Nestle is a behemoth of a company. It makes chocolate, that disgusting Nescafe stuff Europeans go nuts for, Nestea, bottled water, Haagen-Dazs, Edy’s, Powerbar…
It also manufactures a wide array of nutritional products. In addition to all of the hospital-grade stuff, they make Optifast. Optifast is medically-engineered nutrition aimed at reducing weight. It is only available under a medical weight loss program, which is why you can’t just buy it on the Internet or at a health foods store. At $3 a serving, it’s still cheaper than real food. At six servings a day, it becomes a little more daunting. When you’re buying it two weeks at a time, well, we’re starting to talk real money.
Medical insurers and the IRS consider Optifast products food. As a meal replacement, it is still considered food, and therefore not an eligible medical expense or tax deduction. It could be put through a flexible spending account, but unless you plan to put the legal maximum of $5,000 into your flex account, you’ll kill the reserve in a few weeks.
Optifast manufactures three types of food — shakes, bars and soups. Each are portion-controlled with a specific amount of protein, carbs and fiber distributed. The rigidity of the program is pretty harsh, especially for people who have no real control. The program is most effective for people who can adopt a full Optifast plan. This includes 6-8 meal replacements per day, bi-weekly doctor’s appointments, weekly group meetings with a behavioral therapist and monthly consults with a registered dietitian.
In addition to gobs of money, I could not devote the time. My employer is great and very supportive. My CEO and supervisor both understood that this was for my well-being and would indirectly benefit the organization. They could have been total jerks and told me to deal with it on my own time. Instead, I was given leeway to take appointments when I could get them and just get healthy. That said, when group meetings take place in the middle of the day…it just wasn’t going to work. And, while I could have justified extending my work day an extra hour one way or the other to make up the time, I was still teaching at this point and my evenings were already committed to a college classroom three times a week.
Dr. Scinta offered the partial program as an option. This gave me the ability to take it a less intense, but still aggressive pace. I would consume four products a day and eat a high-protein, low-fat, low-calorie dinner, all the while not exceeding 1,500 calories. The group sessions were recommended. The dietitian meetings were every month or two. This seemed easy enough. I picked up my two weeks of food, laid down another $400 and went on my way.
I went home, drank my first shake and gagged.
Commonwealth Brewery in the Bahamas makes Kalik beer which, if you have been to Nassau, you know is pretty popular. One thing no one tells you about Kalik is that you need to drink it ice cold, otherwise it tastes like crap. Nestle’s Optifast shares this quality. The instructions for the shake say to mix it with 16-20 ounces of water, shake well and eat.
First, the water needs to be ice cold, or you have to add ice cubes to the container before shaking. And, 20 ounces of water is the bare minimum; anything less and it’s clumpy (I was using 24 ounces from our water cooler plus whatever ice was left from my morning iced coffee). You get these undissolved clumps of powder that goop up. Think of how this happens with Nestle’s Quik product. It’s very similar, only Quik’s chunks don’t make you gag. This is more so with the vanilla than the chocolate variety (the only two flavors available). I can’t quite place the flavor. It’s not really even close to what most people guess…Carnation Instant Breakfast. I have tasted The Baby’s Similac mix. It’s somewhere between a mix of that and the disgusting “Astronaut’s Ice Cream” that you can buy in the gift shop at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum.
Even worse, this sludge destroyed water bottles. In addition the plastic taking on the permanent smell of the Optifast shake, the residue of the product stained and embedded itself into the bottle. I ruined three quart-sized water bottles with this shit.
Four of these a day, plus a dinner high in vegetables and protein, but low in carbs and fat, were on order. So, we ate a lot of chicken. A. Lot. Of. Chicken. Salads…tons of salads. Nothing fancy. My only real treat was coffee. Copious amounts of coffee.
Biologically, things were working fine. In the first month (when the weight loss is most dramatic), I lost 14 pounds (down to 319). My liver functions dropped by 10 units and my blood glucose went from 120 to 76. Psychologically? Well…
FACT: I’m not the most friendly person you will ever encounter. If I were to liken myself to someone in popular culture, it would be Toby Ziegler from “The West Wing,” a wonderfully-written, yet terrifically crusty individual. Many people can attest to this fact.
So, if eating was a therapy or emotional crutch for me, removing that support brought out some less-than-sunshiney behaviors at work and home.
In a word, I was a motherfuckingsonofabitch. Seriously. I reached levels of irritability that I didn’t even knew existed. The Wife, a saint, took it in stride and I tried my best to keep the negative energy away from her and the impending baby (she was 4-5 months pregnant at this point). I wasn’t always successful. For self-preservation, I tried to keep it out of work. That was also not always successful. My supervisor, Toni, became a sounding board for lengthy rants about everything and nothing. And, God forbid, you and I were on the same roadway together. The horn on our Chevy Impala took a beating. I went from muttering and cursing to myself to rolling down the window and combining words that shouldn’t be combined. Suffice it to say, I should have been shot or road-raged into a bridge embankment.
I spent a lot of time wishing diseases on people. C0-workers, innocent bystanders, members of my family, members of The Wife’s family, people at Wegmans…especially people at Wegmans. Not only should you never shop for groceries when hungry, but you should never go when there will be a lot of people and you are on an aggressive weight loss program. Children became Big Game for me and the shopping cart was my weapon. I took great pleasure in lighting up kids who weren’t paying attention or who’s parent wasn’t. I would line the little bastards up and lay ’em down. “Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t think either of us were paying attention.” Heh heh.
I would also do this to women on their cell phones. That was actually more fun.
This lifted after time as my body adjusted to the regimen, but to go from a thousands-of-calories diet to hundreds-of-calories plan is…well, it sucks. For everyone.