Thursday, May 6, 2010

What I've Learned on Medifast

When I started Medifast about two months ago, I saw it as a tool. I thought maybe it would help me drop some very resistant weight after a year and a half of struggling. But I didn't think I would learn anything. It was just a diet. Just prepackaged food. A way for me to shake things up and get some results, but not something that would really teach me anything. After all, I know a heck of a lot about nutrition and healthy eating/exercise already. What could I possibly learn from a bunch of instant food packets?

I was wrong. I have learned some things firsthand on this plan that I am going to take with me and use for the rest of my life.

I already knew the basics that Medifast teaches newbies: portion control, how to prepare a healthy dinner, eat lots of veggies, drink lots of water, don't eat junk food. Nothing new there. I already had a strong foundation for healthy eating and I even thought doing a plan with pre-packaged food was kind of a step backwards for me. But this way of eating has taught me so much about myself and about how to succeed at weight loss and maintenance.

First, I learned how absolutely essential it is for me to eat every 2-3 hours, all day long. Sure, I'd heard that before, but I usually just tried to skip snacks if I wasn't really hungry. I used to go shopping or run errands and forget to bring food with me, and I'd end up going 4 or 5 hours without eating and then I would be INSANE and ready to eat anything and everything in my path. I let my blood sugar get too low. But on Medifast, I have scheduled eating. I get up in the morning and have some tea. Then I eat a small meal or snack every 2-3 hours, at 8AM, 10AM, noon, 3PM, 6PM and 8PM. This keeps my blood sugar very stable, and I never feel so hungry I am about to lose it. I know when to eat, so if I am going on errands I bring a protein bar in my purse and a bottle of water. I just eat at those times and I feel SO much better and more in control of my eating. This was a great lesson for me... one I will keep for the rest of my life.

Second, I learned that I can be satisfied with a small portion and low calories as long as it is HIGH QUALITY nutrition. There was a short time when I fell prey to the raves of the masses about how great 100-calorie packs were. Wow, I could eat chocolate covered pretzels or cookies or crackers or whatever, and it was only 100 calories! But 1) one pack left me starving an hour later, and 2) I couldn't stop and would eat every pack in the box in one day. The Medifast foods are ALL about 100 calories per pack. I can have a bowl of chili with beans, some chicken & wild rice soup, a bag of chili puffs, honey mustard pretzels, a protein bar, a shake, some pudding, or any one of over 50 different Medifast foods, and each is only about 100 calories. But because they are high in protein and fiber and are not packed with corn syrup and empty carbs, they actually keep me satisfied for 2-3 hours AND I never feel like I have to eat a second, third, or fourth pack all at once. One is enough. They are *good*, but not addictive. So, while I will not be eating Medifast foods forever, I am taking something important with me: I can be satisfied with 100 calories if it is good nutrition. So I plan to make a list of 100 calorie snacks I can have, such as nuts, hummus, protein shakes, hard boiled eggs, etc (things that are high in protein). My breakfasts and lunches will be higher in calories, though, when I am done with Medifast. This leads to my next point.

Third, I learned the importance of getting enough protein in my diet, in EVERY meal and snack. I have ranted about protein before, but I always had a hard time getting enough. But now that I have experienced life with higher protein, I am in! If I make oatmeal for breakfast, I will also have some egg whites or add some whey powder or nut butter to my oats. My meals and snacks will revolve around protein, vegetables, and fruits. I cannot even explain how much more satisfied I feel eating a minimum of 72 grams of protein per day. Medifast is high protein to prevent your body using your muscles as fuel, and studies show it does a good job at that (and promotes fat loss, NOT muscle loss), but the satisfaction and sense of well being that comes with more protein is a benefit I will keep forever.

Fourth, I learned that sugar and other carbs were the most likely cause of my binge eating behavior. I was a compulsive overeater and often felt out of control with my eating. I was an addict. I was addicted, I thought, to FOOD... but in fact it's more likely I was addicted to sugar and carbs. Without them, I am not a raging maniac with the food anymore. I am currently eating between 75 and 100g of carbs per day. I plan to pay attention to my carb level even after I resume eating things like fruits and some whole grains, and keep my carb level about the same, percentage wise, permanently. And I know now how very careful I need to be with sugar and other simple carbs.

Fifth. I learned that I am not defective. I am not screwed up beyond repair. I felt like a freak sometimes because I was so out of control with my eating. Now I know it was WHAT I was eating... not that I am a screw up. I have not had a single binge in over 9 weeks and THAT is definitely a record. I feel like a sober alcoholic. For the first time in years I believe that with dietary changes I can overcome binge eating. IT IS NOT HOPELESS OR IMPOSSIBLE. And for me, I think eating low carb, high protein is key.

