Published on April 13, 2012

Optifast Program Offers Non-Surgical Weight-Loss

Group support, education are key

The patient began the Optifast® Program at the Genesis Center for Weight Management looking for a quick way to lose weight -- nothing more.

Turns out, she got more. Almost immediately, she learned the success of the program didn’t rely solely on the daily meal-replacement program of drinks, soups and bars, along with a low-fat frozen meal. Equally important was the once-a-week support group she attended with fellow Optifast® Program participants.

“As I got into the program, I quickly became aware of two things: The numbers on the scale didn’t matter so much, and most of my eating was deepseated and very emotional,” the patient writes. “I found I’m a very emotional eater. I would look for excuses and selfpitying reasons to eat. If something or someone angered or frustrated me, the minute I had a moment to sit down and unwind I wanted to eat.”

With the patient’s permission, Genesis Center for Weight Management dietitian and counselor Denise Strathdee shares this story to illustrate the self-discovery program participants typically undergo. They join to lose weight -- and quick. They want a medically supervised option, but they don’t want weight-loss surgery.

Over 18 weeks, however, they also discover the program helps them understand the powerful emotions that lead to overeating. Along with others in the group, they embark on a weight-loss journey that not only brings success at the scale but also teaches them skills to keep the weight off.

Self-discovery, group support

“A key to the program’s success is the mandatory weekly group meeting, and I would venture everyone in the group feels the same way,” says Strathdee, who leads the center’s Optifast® group. “They meet weekly over 18 weeks, and each week we discuss a module regarding some aspect of weight management and lifestyle change. The group discussion and support are phenomenal.”

Strathdee adds, “This partial mealreplacement program is classified as stimuli-narrowing. Participants don’t have to think about their food choices, so it allows them to focus on all the other factors affecting their weight and eating behavior. Patients tell me, ‘It’s nice not to have to think about food,’ so they can focus on these issues.”

During the first 12 weeks or the “fullformula phase,” topics led by Strathdee focus on behavior change and include personal responsibility, time management, stress management, body image, managing cues, building confidence and making the transition. Next, the six-week “transition phase” led by dietitian Sandi Hinz addresses nutrition topics like eating out, mindful eating, planning meals and shopping smart as participants learn how to healthfully reintroduce foods.

At the conclusion of 18 weeks, participants can continue to come to the weekly group but do not receive medical monitoring.

“The modules have been an enormous help in my journey to realization of self,” the patient writes. “I have learned so much about myself. I am a worthy person and deserve to be healthy.”

Only program in QC

With a new name and a new weight-loss option, the Genesis Center for Weight Management is the only center in the Quad Cities to offer the Optifast® Program.

While the center continues to offer the most comprehensive surgical weight loss options, Optifast® meets the needs of overweight people who want a nonsurgical, medically supervised weight loss program. Optifast® patients may have a lower body mass index (27>BMI) than surgical patients and don’t have to have a co-morbidity to qualify.

Patients age 21 and older, depending on their health and the amount of weight they need to lose, are placed in a highrisk or low-risk category. To qualify as low risk, they must have a BMI ranging from 27 to 40 and no significant diagnosis other than obesity. High risk can include those patients who have a BMI over 40 or a significant medical condition in addition to their obesity, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, a history of an eating disorder or substance abuse.

In 18 weeks, Optifast® patients can expect to lose 5-15 percent of their baseline weight. Patients eat 1,200 or 1,500 calories a day, depending on how much weight they need to lose. The program’s cost averages $150-$165 a week, which includes medical monitoring, lifestyle education, counseling, group support and all the meal replacements, with the exception of a low-fat frozen meal each day. The Optifast® program is typically not covered by health insurance carriers.

Optifast® patients at Genesis also have seen their health risk factors improve. “I’ve enjoyed a huge decrease in insulin. As a Type 2 diabetic, I took four shots a day of two types of insulin, as well as oral medication,” the patient writes. “I now take one type of insulin one time a day, and that dose has been reduced by half.”

Strathdee concludes: “Optifast® patients lose weight at a steady pace, but the difference is they’re learning how to manage the factors that have affected their weight in the past. Most people can go on a diet and lose weight. The problem is managing the weight loss. Unless you learn to address the issues that affect your eating, there’s much more likelihood the weight will come back on.”

For more information about the Optifast program, call (563) 421-8361.

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