Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Product Review: Say Goodbye to Hunger?

The Medifast Diet keeps popping up on my computer, begging me to take a look. Finally, I acquiesce. I’m invited to try a diet that eliminates decisions, freeing me from the calorie- and carb-counting I’m presumed to do on a daily basis. The solution? They count for me, and I get roughly four. . . of each.

The program consists of five Medifast meals per day, accompanied by one “Lean and Green” meal (“lean protein and salad greens”). The Medifast website states: "The clinically proven results of Medifast are designed to create a healthy gap between the calories you take in and the amount your body burns, thus promoting natural weight loss." According to my calculations, and based on the roughly 3,500 caloric-deficit needed for a pound of weight-loss, that’s a “gap” of 2,333 calories a day. If you were eating 2,500 calories a day (and maintaining your weight at that figure), you’ll now eat 167. I don’t see any program-recommended exercise, except for that suggested during the post-diet, “weight-maintenance” stage. In fact, the website states that, “Unless you are already exercising, you should not begin an exercise program in the first few weeks of weight loss.” Clearly, with a deficit of 2,333 calories a day, you’re not going to be able to run that far.

The website advertises that “Medifast programs have been recommended by over 15,000 physicians.” What physicians are recommended this program, given that most people in-the-know do not recommend more than a 1-2 pound weight-loss per week (and this is up to 5)? I also wonder what kind of chemicals, fillers, and multisyllabic ingredients they’re passing off as a meal (the site indicates that most products use “acesulfame potassium” as a sweetener).

The copy promises you’ll never get hungry. That "fast" is part of the product name doesn't bode well for you feeling satisfied. And, anyway, how is this even possible? If you’re eating 2,333 calories per day less than you’re burning, I’d think you’d be hungry! And so do they, to some extent: The FAQ’s page encourages users to take an antacid to deal with persistent hunger pains. Other potential side effects they list? Diarrhea, gurgling stomach cramps, constipation, bad breath, feeling cold, skin rashes, heartburn, and hair loss. All this for short-term weight-loss. After all, even the Medifast people recognize the difficulty of keeping off weight, once you’ve completed the program. The site states:
You will maintain your success by making long-term changes in your lifestyle such as healthy eating and consistent exercise. You may also need to work on how you cope with life so that you don't reach for food when you are experiencing stress, depression or other emotional needs.
If you could do all this, you wouldn’t be turning to Medifast in the first
place. . . .


ps22 said...

I'm not sure if I followed all the details correctly...but either way, that diet sounds scary, dangerous, and ridiculous! Antacid as a substitute....i'm no physician....but wouldn't that kill your stomach lining?Ewwwww! Let's all bombard there site with angry messages!

HaileySqueek said...

I went on a diet very similar to Medifast 3 1/2 years ago. Aside from my stint on Phen-Fen, it was the most ridiculous and unhealthy diet I have ever been on. I did it through a medically supervised program at a world renowned university. Actually, this diet might have been worse than Medifast because I wasn't allowed a "lean and grean" meal. I could only eat their shakes and bars. I had to go into the clinic every week for a medical exam, and they took my blood once a month. I guess to make sure I wasn't going to die. One day while I was there another patient had to be taken away in an ambulance.

The first week was miserable. I have never been so hungry. That shouldn't come as a surprise since I was literally starving. After the first week, the hunger did stop. From what I have read about starvation, that's normal. The body must realize that the hunger signals aren't working and that it's not going to get any food.

I lasted a little more than a month on this diet. I missed eating food, and I just couldn't do it anymore. I started eating just a little bit - like one egg a day or a salad with vinegar on it. Then I started eating more and more until I was eating out of control. I lost 20 pounds on this diet. Over the next year and a half I gained 55 pounds. I have learned the hard way that the more extreme the diet is, the more weight I will gain afterwards.

Stacy said...

I used to belong to a dieting forum that had a pro-anorexic folder, and much of the Medifast diet is eerily similar to what these anorexic posters did during their 'diets'. I am so fed up with all these short-term diet plans being promoted by certain doctors and media outlets, but I guess there'll be a market for them as long as consumers keep falling for them.

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jennifer said...

Something you said got me to thinking, "I am so fed up with all these short-term diet plans...but I guess there'll be a market for them as long as consumers keep falling for them." I'm not sure that this just applies to the dieting industry. People, as a whole are always looking for a "quick fix" - look at all of the gimmicks out there: get rich quick, earn your degree quick, etc. etc. Maybe part of the issue lies within our tendencies to lean toward ANYTHING that promises the results we're looking for without having to work for them.

Beth said...

