Tips for All-Liquid, Low-Calorie Diets

I’ve been counting wrong, so trued up. Today is my 60th day on the all-liquid diet. That’s 8 weeks and four days.

When I’m actually drinking the shakes, I’m tired of them, but the rest of the time, I don’t think about it all that much. And, of course, it hasn’t been 100% shakes, as I’ve had my allowable pickles, sugar-free jello, and the post-exercise protein bump of either an egg, couple of ounces of cheese, or couple of ounces of lean meat. And, a few nights ago, a couple of ounces of prime rib that were not lean and totally fantastic.

I guess I should always disclaim any actual medical experience or professional capacity for offering advice. Everything I write is based on my experience and not meant as medical or legal advice. I’m just writing about what works for me.

If you decide to do a weight loss plan like this, you must work with a doctor. Do not try to wing it. You need an exam before you start, to make sure you are able to tolerate it, and you need to be monitored while you are on the all-liquid/low-calorie phase to make sure you are healthy.

If you aren’t planning on doing a diet like this, you can probably skip this post. On the other hand, if you think I’m crazy for doing this, maybe this will offer some insight.

Really stick to the plan the doctor outlines for you so ketosis can do what it does – put your body in a state in which it burns fat for fuel. This sounds basic, but when the balance of nutrients and calories is so carefully calibrated, even going a little bit off the plan really sets you back. Not everyone can do this for 12 weeks, and you are not a failure or freak if you are one who cannot.

You will definitely be pissed off if you do it half-way and don’t get maximum results. It can be very discouraging to see others around you losing 2, 3 or 4 pounds a week while you are gaining because you are not sticking to the plan.

The extremely low-carbohydrate, high protein shakes put you into ketosis, and your body adjusts so you aren’t terribly hungry, really, but if you eat just a little bit of something that knocks you out of ketosis, you’ll be pretty miserable. I know it doesn’t feel good to go in and out of ketosis, and I suspect that it is not terribly healthy, either, to subject your body to that in-and-out.

Plan to start when you have time to chill out. It will take several days to get into ketosis, and you might feel really tired over those first few days of all liquid. Or, you might feel really tired AND get headaches AND be grouchy. If you can get a half-day at work, start on a Friday, then tell everyone that you’ll be resting most of the weekend.

Some people don’t recommend starting over a holiday long weekend, because of food-related celebrations like 4th of July picnics or Easter dinners, but if you can take advantage of those holidays to start, why not?

Keep to your schedule. Have the first beverage within one hour of waking up. Don’t let yourself become exhausted before your next shake. I’m doing four shakes a day, which I drink at approximately 8 am, 11 am, 2 pm, and 6 pm. For some reason, I do better with just 3 hours in between for most of the day. Some people do four hours between shakes, and start later in the day. I’ve found that on the few nights I’ve stayed up really late, I’ve been hungry. I simply don’t have fuel in the tank for wild nights out.

Always have a shake, water, and something to mix it in with you. Always. Life gets busy. A meeting goes long. Your car breaks down. You drive to the airport north of town, but the plan actually arrives at the airport south of town, and it’s rush hour. It happens.

Think of these shakes not as food, but as medicine that you simply must take at scheduled times. With so few calories coming in, you don’t want to let yourself fall behind.

Honestly, no one is paying nearly as much attention to your drinking these shakes as you are. People bring coffee to meetings all of the time. Even if you don’t want to tell people you are on a diet, you can tell people quickly that you’re going to mix a quick protein shake and they will think about it for the next 4 seconds, then forget completely. People drink all kinds of protein shakes, so no one will think yours is any different.

Drink water throughout the day, starting early. Our doctor asks us to drink one-half of our weight in ounces each day, so someone who weighs 200 pounds will drink 100 oz. Aim to drink the majority of it before 6 pm so you are not up all night in the bathroom!

Bonus to drinking all of this water? I swear that my skin actually glows these days.

Keep a food log. It seems silly to keep a log when all you are consuming is water and shakes, but it helps for several reasons. First, it gets you in the habit of logging food, which is going to be key to your success at continuing to lose weight and maintain weight loss once you are eating food. Second, it helps you be sure you actually drink and eat everything you are supposed to. Some people in ketosis feel like they don’t even need 800 calories. Trust me, you do. Third, it helps keep you honest. Drinking 100+ ounces of water is harder than it sounds. In fact …

Measure your water. I used a 1-cup measure to see how much water fits into all of the glasses that we use at home. I have a big insulated plastic cup and a water bottle that each hold 24 oz. I record my water as I drink it, so I do have a fairly accurate idea of how close I’ve come to my goal for the day. I often go over by a cup or two, just in case I didn’t finish a whole bottle or left a glass with a few sips left.

You can spice things up. Most liquid programs have a similar collection of flavors, and they can get pretty boring. Vanilla, chocolate, a chicken soup flavor, maybe a mocha … four a day for 12 weeks can be deadly with so little variety. You can add things to the shakes to make them taste better, however, including:

  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, and other baking spices
  • Sugar-free flavor syrups (like the Monin bottles you see at coffee shops, or smaller bottles of baking extracts)
  • Bouillon or chicken broth (check with the doctor about how much sodium you can tolerate)

Think about long-term change. Eventually, you will go back to eating food. Your weight loss with slow down to a steadier rate because you’ll be eating more calories and more carbohydrates. Use the time and space created by the program to think about how you can eat differently once you come back to food.

Don’t just think about what you will eat, or how much. In fact, the hallmark of a good program will be that you are talking with a nutritionist to learn what you should be eating, and in what proportions and amounts.

Consider how to work these changes into your life. Have kids? Work a swing shift? Have office-mates who bring donuts or fried chicken into the community kitchen every day? Barely have time to go to the grocery store or cook, so you eat out often? Make a plan. Get menus from your five favorite restaurants and ask the nutritionist to help you pick 3 meals at each one. Find five recipes you can make on Sunday and eat all week (not all five each week – build in variety.) You can do this.

Ask for help from those who care about you. And, although it can be painful, be honest with yourself if someone you care about is likely to be a saboteur. The only person whose eating you can control is your own, so learn how to do that, and resolve not to let someone else take that control away from you.

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