There are many different ways to lose weight! The key is finding the program that works for you and sticking with it. Through the years many patients have chosen to follow the medical very low calorie diet either using meal replacements (OPTIFAST) regular food, or a combination. A very low calorie diet (VLCD) is defined as less than 800 calories. However, individuals have different resting metabolic rates, so the definition may vary. In most cases, patients following a VLCD are medically monitored by physicians during the weight loss phase.
There are several benefits of using meal replacements like OPTIFAST, including the structure and simplicity of the program.
The structure of the OPTIFAST program takes the guesswork out of what should be eaten and makes it much easier to comply with the program. Losing weight still requires planning however, such as when you are confronted with high risk situations like holidays and vacations or when the unexpected happens. Whatever type of weight loss program is followed, planning is an essential component to success. Making sure that meals or meal replacements are spaced appropriately is important so hunger is kept to a minimum.
Simplicity is another reason why patients are able to follow the VLCD. Even when a person begins the maintenance phase of the program, the dietary plan should be simple enough so it is convenient and easy to follow. In this era of convenience and instant gratification, the plan must fit into a person’s lifestyle. The third benefit of meal replacements is called “stimuli narrowing.” Studies have shown that people who eat a high variety of food tend to eat and weigh more. Keeping food choices limited actually helps with weight loss.
The OPTIFAST meal replacements are comprised of proper portions of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. It is difficult to get the proper amounts of nutrients when eating low-calorie self-prepared meals, unless one is diligent about keeping food records and accurately recording intake. For example, patients who follow the complete OPTIFAST program get about 1200 mg of sodium per day, whereas the typical American may consume over 4000-6000 mg sodium daily.
And last, the weight loss shown with the OPTIFAST program is rapid and significant. A study of more than 20,000 adult patients who completed at least 22 weeks of the OPTIFAST Program reported a mean weight loss of 52 pounds (Drawert). In addition, a study published in 1992 found that men and women who completed 26 weeks of the OPTIFAST Program lost 25% (men) and 21% (women) of their baseline body weight on average (Wadden, 1992). A 5-10% weight loss is what is recommended for lowering the risk of obesity-related diseases.
Diets alone are not enough. It takes a multidisciplinary approach and a health care team which provides support, education, lifestyle change, and in some cases medical supervision. A combination of treatment approaches may be helpful in allowing individuals to reach a healthy weight!