Many of my friends and family are aware that I’ve just completed a year-long obesity treatment program in Halifax called Partners for Healthier Weight. PfHW, as the program is known to participants, was jointly developed by two local clinicians: one is a clinical psychologist well-versed in disordered eating habits, and one is an endocrinologist with extensive experience in treating obese patients.
PfHW was originally modelled after a similar program in Ottawa, although the basic structure of the medically-supervised weight-loss phase is also used in several other centres worldwide. This phase involves the subjects being prescribed a liquid-only diet for 12 weeks, comprised solely of a pharmaceutical formulation of a nutritionally-complete, meal-replacement shake—and of course, water; lots and lots of water.
The weight-loss (a.k.a. Meal Replacement) phase, explained
This phase of the program (called MR for Meal Replacement by some participants) is based on an addictions model (albeit an addiction to the high amounts of sugar, salt and fat that are normally found in the diets of many obese individuals). PfHW subjects are asked to “abstain” from regular food and drink for a long enough period to completely sever the many associations they have formed with those substances. During MR, participants have chewing, choice and flavour removed from their everyday life for three full months. Throughout that period, they consume nothing but a 900-calorie-per-day diet of clear water and OptiFast nutrition shakes. Chewing gum, breath mints, tea, coffee and diet pop (regardless of caffeine content), along with any other non-caloric drinks except water, are all contraindicated during MR.
The participants in my group (Group 5, the fifth group to complete the entire PfHW program) experienced a wide variety of responses to following a regimen as strict as this. Many of us experienced early success during MR, which could be mainly defined by successfully avoiding all of the solid food and other beverages that came our way. In so doing, many of our bodies entered the so-called “fat-burning” state of ketosis, which incited noticeable weight loss in our first few weeks. Several others who may have had early success, succumbed at various points during MR to their daily stressors and other eating triggers; these participants began to eat solid food ahead of schedule, as it were. In some cases, they began doing so long before the 6-week-long Transition Period was slated to begin at the end of the 12-week liquid fast.
Some kept their participation in PfHW a complete secret from their friends and work colleagues, while others such as myself were rather open about what they were doing and why. I also noticed that once I started to lose weight in earnest, it became difficult to avoid comments and questions from people who had begun to notice me shrinking. Today, I am nearly 100 pounds lighter than I was 12 months ago, so the difference in my appearance might be hard to overlook for anyone who hasn’t seen me in awhile.