Starting Phase II of the KU Weight Loss Program

Yay for me! This week I officially started Phase II of the University of Kansas Weight Management Program. I’ve blogged previously about the program and shared more details in this blog’s FAQ and via social media. I’ve lost 70 pounds since last February with 57 coming from the KU program. I met all of my weight loss and exercise goals for the year before Christmas. My current goal is to lose another 10 pounds over the next few months to get me into the official “healthy” range. The doctors and medical people I’ve talked to this week say that I’m doing outstanding.

According to the KU program, I could have moved to Phase II several months ago, but they advise that if you want to keep losing weight aggressively, then you should adhere to the strict regimen of Phase I. The KU program is smart in that it has people set goals of 10% and 15% weight reduction, instead of some “magic” specified weight. These goals are about getting people into a healthier weight range and out of a more risky higher weight range.

Phase I of the program is based on HMR entrees and shakes, combined with classes, education, exercise and self-monitoring. The Very Low Calorie Diet is also known as the shake-only diet and is geared toward people who are extremely overweight. There were several people in my class who were on this plan and enjoyed significant weight reductions. I was on the Low Calorie Diet program, which recommends three 120 calories HMR shakes each day, two entrees, and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. They give you a list of recommended foods and food to avoid. Basically, lots of fruit and vegetables. No alcohol, sugary drinks, bread, dairy and so on.

I prefer a daily vegetarian diet, so I was limited to 5 entrees. Folks who eat meat had around 13 entree options. My daily calorie intake was between 1000 and 1200 calories. The weight loss level for women is a bit lower. People hearing about the calorie level usually say something about feeling hungry, but the genius of this program is that it is designed to keep you feeling full, as well as taking meal decision-making out of your hands. If most of the work is simply making a shake and heating up an entree for your meal, the weight loss accumulates over time.

Phase II of the program is basically about making the diet, exercise and lifestyle changes a habit. This is familiar territory to me, as an ovo-lacto vegetarian of almost thirty years. Making decisions as a vegetarian border on being an unthinking habit. In fact, I still get annoyed when family and friends attempt to point out vegetarian options on menus. But the wisdom of Phase II is tied to the research that has found that healthy eating and lifestyles are based on habits that are sustainable. Phase I is about educating and prepping people to ground their lifestyle in healthy habits. Phase I ramps up the amount of exercise, so people don’t get frustrated about not seeing immediate results from a flurry of intense new exercise.

Most of the famous weight loss fads and diets don’t work because they aren’t sustainable. Sure, you’ll lose weight if you eat nothing but grapefruit, but who is going to do that for years, or, the rest of their lives? Keto and Atkins diets may help people lose weight initially, but they are unsustainable for another reason: those diets are unhealthy over the long term. The KU/HMR diet program is highly effective in helping people lose weight initially, but it also educates and prepares them for long term sustainable lifestyles, like WFPB, plant-based, vegan, Mayo Clinic and so on.

An overview of Phase II

  • You start Phase II when you’ve lost 10-15% of the weight you started with at the beginning of Phase I.
  • I continued on Phase I for longer because I wanted to continue aggressively losing weight, which I did before my end-of-year goals.
  • Your diet on Phase II still consists of HMR entrees and shakes, but there isn’t a strict number that you must have each day. You are encouraged to have frozen entrees from the grocery store, as long as they meet certain calorie requirements (less than 300 generally) and fat content. The program proivides a list of recommended entrees
  • Phase II is about putting you more in charge of your meal-to-meal eating regimen, so that the lifestyle is sustainable and ingrained. I plan to do more preparation of my won vegan meals during this phase, because I want more variety than I had on Phase I and because I enjoy cooking.
  • You are expected to keep up with the exercise and activity levels, tracking of steps and tracking of meals and activity.
  • I asked the doctors and staff about daily calorie levels on this phase. They said the level will be slightly higher, but it depends on my genetics, activity level, day-to-day metabolism, and foods. Monitoring my weight weekly, staying active and exercise, are all key to sustainable calorie levels. Sorry folks, a daily 2000 calorie level, typical of the American diet, isn’t in the cards. I would feel sick anyway eating that many calories!
  • I plan to increase my aerobic exercise during Phase II, as well as getting a gym membership and starting new activities like jogging and cycling.
  • Phase II involves a new class and instructor. It’s no longer a weekly face-to-face meeting, but the meetings are now every other week face-to-face and via conference calls the other weeks. In months with five weeks, we have a field trip.

So what changes have I noticed after dropping so much weight?

  • I’ve always slept pretty well, but after the first few months, sleeping got more comfortable. Now it’s more uncomfortable, because I sleep on my sides and I have to put a pillow or blanket between ,my bony knees.
  • My plantar fascitis has gone away thanks to all of the walking and weight loss.
  • I get cold more easily. This was really weird noticing once the weather turned cold. I feel cold drafts at home more easily.
  • My energy level is excellent and I rarely feel the need to take naps.
  • I love being in a situation where I can worry about my health less, especially over the coming years.
  • General health is excellent. No colds or flu (yet). Blood pressure is excellent.
  • It’s weird how you lose weight all over your body. Starting out, you think that the weight will come off your tummy, waist, hips and so on. It goes away everywhere. Double chin disappears. Calves that you said were “muscular because of walking” are slimmer. Even my arms are slimmer, despite daily weight lifting.
  • If you eat more than normal at a restaurant or family/social function, you feel full and bloated right away. One thing I love about my new situation is that I can eat less and feel full and have energy.
  • Less food per meal = cheaper food costs
  • When I’ve gone off plan and had desserts or junk food, they aren’t as enjoyable as in the past.
  • My off plan weakness is still chips and salsa at any Mexican restaurant.
  • I’ve tried some new foods and recipes, but probably haven’t encountered the sheer level of new foods as other program participants, mainly because I’ve been a vegetarian for three decades, as adventuresome eater, and home cook.

Photographer: Jessica Lewis


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