Back in 2019 I wrote about my weight loss journey over the years and how it’s been fraught with ups and downs. For a while I did well with daily updates as I started a 30 day squat challenge and focused more on diet and lifestyle, but eventually I kind of fell off from doing that and then with everything that went on last year with Covid, the lockdowns, and being one of the fortunate people who did not get laid off from their job I disappeared while I just tried to keep up with all of the demands life was placing on me. So I thought it was about time to give an update on where I stand as of August 2021. Also, be kind. I’m not super comfortable sharing some of this, including the photos, but I wanted to be totally honest and hopefully encourage others who also struggle with their weight and feeling comfortable in their own bodies.
The Nightmare of 2020
2020 was a rough year for everyone (I presume). While it was considerably worse for some than it was for me, the constant news of unrest and pandemics made for a very stressful season of life. As a result of this, and my bad habits of stress eating and feeling generally disinterested in working out without being able to go to the gym I found myself slowly gaining weight as the months went on. Finally by January of 2021 I was weighing in at an embarrassing 350 pounds; the highest I have ever weighed in my entire life. I knew I needed to do something, but I found myself overwhelmed and paralyzed, but eventually I was able to rebound.
A Diet Plan that Worked
My father-in-law had always been a big guy as long as I’ve known him. He wasn’t quite as heavy as I was, but he was, in many ways, in the same boat of struggling with self-control when it came to food because — let’s be honest — we like good food and enjoy it way too much. Over the course of 2020 I’d heard that he was losing weight and getting healthier but I hadn’t really thought too much about it until November when my family and I went to visit and I was shocked! He had lost about 75 pounds and was looking great. I asked him what he did and he told me about a diet plan called Optavia that he had been using and I was genuinely impressed, but even then I wasn’t considering it for myself until a few months later he called and offered to pay half for me to sign up and start the diet as well.
Now I’m not the kind of guy to think diets don’t work, because they do. Now for how long is another thing entirely, and they work differently for different people, but obviously these commercial diets do work or they wouldn’t continue to have a returning customer base. I’ve had success with other diet plans in the past; lost 15 pounds on weight watchers when I was a teenager, lost 30 pounds on the THM diet in my twenties, lost 25 pounds on the paleo diet in my early thirties. The problem has always been that I struggle with keeping it off afterward because those diets focus on losing the weight and pushing a “lifestyle change” based on their particular plans. Now in many ways Optavia is the exact same way. It’s overpriced food for what you get but it’s structured and does what it’s designed to do, but when you get off it’s a struggle to not gain the weight back. They do have books to go through that are designed to keep you on track after the diet, but let’s be honest, a lot of us aren’t going to want to sit down and read a text book about a diet when you’ve got real life going on all around you.
While I was unsure about the Optavia plan, I figured it’d be worth at least trying since my in-laws were offering to pay half; so I did. I started the plan in mid-February weighing in at 348.8 pounds.
I felt gross. I hated that I had let myself get so heavy and I hoped that this diet would work, but to be completely honest I didn’t expect much. To my surprise, the method of the diet — a 5 snack and 1 meal daily plan — worked really well. I dropped a ton of weight (likely mostly water and salt weight) in the first couple of weeks and by the end of march I had hit my first goal of dropping below 300 pounds for the first time since 2015.
Phase 2: The Race to 275
I don’t know how you operate, but for me I need to set goals. Admittedly I may sometimes be too lofty in those goals, but it helps me feel like I’m achieving something so once I hit my first goal of getting to 300 pounds (a loss to that point of 50 pounds since my heaviest) I wanted to get to 275. After the initial shock to my system of getting on the Optavia diet wore off the weight loss obviously slowed. I wouldn’t have another rapid drop like those first two weeks again, and that’s a good thing. It was really cool, and very encouraging on the outset to see the weight just melt away. It was, honestly, what I needed to build my confidence and get me out of my own head to recognize that I could do this because while food and habits are obviously part of the problem, the biggest problem was mental and emotional.
Over the next few weeks I would continue to drop around 4-6 pounds a week by remaining very strict on the plan. I would pack 5 “fuelings” to take to work with me and then would enjoy my one “lean and green” meal when I got home. There are lists and recipes online on how to make all sorts of elaborate lean and green meals, but for me simplicity was the best thing I could do. I would make 6 ounces of chicken breast with 1.5 cups of veggies (green beans, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc). Was it fancy? No. Was it simple? Yes. Did I get tired of it? Sure. Was it easy and quick? Absolutely, and over the next few weeks I chipped away at my goal.