Sixth, I learned that I do not have to live in chronic pain, and that my medical issues were diet-related.
I used to think the horrible pain in my knees, ankles, hips and hands was something I was doomed to endure because I have arthritis. But once I stopped eating sugar, the pain went away in all my joints except my knees... and the knees are much improved.
I used to think I was going to die of a heart arrhythmia because there is something really wrong with me. My dad died of a heart attack and so did my grandpa. I thought I was doomed too. I had heart palpitations that scared me to death and put me in the ER. Sometimes they were from caffeine, but often they came out of the blue. I thought daily palpitations were something I'd have to suffer. Since starting Medifast, I have not had ANY palpitation episodes at all. I was having them almost every day before, and POOF they are gone. I even added coffee back into my diet, and still no palpitations. I learned that palpitations can be caused by sugar and other foods in our diets. I am going to make a good guess that it was the sugar causing them, but I am going to be super careful as I add foods back into my diet so if something triggers palpitations, I know what it is and can eliminate it.
I used to think headaches were something I inherited and would have to suffer for the rest of my life. For the past couple of years, I too have had migraines with visual disturbances, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, all of which made it impossible for me to function normally on migraine days. But I also was waking up almost every day with a headache. The doctors couldn't find anything wrong. And then, after I started Medifast, they just STOPPED. I was shocked. I have not had a migraine in over 2 months. I have only had 2 very mild, PMS related headaches which were not even bad enough for a Tylenol. Obviously the headaches were also diet related... I think sugar again... so I will need to pay attention as I add various foods back into my diet to see what might cause headaches.
I learned that I do not have to be in pain, and what I eat really, literally effects my health.

There are lots of little things I've discovered too, like that I really don't need to salt my food and I like plain tea with no added sweetener. I even learned to drink coffee with JUST a spoonful of half & half and no sweetener (I thought this would be impossible!)

And finally, I learned how to eat out at restaurants on a low carb diet, and that the meals are actually MORE satisfying than what I was eating before, when I ate more grains and pastas. Last night, for example. I ate dinner at a very nice restaurant. This was the first time I planned to have a meal that is not 100% within the Medifast guidelines for dinner (5-7 oz lean protein, 3 servings vegetables, plus a few condiments & healthy fats). It was a bit of a splurge but still very low carb and very much how I want to eat forever. The appetizer was a fancy artisan cheese plate with about 7 different cheeses and locally smoked salmon; it was fantastic! I had a taste of each. I drank water with lemon slices. I ordered a small mixed green salad with tomatoes and Balsamic vinaigrette on the side, and the main dish was pan-fried fresh Halibut with mushrooms and a double side of asparagus (I ask for double veggies instead of the usual pasta/potatoes). It was amazing. I *loved* it. This is a new way of ordering for me, one I will use as a guideline for the rest of my life: order extra veggies, choose fish when it's available, add a side salad, no carby sides. It works! When I eat like this I feel so great after a meal... not heavy or tired or weighed down. Try it! And even with the cheese and extra calories the scale is still heading in the right direction.

This is why I think it is SO important not to get stuck in a rut with our eating and exercise habits. In order to learn new things, we have to DO new things. Trying new ways of doing things is HOW we find out what works for us, personally. If you're having a hard time, try something new. Maybe eat your biggest meal at breakfast. Or try upping your protein. Maybe try calorie counting or South Beach or just try some new exercise. Always try, never give up. You are never too far gone.

*FTC-required disclosure: Medifast provided me with its products for my personal use for free.*


Megan said...

I love it. I'm so happy for you.

Laryssa said...

WOW! That's really all I have to say. :)

Michelle said...

Way to go! You are doing great!

Teale said...

I'm so glad that the program has taught you so much! Your last line really resonates with me. "You are never too far gone". I need to hear that, because as my weight has climbed, I've thought "this is it, there's nothing I can do about it now, I'm too far gone". But you're right, it's never too late.

LAF said...

Fantastic insights! It has been so inspiring to read about all your hard work and dedication.

Lori said...

I'm so glad you included #5. That is a lesson all of us need to learn.

spunkysuzi said...

What a good feeling it must be to know that you are normal!! As i was reading this post my smile just kept getting bigger! Go you :)

Anonymous said...

Lyn, your whole post was interesting and I've enjoyed hearing about your Medifast experience. But the golden nugget in this post was the very end: Always try, never give up. You are never too far gone.

So. very. true.

Rebekah said...

This is wonderful and I could have written most of it myself. I too thought, wow, prepackaged junk... BUT it was still better than what I was eating before.

Now i realize the quality of the food (both the 5 mf meals and my lean and green). I have more energy, less mood swings, just everything is on the up and up.

A HUGE thing for me- I notice EXACTLY when i want to eat emotionally. I have an issue (and I have had several lately) i realize the first thought in my head is can I eat something? Then I realize no. its not time for my next meal, and it will not solve my problem at all, if anything it will make it worse!

