20 October, 2006


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.


At 7:43 AM, October 20, 2006, Blogger Jeffrey said...

I commented this on your post at NiT, but here it is again, lol.

Oh, something I didn't include in the NiT comment is that, as a general rule, a person can only lose two pounds per week in a healthy manner. Any faster than that, and something is very wrong. The exception is if a relatively sedentary person begins to exercise and change their eating habits, they may see some rapid weight loss at the beginning of this life style switch, but we're talking maybe 3-4 lbs/week instead of the afore mentioned two...but it is NEVER healthy to drop 5lbs, 10lbs, or more in one week, especially over a prolonged period.

I've never been a big fan of "diets", as a whole. I do believe that there are clearly some diet systems that are more healthy than others, but the problem with nearly all diets is that you gain weight back once you stop the diet. What people, especially Americans, need to do is learn how to eat correctly. Any and every nutritionist would tell you that it is most healthy to eat 5-7 small meals per day (don't worry, healthy and substantial snacks between breakfast, lunch, and dinner are considered "meals" when eating this way).

A good book on the subject would be Body for Life by bill philips. The companion book, eating for life, would be a good purchase as well. I like that these are not books about dieting, but books that help teach people the basics of fitness and how to, as many people don't realize, eat more to lose more.

At 10:57 AM, October 20, 2006, Blogger Southern Girl said...

I'm sorry your friend is going through that "diet" -- I have a good friend who is in the position of *having* to lose a lot of weight, and the liquid diet is the second option her doctor gave her if the first, Weight Watchers or some other comparable program, doesn't work. I'm praying she doesn't have to resort to that because it's just not a good long-term solution. (As Oprah ought to be able to attest given she gained back much of the weight she lost on it.)

Last year I was faced with the realization that I probably wasn't going to live out 2006 if I didn't do something about my weight -- I was in congestive heart failure and barely moved from one spot all day long. Going on a liquid diet probably would have gotten the weight off me fast, but it wouldn't have done a thing to change my mindset or my eating habits. Weight Watchers did that for me, and I just reached my first goal of losing 50 lbs this past Sunday. I feel 100% better than I did this time last year, and I'm afraid a person on a liquid diet might not be able to say that, given the havoc losing that quickly can have on a body.

At 2:31 PM, October 22, 2006, Anonymous brittney said...

Holy congratualtions, Southern Girl! 50 pounds lost is a HUGE accomplishment. You probably won't come back to read this, but on the off-chance you did, I didn't want your hard work to go unrecognized.

Keep it up.

At 2:01 PM, March 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am the exception to these comments, but I have used Optifast successfully over one year and lost 88 lbs. I was on the "full fast" for 4 months, then transitioned to the modified diet which consists of a combination Optifast and regular healthy food. I really had no dramatic side effects to report other than a little lightheadedness in the beginning. I was given Potassium supplements, which did the trick. I have to say, with any diet there are draw backs, but this really can work and work well for many people who are desperate for assorted reasons to lose weight.

Probably shouldn't knock it until you try it.

At 2:33 PM, October 11, 2007, Blogger Funnyman said...

Just to comment to Kate Coble, I am currently on the Optifast program and since 6/11/07 I have lost 87 pounds. I have not any severe side effects other than lightheadeness. I was pretty much against any diets and I did not exercise at anytime.

Since I have started the program I have been able to exercise and I am learning to eat right and how to encounter food. The weekly classes have become my motivation as the commradery with the group is really something unique. The class started off with 75 people and it has dwindled down to 20 people.

We have had a nutritionist visit and go over hands and booklets to aid in the transition to regular foods. We have weekly topics that deal with the emotional aspects of being overweight and dieting or life style changes. It has been disclosed that many people do gain the weight back but it due to lack of lifestyle motification.

Anyone can diet but to keep the weight off one must change their lifesyle habits. Unless this is realized this program will be a temporary solution. I recommend the book "MY BIG FAT GREEK DIET" by Dr.Nick Yphantides. He actually went through this program and wrote book about it.

At 2:47 PM, May 24, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am desperate to lose some weight fairly quickly; my knees are nothing but bone-on-bone and I can't have surgery until I lose some weight (too much risk for blodd clots).

I want to share with you what I have discovered about Optifast. Check out the website and you will see it is made by the Nestle corp. (yes, the candy bar people).

