Hunger Games

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The Medifast food closet (aka Fuel Mecca)

Decision-making isn’t my forté. I’m the girl who’ll stand in the cereal aisle for 10 minutes reading food labels, then decide I want to go gluten-free and walk away empty-handed. This indecision has extended for years into reading books and articles on integrative nutrition, only to find myself overwhelmed with choices about wellness and losing weight.

I’ve gone Paleo, tried intermittent fasting and done my fair share of juice cleanses. In fact, I once considered dating a guy from Whole Foods just to get a discount on my favorite BluePrintCleanse beverages. (Because, hey, the only thing better than drinking kale all day is paying $11.99 per serving for the privilege.)

None of these experiments resulted in any significant changes in my body—or my brain. I still obsessed over my weight every 37 seconds and remained as poor as ever with food planning and preparation. (Think: picking up Thai takeout on the way home from work at 9 p.m.) Worse, I started chronically missing my classes at the gym and feeling like a slug.

So one day last winter, I said ENOUGH. I drove straight to the Medifast Weight Control Center in Pikesville and walked inside saying, “I’m looking for a quick fix.”

After sitting down to discuss my health history, lifestyle and goals with Heather Gotsch, one of the center’s super-sweet nutrition coaches, I committed to trying Medifast’s jump-start program—also known as the “5 & 1 Plan”—for 30 days. This includes eating five specially formulated Medifast meals (about 100 calories each) plus one “Lean & Green” meal that I would prepare myself each day. Due to the assertive calorie reduction (consuming no more than 1,000 calories per day) I also agreed to stay relatively sedentary during the first few weeks while my body adjusted.

Then it was time to PICK MY FOOD!

I have to admit, the first time I walked into the Medifast “food closet” (which I now refer to as Fuel Mecca) I was a little shocked by the options for my so-called meals.

They seemed more like snacks. “You mean this is all I’m going to be eating at one sitting?” I asked, (wo)man-handling a bag of no-more-than-12 honey mustard pretzels.

But Heather assured me that Medifast foods are scientifically engineered to help with satiety. They’re all uber-low-carb and fortified with vitamins, fiber and either soy or whey protein. Plus, she added: I would be eating more often throughout the day—every two to three hours—and threw in a reminder about that two-piece bathing suit I hope to wear this summer. So I packed up two bags filled with bars, shake mixes and just-add-water meals like crab soup and chocolate chip pancakes, then hit the road—feeling a little pre-performance anxiety but excited about the month ahead.

WEEK 1: I’M HANGRY! If you’re not familiar with the word, “hangry” is the dangerous combination of being hungry and angry at the same time. It took me about three to four days to get past this stage. To say that I had an epic hissy in the STYLE lunchroom when my Medifast mac-and-cheese boiled over in the microwave would be an understatement. For me, it helped to remember that I was hangry for a reason. The goal of Week 1 is to kick your metabolism into high gear—specifically the fat-burning state known as ketosis, which occurs when you drastically reduce carbs and up your protein intake. Weigh-In: Down 7.5 pounds.

WEEK 2: THE CORNBREAD INCIDENT. Being in ketosis has some funky side effects. Some people get a metallic taste in their mouths, but I got as parched as Marco Rubio delivering his post-State of the Union
address. Seriously, I couldn’t hold a conversation without chugging water and applying ChapStick like a crazy woman. The lesson here is that people often mistake thirst for hunger. Whenever I felt hungry after eating one of my mini-meals, I just drank a glass of water—waited 20 minutes—and the hunger subsided. So, by the way, did nearly all my carb cravings.

I did have one precarious moment at Mission BBQ when I ordered a salad with sliced turkey breast—and received a surprise piece of cornbread. I stared it down, admittedly took a bite off the corner, then covered it in Memphis Belle sauce and smushed it with a napkin—all the while picturing Fat Elvis in white spandex. Have mercy! Weigh-In: Down 3.5 pounds.

WEEK 3: LOVE ME (CHICKEN) TENDER. For fear of messing up my diet, I ate almost all the same Lean & Green meal (chicken + dry lettuce + tomato salsa) for the first two weeks—never once feeling bored with my Medifast options. I fell in love with the baked ziti—it’s nothing to look at, but it’s delicioso—and the chocolate mint bars, which I swear are better than Girl Scout cookies. But Week 3 presented my first major snag. Let’s just say it started with Valentine’s Day and leave it at that. In the week that followed, I proceeded to pull through a McDonald’s drive-through to order a 32-ounce Coke Zero to eat with my Medifast cheese puffs…for breakfast. I microwaved two bars (at once!) and topped them off with low-cal whipped cream.  And I scarfed 36 black olives (that’s four individual packages mind you) at 2 a.m. While none of these foods were technically off-plan, it was a reminder than any food can be “abused” if you’re eating it for emotional reasons. Weigh-In: Down 2 pounds.

WEEK 4: MORNING, SUNSHINE. This week, I needed to incorporate exercise back into my life—if only for the endorphins! When I first started Medifast, I was zonked by the end of the day and went to bed early with a bowl of Froot Loops-esque cereal and almond milk. But by the end of the month, I was full of energy—and full of hope. I kicked butt in my Spin class but was careful to watch my food intake afterward so I didn’t overcompensate for the calories I burned. The last four weeks have restored my faith in my willpower—and the ability to make big changes in my life despite having a crazy schedule. Best of all, I woke up two hours early on the last day of my program because…wait for it…I was excited to look at my body in the full-length mirror. Now that’s worth demolishing some cornbread, don’t you think? Weigh-In: Down 3.5 pounds.

TOTAL WEIGHT LOSS: I lost 16.5 pounds and 15 inches. (Yes, two of them were in my boobs, but I like it!) In fact, I’m so inspired I’ve decided to continue my wellness journey and see where it goes. Stay tuned in the mag!

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