I have a close personal friend who is on the Optifast program. I've hesitated writing about it here, because I haven't wanted to embarrass my friend.
For the sake of simplicity, let's call my friend "Lola".
Optifast is the rapid-start all-liquid weight loss diet that has been fairly popular for several years. It's the infamous pounds of fat on a wagon plan popularised by Oprah in 1988.
When I first heard about Lola's plans to try the diet I begged her not to. It wasn't that I wanted her to stay heavy. I wanted her to stay healthy. But her doctor (with the help of an increasingly alarmist society) had convinced her she was at the point where weight loss was absolutely necessary for Lola's continued well-being. Several bouts of insurance company negotiations later, Lola was a bit poorer and well on her way through the maze of Optifast.
She is now at the halfway point. And I am at the point where I need to share her experiences with anyone who stumbles across this blog.
-- A patient's daily allotment of shakes and bars totals 960 calories--well below the recommended minimum of 1200 calories. Lola has seen an average loss of 4lbs per week. But after three weeks into it she is suffering from a severly weakened immune system. She has persistant congestion and sore throat combined with ongoing weakness and tiredness. The lack of fibre in the diet means that she also has severe gastorintestinal problems.
--One of my most strenuous objections to the program was that it was dangerous to the patient's health. Lola questioned the Optifast team and was told that the entire program was medically monitored. She is to see a physician once a week as part of the plan. True to their word, they do have her see a doctor weekly. The operative word being "see." There has never been a week that Lola has spent more than five minutes total with the Optifast doctor. At her most recent meeting she had several issues she needed to address, all of them related to the diet itself. The response of her "medical monitor" was that Lola needed to see her family physician about her complaints. Apparently Optifast's idea of "medical monitoring" means that a doctor will review your pulse, blood pressure and temperture on a weekly basis.
--The program also stresses the availability of psychological counselling. In Lola's case that means a once-a-week meeting with a group therapy session. The counselor is not a licensed therapist, and two of her four sessions have been combined with another group. That means there have been as many as thirty people in group session...far too many for adequate psychological treatment. Not that the unlicensed counselor is qualified to offer the promised therapy in the first place.
--The food tastes terrible. Yes, I realise this is a diet. But there is no reason to force people to consume awful tasting concoctions. That will do nothing for behaviour modification, because it only drives the patient to view the diet as a short-term process after which they can resume their regular eating habits.
I know that obesity is a dirty word, and that losing weight can be better for your health. But please consider another diet.