I broke up with food to save my life

I’ve dropped a few hints here on the blog about a big diet I embarked on last fall. It’s called Optifast and it’s a medically-supervised weight loss program.

It’s basically like breaking up with food.

I haven’t said too much about it because, even though the program worked really well for me and I lost 20 lbs almost right away, I didn’t end up sticking with it or seeing it through. I really regret that.

And that’s why I’m back on Optifast now.

But this blog post isn’t about the Optifast program per se, but rather about how I got to this point. You ready? Strap in.

How I got here

I figured out in my 20s that to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight for me, I needed to follow a certain set of rules. This code or rulebook worked for me all the way through my 30s. I love good food, carbs and candy way too much so, left to my own devices, I’ll always eat too much and gain. Somehow though, my personal guidelines or rules helped me keep myself in check.

For most of my young adult life, if I followed my fitness and healthy eating code, I could lose weight and/or stay at around the weight I wanted to be. If I lost focus for a time and stopped being mindful of my healthy eating and workouts, I’d gain weight… but I could always get it off again with a bit of discipline and hard work.

This all went along fairly well for most of my young adult life, with slow but steady weight gain through the years, and periods of reining things in and getting weight off. Then I became a mom right around the age of 40.

Breastfeeding was my magical talisman after having Z. I lost all my baby weight within that first year, and then continuing to nurse her allowed me to eat whatever I wanted and still maintain. For almost four years, I didn’t have to work out or worry about what I ate. It was glorious – like being in my 20s again! (That’s not why we nursed so long, of course, but it was a lovely added side benefit.)

However, the other shoe always drops eventually. When Z weaned just before her 4th birthday, that left me at age 44 needing to get back to my fitness and healthy eating code right away. It had been so long, though, that I almost forgot how. Plus, as a working new mom, it was really hard to prioritize myself enough to make that happen. And so my weight began to creep up. And up. And up! 

Riding the struggle bus in my mid to late 40s

With all my focus on Z and attempting the impossible balancing act of a working mom, I went far astray from my good habits and focus on health/nutrition. I would go for months without thinking or worrying much about my weight – just eating what I wanted. And so, my weight ballooned in my mid 40s.

I tried getting it off with a hardcore fitness regimen in 2016-17 but, even with the toughest trainer-led workouts I’d ever done in my life, I only shaved a bit of weight. I did get back into pretty awesome shape though! 

Then I heard about Whole 30 and gave it a try. I’d never imagined I could go a whole month without my beloved carbs, sweets, pizza and cheese, but W30 worked well for me and I felt amazing on it. I did it several times over a couple of years. The only problem was my uber-binges every time I finished a round.

I’d do great for a month on W30, then pig out at the end and gain everything back and then some. It was just a yoyo-dieting enabler for me, not a meaningful longterm solution. (I did feel AMAZING while I was on it, though!)

And losing weight the “normal” way in my mid to late 40s seemed next to impossible. It took Herculean effort for only tiny results – and then I’d get super frustrated, go back to pizza, tacos, pasta and sweets, and gain it all back plus more. I ballooned up to my max weight outside of pregnancy. I hated the way I looked in pictures but, worse than that, I just didn’t feel like myself. I felt heavy, had tons of aches and pains, and started losing flexibility and mobility. I turned to food for solace, comfort and pleasure, making the situation so much worse.

I hated my weight gain and how out of shape I’ve gotten. I was still running occasionally and walking with my #sunriseruncrew but didn’t work out any other time. My joints hurt most of the time. I wasted countless hours lying in bed in the early mornings, awake but watching shows and movies on my phone instead of hitting the treadmill or working out. I had tons of small aches and pains, nothing fit comfortably, and I huffed and puffed going up stairs or hills. I hated it.

Yet I just couldn’t get motivated to make a meaningful change and do the things I KNOW I need to do: yoga, working out, running and eating in a healthier, more moderate and less devil-may-care, “treat yo’self” way. It felt like my weight was a problem that just kept getting worse.

Starting my Optifast journey

That’s when I got desperate and decided it was time for drastic measures. I didn’t think I was quite heavy enough for weight loss surgery, plus I hate the idea of tampering with my beautiful bod surgically. Then I thought of appetite suppressants and weight loss drugs because I knew someone who had great results that way a few years ago – but it’s hard to find a doctor who will prescribe them.

In the fall of 2019, I started searching online for “weight loss drug doctor near me” and that’s how I found my way to Central Ohio Nutrition Center (CONCI). I went to a free evening consultation at CONCI. I liked what I heard right away. Insurance even covers part of the treatment with the Optifast program.

Optifast is an extremely low-calorie, medically supervised liquid diet – the very one Oprah herself used back in the day. The doctors at CONCI don’t prescribe weight loss drugs until the maintenance phase and, even then, only if absolutely necessary. I figured I’d give it a try so after a thorough medical exam including bloodwork, urinalysis and EKG test, I was cleared to begin.

I began Optifast in mid-November 2019 and liked it right away. Somehow, it seems easier to me to give up food altogether than to try and eat small portions of food I love. My hunger and food cravings disappeared after the first week. I saw great results, losing 10 lbs my first week and continuing to lose consistently for as long as I stayed on the program. I liked the care and supervision – I had blood drawn for labs every two weeks plus medical check-ups and meetings with the dietitian weekly.

The trouble is, just as I’d done so many times before, I lost 20 lbs and started feeling great, then lost focus on the program. I stayed on it through mid-February, then started eating food blindly again and began to re-gain the weight as I went straight back to bad habits. It was just like going back to a toxic ex after time apart!

Just as I was thinking “I need to get back on Opti before I undo ALL the good I did,” Coronageddon hit. Quarantine, with all its sedentary isolation and stress, was not good for my waistline – I gained the “COVID 19” and then some. 

But then, through a lot of time spent thinking, reflecting and assessing during my time off work, I realized that I needed to finish what I started. First I got my career in order with my new business and more family-friendly work lifestyle. Now, it’s time to get my health and weight in line.

And so, in early October of the dreaded year 2020, I found the courage to return to CONCI and re-start Optifast. It’s scary to do something you’ve failed at before – there’s always that fear that you could fail again. But I know that as long as I can stay focused, I’ve got it in me to see this through.

This time it’s for keeps. I will lose this extra weight with Optifast, then the dietitians and doctors at CONCI will teach me how to start over with a healthier, less destructive relationship with food. And yes, I’m also doing the serious internal work of figuring out why I got into a bad relationship with food in the first place and making sure that I don’t make the same mistakes again.

Have you had success losing weight and keeping it off? I’d love to hear your formula for success in the comments below or over on Facebook!

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.


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