Also, EVERY PRODUCT BUT ONE has FRUCTOSE or HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP as the 2nd ingredient!! I got this off the sheets passed out at the information session. But they sure don't draw your attention to it. They cover themselves legally by including it. Ask any nutritionist or diabetic or pre-diabetic why fructose and high fructose corn syrup is dangerous to your health if you don't know already. The American Journal of Clincal Nutrition says fructose acts the same as HFCS. Do a search. Find out for yourself.

I wanted this to be right for me very badly. But it's not. I'm going back to how God made our bodies to operate best--on natural, good food. My choice--The Maker's Diet by Rubin.

Good luck all, and "let the buyer beware".

At 12:58 AM, June 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Body for Life is an excellent book. I too did not believe in any radical diet. I grew up with a healthy lifestyle, but somehow, for several reasons, I got off-track. I found a short-term Optifast plan because I desperately needed a jump-start to motivate myself to start on the healthy plan for the rest of my life. Short-term in my case means 14 days on the liquid diet. I'm completing day 7 and I decide as I go whether or not I feel I should stay on it. We need to use our own body wisdom and common sense, as well as doing research that applies to our circumstances. Optifast isn't all bad and it isn't all good. It's a tool that's right for some people. It's an individual decision. To me, it tastes good, and I've gotten the jump-start to motivate me. I was looking for that jump-start. And fasting is actually a time-honored tradition, so that part doesn't worry me, since I'm basically healthy except for joint pain and weight. As for fasting, my relatives who belong to a tribal religion have been fasting using an acorn drink. If you're going to get passionate about not going on Optifast, then it seems to me that you need to be rather more passionate about people who eat a typical American diet. Soda? High-fat hamburgers, cheese, etc.? Deep-fried junk? It's dangerous. Ideally, we'd all have the right level of activity and the right nutrition and a healthy life. Until then, I see nothing wrong in judiciously using tools such as Optifast.

At 5:01 PM, July 17, 2008, Blogger Optifast said...

I would liek to say that I am also currently on the Optifast full fasting diet. I have been on it since 6/30/08 and as of 7/14/08 I had lost 14 lbs.
The shakes are not really bad and I do not have any problems.
As far as fiber goes I am currently taking 1 teaspoon of fiber supplement a day and everything works fine.

Our class meeting only have approx 12 people. I love the meetings it keeps me on track.
I am documanting my weight loss on youtube so if you want to take a look at it here it is.

At 10:06 PM, July 23, 2008, OpenID apneume said...

I am a Type II diabetic and just started the Optifast full fast diet as a pre-surgery measure for gastric bypass. I was hoping that the doctor's recommendation that I spend six weeks on this would bring my a1c to the level needed for surgery, but my bgl one hour after an Optifast meal is averaging 250 - NOT good, especially since I'm still on three diabetes meds. I'm looking into Medifast, which has a diabetic option that doesn't include the high fructose corn syrup that Optifast's products do.

At 7:07 PM, January 19, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been on the Optifast-only diet for five weeks. I have lost 40 lbs and feel great. I see my doctor (who happens to also be my normal family doctor) weekly. I have a full blood test every other week. I spend an hour with a licensed therapist or a certified dietitian in a small group each week. The drinks, bar, and soup all taste good to me. I have been on other diets over the years but I believe this one works.

At 8:01 AM, January 24, 2009, Anonymous codycobourg said...

Thats wonderful that it is working for you, I have been researching this plan, and yours sounds so positive!! I am so pleased its working well for you!!

At 10:32 AM, February 20, 2009, Anonymous vg said...

I have reached a point where I have to reduce some weight within the next 3 months, when I'd be turning 30. For in my community in India, it is hard for males to get married once they are past 30 for girls have a prejudice against age and they want so called "young men" and 30 is old for them [:(]. Began Optifast since 17th of this month(I have completed 4 days of 2 times a day Optifast) and I noticed a loss of about 2 kilos (about 4 to 5 pounds). I have two issues so far with this product - one is I feel some very mind and easily tolerable itching throughout the body during nights especially whereever body hair is. The second issue is I feel I am missing some tasty and spicy food and the withdrawl effect over convensional food is giving me a bit of an urge for staying away from this diet system. But then as I can see the effects aparantly, I am going to supercede my thoughts and go for it for the next 3 months with the same routine.

At 10:16 PM, February 22, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Optifast works! yes I know about the high fructose corn syrup, the 800 calorie a day, the need to add fiber, the classes. with the doctor's supervision, you will succeed.

