassle to special order, but they don't seem to mind and I get what I want.

I love to eat out, but I don't want to blow it. It works for me! :)