If the program is recommended by so many physicians, it sounds like it could be one of those specific heart/diabetic patient diets that they use for a week or so before or after surgery. Under normal circumstances, I would hope most doctors these days are progressive enough to know the implications of such a restrictive diet on weight loss attempts.
Thank you also for noting how unhealthy the chemical artificial sweetner additive is. So many "lite" foods have these, and I lived for years thinking they would help me keep weight down/energy up. In the long run, it seems they can make us hungrier/ lethargic. Maybe if people can follow your lead to ignore these fad diet programs, they will eventually be a horrible memory.

BigAssBelle said...

There's little or no hunger on Medifast because the body goes into ketosis within a couple of days. That keeps hunger at bay.

I think these "short term" solutions have a role to play in some instances of extreme obesity. In too many cases, though, they're promoted as a way for someone to lose 10, 20, 30 pounds.

I was on a hospital supervised liquid fast program for 7 months. I saw a doctor weekly, had blood work done, attended nutrition classes, had an exercise physiologist.

Why would I do this when the simple answer is just eat intuitively and listen to my body? Because I was dying, no joke. My blood pressure was 150/100 when I started; cholesterol out of sight. I could barely walk and was in constant pain, constantly exhausted. At 358 pounds I felt hopeless and desperate and was physically failing at a rapid pace. I could no longer function. I needed a critical intervention, in the same manner that critical flare-ups of chronic diseases are treated in a manner that is outside of the day to day routine of managing the illness.

At -120 pounds now, I am physically able to get around with no problem. My blood pressure is 100/60 with half the meds. Pulse is 58. I can go all day without stopping, exhaustion is not a problem.

I agree with most of what you say here. Your very thoughtful and concerned approach to this serious issue, especially as it affects the lives of women, is much appreciated.

I know that the chances of returning to that state of obesity are excellent, but they are excellent with any single plan for reducing, even gentle eating and intuitive eating, all of that. In my case, I had to take a drastic action to save my life.


drstaceyny said...

ps--yeah, the antacid rec. is troublesome, especially since it's proposed to deal w/hunger--which they say you won't experience in the first place!

hs--oh, my goodness. I agree abt the diet rebound effect.

stacy--interesting pt. And, to your last statement, that's probably true. Thanks for reading. . .

jennifer--godd point, abt this being indicative of a generally impatient (lazy?) culture.

beth--to your first point, it seems like a diet for everyone (I could have signed up online!) To your last pt, I would hope, but given the comemnts above, I'm not so sure.

bab--first, I'm glad you're so much healthier today. For someone who's BP was 150/100, I can understand going to extreme measures, and I'm glad that the program worked for you. I'm not sure, however, abt the long-term results of this program, especially since it causes drastic changes in metabolic activity ( though it sounds like you've been successful in maintaining you weight-loss).

Jenn said...

hi drstacyny,

My name is Jenn, I am 21 , and was obese @ 230 (im only 5ft) and felt horrible physically, and yes my being overweight was an emotional issue. My cousin , my aunt , and myself started this diet on May 15th, to this day im down a total of 43 lbs. I am going to be very honest. I was skeptical of this diet, and even concerned about not eating but one "real meal" as you might think it a day, and 5 meal replacements a day. But I am living proof that the diet does work (and if you want me to refer you to a forum full of people also making huge progress and keeping it off for extended periods of time , as in years) i most certainly can. The diet is recommended by physicians and not just for diabetics or people with heart disease, though with my aunt she has both and it does work for her as well. The diet doesnt replace food. In fact there is a whole transition period of about 1-2 months where you slowly reincorporate food back and learn to make healthier decisions. No medifast isnt for everyone. There is a lot of food I havent had in a long time, like pasta (and i am italian so i do miss it!) but ...it is all about will power. Some people lose better other ways. I lose better this way and this diet has changed my thinking of foods. or as you might put it..fixation with foods. I was suffering from binge eating disorder for a long time do to a lot of emotional events that happened in my life. My dad's sudden death pushed my weight well over 200 lbs when he died in 03.

As far as any health issues or side effects.. well as far as my digestion track goes i rarely ever get problems... if anything i had more issues with indigestion before starting this diet.And as cheesy as it sounds i feel less tired and more energetic. I have 2 nephews who would make me want a nap after 10 minutes before i started this diet. Now I go swimming with them on the weekends and get to have fun with them.

I think it is good to be skeptical of something like medifast..or any diet for that matter. However I think maybe you should try and get more information. say from a nutrition. or even call medifast because i believe they have nutritionists or nurses that can answer questions you have about the diet. or find a physician that specializes in weight loss (maybe one that recommends medifast and is well informed on the diet). Just so you know i am a real person...and i do not work for or am in anyway afiliated with medifast..just someone trying to get healthy my weightloss blog is online at dntcrylilemogrl.extrapounds.com and my email is dntcrylilemogrl@gmail.com if you want to ask me anything further because if your planning to right a book...you shouldnt just get one side of things...you should get complete info.