At 12:30 PM, May 01, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I started Optifast 2.5 weeks ago and we are seeing very good results. As with any diet, it is the will power within you that will make or break your success. We attend weekly classes and are monitored by physican also.
We are in this for the long run.. improved health is our goal. We love food, but must learn moderation in our eating habits.

At 1:56 PM, May 01, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you come back here in 12 months to let us know about how you've gained most of the weight back. I have yet to see a single person who keeps the weight off.

You're in the honeymoon period now.

At 10:06 PM, June 20, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of what diet you choose if you do not make drastic changes in your eating and the way you think of food you will gain it back. The people who do the liquid diets actually any diet and stay all the way through the maintenance period and who have incorporated exercise into their lifestyle are the ones who are going to keep the majority of the weight off. Sometimes you have to weigh your options. In my case I am currently 60 lbs over my normal weight. I just started to have High Blood Pressure and I am pre-diabetic. What is the bigger risk? Staying the way I am or doing a liquid diet to jump start my weight loss? I have ordered The New lifestyle diet shakes and bars. I will start on Tuesday and plan on doing it for about 3 to 4 weeks, than my plan is to start going to Weight Watchers and attend the meetings regularly. I will come back and let you know how things are going!

At 1:43 AM, August 16, 2010, Blogger Rachael said...

I have been on the Optifast diet for a week and I am experiencing severe stomache cramps. I am not obeses but need to lose a few kilos and I am considering changing to weight watchers!!!
Rachael August 2010

At 1:06 PM, August 26, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I are both diabetics, nearly 60 years old, and want to continue to live and enjoy a healthy lifestyle as we age. Unfortunately, we are both approximately 100 pounds overweight and the diabetes is only the beginning of our health problems which are all related to excess weight (high blood pressure, high cholestral, etc). In the three weeks we have been on the OptiFast diet, we have lost 25 pounds (husband) and 19 pounds (me). This is a great quick start but we realize this is only that - a quick start. We will continue on the program until it ends (12 weeks of fasting and 4 weeks of learning to eat and beginning to eat healthy with regular exercise) and then look at our options. We can then continue another 16 weeks or we can move on to Weight Watchers program which we will ultimately do after we complete OptiFast. We are both very motivated and extremely pleased with the program. We have both cut our insulin intake (per doctor's orders) in half, our blood pressue is low, etc. We are seeing fantastic results in just a short time. Our choice was to continue with a very unhealthy lifestyle or to dramatically change and learn all new habits. We chose the latter option. The food is fine - drinking all of the water required is good for us too. We thank God that we could get into this program and that we have each other for support.

At 2:38 AM, July 05, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had been overweight most of my life until my mid 20s (2004) when I beat it with exercise. It was hard getting to a healthy weight but when I got there it was easy enough to maintain until mid 2009 when I got lazy and stopped the exercise and started eating out multiple times every week. I put on about 20 kg by May 2011.
I started on the optifast shakes diet at this stage (6 weeks ago). My doctor researched the clinical notes which recommended 2 cups of vegetables and 100g of lean protein for dinner which I have been having in conjunction with 3 shakes per day. I often eat a bit more for dinner than the recommendation but I have lost over 10kg so far and i'm feeling great. Loosing the weight has enabled me to get back into exercise and I'm confident that i'll be fine transitioning into a normal healthy diet. I highly recommend Optifast to those who want to loose some weight fast.

Any weight loss is good in my opinion if you are overweight. Just do what works for you!

I did body for life in 2001 with a group. I lost a lot of weight and had great gains in the gym. The only problem was that I hated it! I couldn't wait for it to end. This program was just not for me. I put all the weight back on.

At 5:25 AM, May 27, 2014, Blogger Payel Kolpona said...

The information you have given in the blog really marvelous and more interesting Optifast diet

At 7:17 PM, June 14, 2014, Blogger bossman714 said...

I started the Optifast 800 diet 3 weeks ago and so far I lost 40 pounds. I take Meta mucil sugar free fiber daily and 64 ounces of water daily and I feel great. This is a 4 month program with healthy eating maintenance towards the end of the program.

At 9:22 PM, September 29, 2015, Blogger Catherine Carter said...

It works. Yes, it's hard. Yes, you are monitored. I had 10 pounds to lose. The last 10, the difficult 10. I am short. Any extra weight looks bad on me. Yes, the medical doctor answers all your concerns and suggests things to do to alleviate extenuating circumstances, i.e.:, constipation side effects, etc. For example, my blood pressure got low, so I got to add bouillon to my diet. Overall, I felt better with less weight. I liked the team I worked with. Somehow eating less and losing weight caused my to eat less when I went back to regular food. They will also help you if you back-slide. People, being overweight is hard on your self esteem. It makes you look undisciplined, even if you are very undisciplined. Being overweight says: I dont care about how I look, just deal with it. Well, thin people dont. They laugh at you. Diss you. Disrespect you. Figure this out. Give this a try. If you dont like it, try another program. Take care of this, people. Thank you.

