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Picture of Spare Ribs and Lettuce

One lean and green meal per day

A friend and co-worker told me about a diet plan he was on. I was cynical—I figured the primary design of the diet plan was to sell overpriced food to overweight customers. He explained that his wife had tried just about everything—unsuccessfully—but they had agreed to try this plan together. In the months following, I saw this friend and his wife slim down most impressively. If nothing else had worked for them but this plan did, then maybe…? But no. The plan violated two of my fundamental principles: it was expensive and it involved processed foods.

Later, unexpectedly, a woman in my church mentioned that she was using the same diet plan: Medifast. Now, this woman has a reputation for being sensible, so my cynicism was transmuted into mere skepticism. Maybe the plan was not a complete humbug; but it probably was not going to be of any use to me. I was not about to shackle myself with strange foods, calorie-counting, and near starvation. This woman is not only sensible but patient, so she explained (probably several times before I really heard her) how the plan largely avoided hunger. A person ate every two hours, and the foods were designed to meet nutritional needs. Since the meals were high in protein, one did not feel hungry as quickly. In fact, it is critical to avoid feeling hungry. A hungry body reduces its metabolism and shifts into starvation mode—storing every ounce of energy it can. OK, fine! But the meals was expensive and involved processed foods.

(I hasten to add that I have no known stake in Medifast. For every dime of revenue they earn, I get exactly nothing.)

As I thought about it more, I could see the upsides of the plan: eat every two hours, lots of protein, eat every two hours, balanced nutrition, eat every two hours, and avoid hunger and the starvation effect. And to top it all off, the plan called for a meal every two waking hours. There were several upsides, but I confess that the one that was most attractive was that I would be eating every two hours. But seriously, the idea was that frequent, albeit small, meals would help ensure that the body would not feel threatened by deprivation and defend itself by kicking into a starvation mode. As it turned out, there was a second benefit to the frequency of meals: it was easier to deal with the tiny meals if I didn’t have to wait very long between them.

I decided that I would imitate the diet.

Medifast’s plan calls for a person to eat fewer calories than that person’s body burns. Their meals are (mostly?) dried packets mixed with water to make a shake or microwaved to make, eggs, chili, or soup. Each of these is 100 calories. Once a day, the dieter eats a “lean and green” meal: 4 ounces of lean meat and some vegetables.

Outside of Medifast’s meal packets, it is hard to get a meal down to a mere 100 calories. To determine the maximum calories I could eat and still lose weight, I calculated 80% of my basal metabolic rate (BMR) using on online tool that asked my height, weight, activity level, etc. My BMR time .08 would allow me seven meals at 200 calories each and once meal at 400-600 calories. So my plan was:

  1. Every two hours

  2. 200 or fewer calories each

  3. One “lean and green” meal of 400-600 calories

  4. High protein

  5. Low carbohydrates

  6. Cheats permitted if very low carb

  7. Drink lots of water

After about a week of trying my Medifast-imitation plan, I received a weight loss windfall. The daughter of the lady from my church that I mentioned in the last post, who was also doing the Medifast diet had ordered a slug of chili and decided that she no longer enjoyed the chili as much as she first did. I was the benefactor of her altered tastes. (Thank you, S!) Armed with about two weeks of Medifast meals (mostly, but not only, chili) I went to town. I suspect that this accidental windfall was slightly engineered. (Thank you, too, L!)

I have to say, at first, I was hungry. One hundred calories is a fairly small meal. Sometimes, I would have to gnaw on some almonds before my next meal. A few times, I would take my next meal 30 minutes early. But after a couple of days, the going got easier.

The diet gave me some side benefits. I always looked forward to that meal. With no hint of joking, I have never been more sincere in offering the Lord thanks for a meal than I was for those. A they always tasted pretty good. When I had red or yellow bell pepper, the slivers tasted like candy. (I suspect that gravel would have tasted good.) My stomach shrank so that my small lean-and-green meals were filling.

Losing all the weight allowed me to tie my shoes without completely exhaling. I could fit into my suit jackets that bought 10 years prior. And I could use the half-Windsor knot on my neckties, again.