Jenn B. in Florida

Anonymous said...

I've been on Medifast for 3 and 1/2 months now. The diet works. That's really all that needs to be said, but i won't stop there. i've lost 36 pounds since i started on June 1, 2006. THere is nothing strange about hthis diet. it is a standard VLCD (very low calorie diet for those not into bariatric medicine lingo). It has balanced protein and carbs and allows you to eat 5 approximately 100 calrie mini-meals and one healthy lean and green meal of about 400 calories per day. If you really want to understand the math and the whole concept of mild ketosis, I suggest that you spend an hour or two having a conversation with a bariatric physician. As a person who supposedly holds and advanced degree, you show a shocking level of ignorance when it comes to the whole science of weight loss and metabolism. I don't understand your calculations and,frankly, they don't even make sense as written. I would be happy to discuss my (very happy) experiences with this diet and can refer you to dozens of other folks who will be happy to back me up. I don't have any affiliation with the company, other than as a satisfied customer.

Anonymous said...

I would also like to comment and state that you sound woefully under-educated about VLCDs in general and more specifically Medifast. These diets are in fact suggested by physicians all over the country including my physician at the Cleveland Clinic. You may want to speak to a variety of endocrinologists and bariatric surgeons about these diets before you pass judgement on them. They were formulated so that severely obese individuals could try to lose weight without surgical intervention. They are amazingly similar to the post-op diet followed by people who have had bariatric surgery performed. The protein and carbohydrates in the formulates supplements are of a high nutrient quality so that all of the food a dieter is eating is useful to the body as opposed to most of the food contained in a typical american diet.

Is it super healthy? No probably not. I mean it is a low calorie diet. It is only formulated to sustain a moderate amount of exercise. However, if you are that overweight the benefits of the weight loss make it worth it.

My blood pressure has dropped by over 30 points. My cholesterol has dropped to normal. All of my internal organs are functioning normally as shown via blood tests. I have lost almost 50 pounds in 5 months. I no longer have attacks of IBS. Contrary to your opinion I am not starving. I have plenty of energy and practice pilates three times a week.

If you want to actually have an informed opinion do some research. There are other diets who follow the same premise which was researched and set forth by the medical community. Do you have a medical specialization in obesity and nutrition? They do.

Look at the New LifeStyle Diet, Optifast, Medifast, HMR. You will find that these diets are backed by medical research. They have also been the subject of investigations into their advertising and they do not say anything that the government thinks they have no right to claim.

annie said...

I was mystified by Jenn's and the two anons' reactions to your comments about dieting, Medifast in particular. Part of what has drawn me to your sight daily is the sense of community I feel from your blog--your posts and your viewer comments are supportive, nurturing, and empathic. They must be unhappy people to be so enraged by one person's observations. The fact that you are a practicing psychologist in Manhattan is almost secondary to the fact that you have pulled together an enormous number of women who have gained the strength to face their demons by your carefully thought out and researched observations. Your clinical evaluations of dieting schemes seem to come from experience with women who are in despair over their failure to lose weight on these eating regimens. Even more, your focus is on women who devalue themselves as a result. Horray for them that they are not in this group. If they are as satisfied with themselves as they claim to be then I doubt that they would have had such a venomous reaction to your expose, not to mention Jenn lowering herself on her own blog (which I visited after reading her comment here)to comment on an obvious typo. Maybe when she calms down and is less "annoyed at ignorance to 'right' now" she might turn inward a little and try to figure out why she can become so insensed at someone taking a different position from hers. Personally, diets haven't worked for me. Our different experiences with inherently similar problems might have stirred a camaraderie between us instead of widening a gulf between individuals who seem to be competing with one another. For me, the point to your blog, the beauty of it, in fact, is that it has pulled people (from all over the world, I might add) together in a concerted effort to be kind to and understand each other. Too bad for her that she just doesn't get it.

Missy said...

Hi there -- This is just a quick note to say you've got your facts wrong here. I did Medifast for 2 months and lost about 18 pounds, so I know of what I speak.

With Medifast you get 800-1000 calories/day. (The packets are generally about 100 calories each, and you get five, and the bars are over 200, which you can substitute for one of the packets, plus there's the "lean and green" meal.) That qualifies it as a very low calorie diet, but that's a far cry more than the 150 calories or so you mentioned in your blog.

Was I hungry? Yes, the first three days were awful. After that I got used to it and did not walk around feeling hungry all the time.

Was it worth it? Oh, my, yes. After I lost those initial pounds, my knee started feeling much better and I was able to start exercising at a local gym every day. Now I'm doing a very sensible diet, 1200-1500 calories a day, with lots of fruit and vegetables, and that combined with the exercise has allowed me to continue losing weight. I'm up to 29 pounds gone now and feel fantastic.

