Health Team

Low calorie, liquid diets prove effective with medical supervision

Posted March 2
Updated March 3

Liquid diets can help spark weight loss and healthier lifestyles, but experts say they should not be done without professional help.

Experts at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center said that a WRAL story from two years ago led many more people to choose a program called Optifast – and it's changing lives.

Soups, bars and shakes comprise the core of the Optifast diet. Optifast is a very low calorie, mostly liquid diet that recommends people eat just 800 calories a day.

In March of 2014, Betty Sue Taylor started out like everyone on the Optifast program: with a complete medical evaluation. Her blood pressure and cholesterol were spiking due to an eat-and-run diet.

"I tend to be an emotional stress eater," Taylor said."(I) love comfort food, don't we all?"

Taylor did the 18-week program and continued her regular medical checkups.

"(Clients will) meet weekly with me and another expert, either in nutrition, behavior and fitness," said Dr. William Yancy, program director at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center.

Clients transition first to a modified liquid diet and learn how to make the best real food choices to maintain their weight loss.

Taylor lost 70 pounds.

"Taking 70 pounds off my ankle has been wonderful," Taylor said.

She broke her fast food addiction.

Roland Beauchaine's addiction was alcohol and cigarettes.

"I quit drinking and quit smoking," Beauchaine said. "Then I started gaining weight. I had one hip replaced. I could have another hip and both knees or I can do something about my weight."

He liked Optifast's structure and simplicity. So, he broke his bad habits and started fresh.

"I've lost over 60 pounds," Beauchaine said. "I've lost over 20 percent of my body weight. My sugar numbers are way down. My arthritis has now gotten bearable."

On average, Optifast patients lose more than 50 pounds and experience an 11 percent decrease in blood pressure and a 14 percent decrease in cholesterol.

The three key elements of success are: medical supervision, nutrition education and group support.

"So, once a week, coming to the meetings is certainly valuable," Beauchaine said.

Food temptations will always be around, but Taylor has a few words that keep her committed.

"Nothing tastes as good as fit and trim feels," Taylor said. "When you feel better, your whole outlook changes.


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