What can I eat other than food substitute shakes for weight loss?

In response to a question on healthshare.com.au

If you are 60kg overweight, with limitations on your activities, weight loss can be a significant challenge. In particular, portion and calorie control can induce hunger, particularly in the first three weeks or so, and this can make it very difficult to stick with a calorie-restricted eating plan. In addition, remember that the healthy eating guidelines we use are designed for maintaining an overall active, healthy lifestyle - if you are starting from a different health position, and especially if you can't exercise, it can be difficult to lose weight with a “normal” diet.

If you've already started with optifast, consider sticking with the “intensive” optifast program for four to six weeks, as this is when you'll get the most benefit from restriction of total calories. It is also when hunger will be most noticable. The boredom you are facing with the shakes is actually designed into the program - with less food variety, there is less of a reason to eat more. Boring but effective.

If you decide that the program is not for you, many people find that restricting carbohydrates - sugar and starch - is easier in the medium-term (weeks to months) than limiting calories or portion size. This means limiting the grains, roots and fruits in your diet. This can make your diet deficient in fibre and vitamins, which needs to be taken into account if you decide to “go it alone”. You will need to eat a protein source (eg. meat or fish) and a lot of salad or low-carbohydrate vegetables such as green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, broccoli, egg plant and asparagus. The guide that comes with the optifast product that you've mentioned is a good place to start:

http://www.optifast.com.au/media/1786/optifast%20allowed%20foods.pdf

Choosing low-fat cuts of meat, low fat dairy products, limiting added fats and limiting high fat foods is also important, but you need some (not much!) fat in your diet to stay healthy.

Avoid alcohol.

Watch out for sugar in commercial dressings and sauces. Many commercial low fat products are very high in sugar - sweetened low-fat yoghurt and low-fat salad dressing spring to mind. Better to have unsweetened yoghurt, and to use vinegar with a teaspoon of oil on the salad.

Once you have made some inroads into weight loss, hopefully exercise and a more active lifestyle will be less painful and easier to achieve. You can then introduce a bit more variety, but try to limit simple carbohydrates such as sugar or “white” starches like bread, rice and pasta.

This is a huge topic on which whole books have been written; I hope the above is a useful starting point. I'll see if I can track down some more useful links to update this post with.


(Please note that optifast is a commercial product made by Nestle; it is a very low calorie meal replacement, available as shakes, soups, bars, and a few other formulations. I use optifast with my weight loss surgery patients and occasionally for those who see me for fatty liver disease. When I last reviewed the commercial products available in my area in 2010, it was the one with the best overall nutritional profile for my needs. I don't receive any sponsorship or other benefits from optifast, but you should still be aware that I use it regularly with my patients.)