HOLY LIGHTBULB BATMAN! So amazing! I scoffed at high protien, but now i realize I am getting soy protein most of the time instead of from other sources and my body is SINGING with happiness.

I feel it has also improved my hypothyroidism! I am just so impressed with what it has taught me. At first I felt awkward eating out differently. Now i don't even want it any other way!

I am so so so so glad you tried this out, and as such encouraged me to do so! Thank yuo for giving me my life back Lyn!

Laura said...

It is so awesome that all that pain went away, and you're figuring out what was hurting your body. Great job!!!

Julie said...

Good for you!! I need to adapt the habit of eating every 3 hours or so, that is one thing I don't do very well and many times I end up starving and out of control!
Thanks for sharing!

moonduster said...

I am so glad this is working for you! I don't think packaged food is my cup of tea, but I am a strong ebliver that everyone should do what works for THEM.

And I agree about all of the problems sugar can cause in our bodies (icluding chronic fatigue).

I cannot wait until you reach your target weight! (I know you WILL!) I have a new feature I do called Super Slimmers, and I will definitely want to feature you on it! :)

I am just so pleased for you!!!! :)

moonduster said...

Erm - that screwed up word was supposed to be *believer*

I am not so great at avoiding typos. *sigh*

Jamie said...

Congrats, for me it was I needed to eat more veggies and not so much meat, I am just eating lean meats and not so much red meats. BTW, I was looking at one of your butter nut squash recipes and now I know why you can not stand to peel and cut them. Pain in the rear end. I am so happy you finally found a way that works for you!

Tabby said...

Awesome work.

I don't eat every 3 hours, but now I'd like to try. But high protein has been key for me. I think the many reasons my last weight loss efforts sunk was not understanding that the choco covered 100 calorie pack was not a good snack and left me starving.

Georgia said...

"In order to learn new things, we have to DO new things” Right on the money! I'm so glad you found something that works for you! I tell everyone that the journey needs to be customized, and we need to learn from each step what works and what doesn’t. I totally relate to #6--I’ve discovered much of what I eat is directly responsible for some of my health issues!
Always enjoy your posts! :-)

Sandy said...

Keep it up! You are doing great! And thank you for all the tips, they are so helpful! :-)

Steelers6 said...

Do you realize how kind and generous it is that you tell us all this? You take time out of your day to report to us, and write down some great observations, and that is so helpful to so many of us.

For that, kind friend, I thank you.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to a wonderful, wonderful mother. =) Chrissy

Stacy Grows Healthy said...

I'm really happy you've had such positive results. Focusing on low/healthy fat proteins and vegetables is a great basis for a diet.

Theresa said...

I could not agree more based on how I am feeling. There are still quite a few moments that I get a twinge that I NEED to dive in and eat along with everyone else, at every other event..... but the difference this time is that I have enough quality nutrition in my system at all times. I seriously CAN resist the tempting foods.

Missa said...

I am on a similar program to Medifast called HMR. I completely agree that the structure of the program gets you to think and focus on so many other things than eating. I am glad that you are taking some lessons learned from this structured program so you can keep going during your maintenance phase. Just curious, but how long will you continue on Medifast? I have been doing my program for 17 weeks and I am completely happy to continue.


Andra said...

Number 6 is my favorite! You are what you eat is one of the first things I learned on my journey. How truly spectacular I started feeling even just giving up fast food and sugary soda. And it kept getting better. You ARE what you eat!

Anonymous said...

I learned that sugar and other carbs were the most likely cause of my binge eating behavior. I was a compulsive overeater and often felt out of control with my eating. I was an addict. I was addicted, I thought, to FOOD... but in fact it's more likely I was addicted to sugar and carbs.


Lyn said...


I will continue Medifast as long as it is working for me. One month at a time :)

Anonymous said...

"I learned that I am not defective. I am not screwed up beyond repair."

What a joy!


Jennifer said...

Hi Lyn. I too have learned more than I thought I would on Medifast. I also had palpitations before starting medifast. Ironically it is actually the reason I ended up in the cardiologist's office and he is the one who offered me Medfiast. At any palps have slowed. Every once in a while I feel one or so but nothing like it was which the tests showed about 10 an hour! My health coach said that MF probably has some vitamin/something in it that my body was needing. Someone mentioned it could be the potassium because lacking enough can give you palps. And if you notice, there is potassium in just about all of the MF products. I am not a dr so I dont know but thought that I would share what I heard. Anyway, I am not sure but I totally agree with you that there are so many things that I will take away from Medifast. I just said tonight that I never thought that I could be satisfied with a bar, but I am. Congrats on your progress :)

phelpsvj said...

Just curious as when you are going to get off medifast and do this on your own?

Lyn said...


I will continue Medifast as long as it is working for me. I reassess each month whether I want to continue... just taking it one month at a time!