At 8:14 AM, February 08, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They don't wanna hear about your success and how great optifast is, they are either fat and jealous or just fat and stupid. Fat is great, stupid= you end up doing a blog believing people give a fuck about what you actually think HA HA HA HA

At 8:19 AM, February 08, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lost 42 pounds on it and like MANY people I know, have kept it off plus some since this stupid blog was written in 08..your probably dead now so who cares turdstain HA HA

At 8:22 AM, February 08, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm super fit and never laugh at fat people you turd pumpin facial taker...HA HA

At 7:16 PM, March 01, 2016, Blogger Sheree Ferguson said...

I will be starting Optifast tomorrow and after reading every single comment on this page, what I take away from this is that EVERYBODY is different, you cant tell other people NOT to try it because everybody is different. What works for one person may not work for the other.

At 3:08 PM, March 03, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quick fixes make for fast results but also lead to quick repercussions.
dukedietandfitness.orr DFC in Durham NC has an Optifast program and it is truly medically monitored as well as you actually see LICENSED, qualified in their field specialists (Nutritionists and behavioral health specialists). Eating and drinking this stuff alone will not address the mental aspects of weight loss, nor change those habits that we do when we're stressed, blue, etc. This is the benefit of being on a true Optifast program that is aided by true medical specialists. Optifast is an aid to a goal, not to be used as a cure.

At 11:03 PM, March 05, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Been on optifast off and on for 10 months (cheated in between). I have been very successful, lost 70 pounds so far. Afterwards the doctor is going to work with me to transition back to healthy eating (I'm vegetarian so I never got enough protein before). If you have a significant amount of weight to lose, this is perfect for you. Nobody wants to take 2 years to lose 60 pounds. In the beginning there may be heart racing, bit of dizziness etc...but it passes. I'm extremely comfortable on this diet now and I never get hungry - probably because my stomach has finally shrunk. People like to say "Don't do a liquid diet they are dangerous"...but being overweight is dangerous as well, and if you don't get support for doing this, cut the naysayers out. This diet is great.

At 11:06 PM, March 05, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And reading the comment above, yes it DOES change the way you handle food...stress eating etc. If you are very strong-minded and stick to it, you will adjust and not stress eat...I was a big mood eater before and over time, I realize with Optifast, I never do that anymore. Losing the weight puts you in a better place emotionally anyway.

At 2:37 PM, May 08, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I begged her not to" ..."The time has come where I need to share her experiences"

Respectfully, as someone who has struggled with weight issues her entire life, it is not helpful when well-meaning friends and family become over-involved and want to "take ownership" of our experiences and choices because they believe they know what is right for us. Fat does not = uninformed or stupid. I see that you posted this some years ago and I hope that either your friend never became aware of this blog or that you received permission to write about her experiences in this way. In her place- this would be the end of the friendship for me.

At 12:47 PM, November 27, 2016, Blogger Best Web Hosting said...

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At 3:24 PM, December 14, 2016, Blogger Unknown said...

I would have to disagree. I am about 8 weeks in - no hunger, no unpleasant side-effects. All of the products - the shakes, the bars, and the soups - taste great. Never hungry, plenty of energy - even started a regular gym routine and find myself taking the stairs and walking much more, too.

At 12:52 PM, June 09, 2017, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in my second Optifast week, 6 products a day, and have lost 6 lbs, 66 lbs to go. No side effects, having daily fiber as usual (got IBS), drinking lots of water. Our group consists of 18 people, a motivating and informed facilitator, monthly complete lab tests and full med checks. Hunger only on the first couple of days, I have no problem with products, drinking lots of water, started daily walking routine. Past Optifast folks have been stopping by to give their feedback and they all have kept most if not all their weight off after a couple of years, and changed drastically how they eat and exercise. I'm super excited.

I know that along the way I'll be reframing the way I think about food and changing my eating habits, which is part of what I wanted besides losing weight. Whether you're on Optifast, paleo, Weight Watchers, etc., you must change the way you eat. I'd rather do it slowly, but I reached a point where I just can't afford to wait a couple of years for a big weight loss.


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