And after I stopped doing Medifast, I just went back to eating regular foods (but healthy foods) and I did not gain back any weight at all I lost on Medifast. It was a great way to jumpstart my new healthy lifestyle, and I don't regret having done it for the short period of time I did.

Anonymous said...

Aloha, I started Medifast June 26, 2006 and have lost 47 pounds to date.I am 5'10 and started off weighing in at 250 pounds. I've tried a multitude of prescription drugs, diets and exercise plans - with no success. My doctor recommended this plan and has discussed a maintenance program for life after Medifast. This plan has given me a new lease on life and has been the only plan that has worked. A Hui Ho, Cate

Anonymous said...

I don't think that I was feeling "venomous" when I wrote my response to DrStacey's strange and ill-informed "clinical analysis" of the Medifast program. I was just shocked that someone could write a critique of a medically approved weight loss program after simply reading the company's website and not actually researching that which she was panning in her critique. I belong to a wonderfully supportive group of folks successfully losing weight on Medifast. All of us experienced the same frustration of which you speak in your comment, the seeming inability to lose weight on any of the various weight loss drugs or diets circulating in the popular culture. When I discovered Medifast, and I found this group of successful and supportive folks on-line, I couldn't wait to try it. I was skeptical and bought only enough to last one month. I promised myself and my husband that I would give it an honest, no cheating trial for 30 days and if I wasn't happy I would return any unused product and demand the refund promised in their literature. I was very happy to find that I had lost 16 pounds at the end of the first month. After the initial water loss the first week, my weight loss went down to a very moderate loss of 2-3 pounds per week. I have been so miserable for so long about my inability to lose. I have an auto-immune thyroid disorder which has made it very difficult for me to lose weight prior to Medifast and I had just about resigned myself to a lifetime of being fat. I am so grateful to have found Medifast. Admittedly this diet is not for everyone. It's not for people who don't want to discipline themselves to eating from a list of approved foods. It is not for anyone who wants to cheat on their diet or jump on and off their diet at frequent intervals. It is not for folks who, like my dearest friend, want to eat what they want to eat, when they want to eat it. It is for people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. I couldn't take the pain in my knees going up and down the stairs in my own home. Within the first 2 weeks of starting on Medifast, the pain was gone. Since losing over 35 pounds on Medifast the people I see every day tell me that I look so much happier and that I am "glowing". I am so pleased with the results of this diet. I have reduced my blood pressure by 20 points in the last 3 months. I still have 20 pounds to go to reach my goal weight, but I can attest to the old cliche that "nothing succeeds like success". My weight loss to this point is so motivating that I know I will reach my goal.
People reading this blog, do your own research. Don't let anyone steer you away from a product that is medically approved by thousands of physicians and has been used for over 10 years for safe and effective weight loss. Read the Johns Hopkins study in which Medifast was proved to be effective and ask your own doctor if this program is something that you should consider.


Jenn said...

annie, yes at first i was annoyed..and no i wasnt being venomess.. im sorry but my own personal blog is my business if i want to write when i am upset which is one way i also deal with my weight problem, by getting things out rather than holding them in. I later got an email from dr stacy and i really appreciated her honest response back to me. and i agree with her that diets , including this one are certainly not for everyone, especially those that dont want to or have trouble making permanent changes after the diet which i agree yo-yo dieting is a dangerous thing, i have seen my mother do it plenty of times. None of us "medifasters" are being venomous, we were just commenting that there was not correct information. and to jump on the other side of the fence... who is being venomous again?

Ps22 said...

"Let's all bombard there site with angry messages! "

10:44 AM

I am not and was not looking to start a fight on stacy's blog here. just to say that medifast has helped quite alot of people, and that she didnt have all the facts before criticizing the diet.

how would you feel if you were doing something good for yourself, and people attacked your methods when you knew they weren't wrong.That you weren't putting dangerous chemicals or whatnot into your body. Some of us have had eating disorders before, we have been treated wrongly because of our weight and now we are doing something about it and people make "venomous" comments toward the diet (and yes when you make those comments toward the diet they are toward us too). If you want community, then be more open minded and don't let others feel ostracized for their methods. Even if the methods weren't healthy, would you want to turn those people off ? I was merely trying to be helpful by saying she doesn't have complete info written in her blog about the diet and I did feel like she was attacking it and the people on it.(yes maybe I played the devil's advocate by questioning her info, but so be it, if she is writing a book so heavily covering the issue she is covering,she would want both pros and cons about things).

But anyways, thank you stacey for your email, i am glad that you would respond to me. That speaks volumes for your character (in a good way) and I shall read your blog a bit more, some stuff you said i definitely see your points, but alas if we all thought alike it would be a boring world :)

take care

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