I eventually got there in May and was starting to really feel good. By that point I had lost 75 pounds and I could feel it. I could carry my daughter up and down the stares without breaking a sweat and without my joints hurting afterward. I could move around better and was down to wearing XXL shirts rather than XXXL. It was a long road ahead, but at this point I was feeling like I’d accomplished something I didn’t think I would. Rather than being resigned to a life of obesity, I felt like there was actually hope for a better life.
Frustrations Along the Way
Now before I continue, I feel like I should take a moment to be totally honest. This diet was not terrible, but it wasn’t without plenty of frustrations. Being the only person in the house on the diet was kind of rough at times, especially when the family would be having pizza, or curry, or something really good like that which wasn’t all the time, but it was never not a frustration. It was difficult at times to not give in to the temptation to cheat, but eventually it got easier.
I would sometimes cheat on special occasions, and it would throw off the weight loss for a few days, but it always leveled back out pretty soon thereafter. There were a couple of times over the last few months where I did take a week or two off of the diet and was not careful and the weight came back really fast… like 10 pound gains in 7-10 days, but getting back on plan would get me back down pretty quick too, which lends more to my theory that it was mostly water and sodium being gained and lost.
Probably the biggest frustration I had, though, came from doing physical work. The diet seems to be such an exact balance of macros and caloric intake vs output that doing any kind of real physical activity would cause me to plateau for 3-4 days at a time. Now I work in IT, so my job is pretty sedentary generally speaking. Most of my work can be done remotely from my desk and the stuff that is hands on is pretty light. However, in December we moved out of the city and bought a small farm that we are cultivating and developing, and part of that is getting outside and hauling stuff around, digging holes, planting trees and other plants, so there were multiple weeks where I felt like I was just spinning my tires as we were getting the infrastructure in place for our animals and such. In the end, I got past this and the weight loss continued.
Phase 3: Finishing Well
By June I started noticing that my clothes were getting quite loose. I had to get some new shorts and some new shirts (which even now are kind of loose), and thankfully I’m a packrat when it comes to my clothes so I still had a good amount of smaller clothes from before I gained the weight back that I’ve been able to fit into.
By July I had dropped down to my third goal of 250 pounds. I felt lighter, my joints felt even better, I could play more with my kids, I didn’t mind going out and doing work on a hot day because it wasn’t so miserable with all that extra insulation gone. I could now sleep on my back without because my sleep apnea had gone away, and I was fitting into clothes that I wasn’t able to fit into even at my previous lowest weight of 248 way back in 2008!
Since then I have wrapped up my time with Optavia. It was just too expensive to keep up with, but understanding the principles of what the diet was doing I have started swapping out other things that are more or less comparable. While on the diet I was only taking in about 800-900 calories per day which, while effective at dropping the weight, is not sustainable or conducive to my lifestyle (i.e. farm chores, working out, etc). When I finally finished the last of my Optavia fuelings I had hit an all time low at 244 pounds, though I have gained a few pounds back over the last week or so of not being very careful. It’s a good reminder to be wary of old habits that are hard to break.
Phase 4: Moving Forward
While I’ve lost an incredible amount of weight over the last 6 months, I’m not done. I’m still overweight, still obese technically. I’m happy with the results I’ve seen during my time with Optavia:
- Lost 100 pounds
- Went from wearing 44 waist to 36
- Went from XXXL shirt to XL (and in some brands even a L)
As I’ve said several times in this post, I’ve got more energy than I’ve had in many, many years. My back and knees no longer hurt like they used to, and I’m able to carry my 75 pound child up and down the stairs with relative ease. It’s been quite a journey so far, but I plan to continue on this path to better health. Continuing with my modified diet, I plan to start going to a local gym in town and start getting in better shape. I’m actually excited about running again, and I really miss lifting. A goal I have is to drop another 50 pounds settling in around 200 or so, while building enough strength to compete in the highland games at our local Scottish festival once they start meeting up again! I wanted to wrap this up by giving thanks.
- To God for blessing me with the opportunity and support to make it this far.
- To my wife and kids for their support and encouragement, and for being patient with me when I would get grumpy and hangry.
- To my in-laws for their financial assistance with the diet. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to afford it, and without it I probably would still be at the same weight I was at in February.
- To those of you who have support me along the way with likes and follows on these health and fitness related posts. It’s been encouraging when those notifications come in that people are actually interested in seeing how this is going.
If you’ve had experience with Optavia, or have lost weight some other way I’d love to hear about it in the comments, or reach out to me directly. I’m hoping to start posting here again more often, so be sure to check back or sign up for the email list.