Yeah, I have been getting this question quite a bit lately, so I guess writing about it is in order. I’ve also been sitting on it, because well, you know….it might cause some controversy.
But I’m also sick of dancing around issues. And so a little controversy, I guess….I’m not afraid of. So if you need to unsubscribe from me, well, so be it:)
So, the question I’ve been getting…..
How Do I Quit My Shake Program?
I feel like we need to pause here. Because there is an elephant in the room. Upon getting asked that question, I generally ask WHY? Why the need to give up the shake program? Turns out….the shake program is, admittedly, not sustainable. It’s not sustainable for a variety of reasons, generally….ranging from it being too expensive, or it’s no longer fun to drink meals, or it’s hard not to cheat on it, or…..it’s just not sustainable to do this in the long run.
You guys, I get it. I know it is easy to get tripped up in this shake stuff….with trendy marketing words like “reset” and “speedy metabolism” and “healthy meal in a glass” and “convenience.” I also know how it feels to be uncomfortable in your own skin, making a quick fix sound attractive. I’ve been there, done that, and have the food baggage, self-confidence plummet, and hamster wheel of self-defeat and self-loathing to prove it. It isn’t a pretty cycle. You get into the cycle feeling yucky about yourself, hoping that this, THIS…will FINALLY be the thing that gets you comfortable in your own skin. You cling to the two shakes a day, possibly healthy (but very low-calorie) snack included, and a sensible dinner, where you eat only protein and veggies. But, BUT….your shakes “tastes like” Oreo cookies, and you can microwave them, so they puff up into shake cake substance, and you are desperately clinging to this plan while you slug back shakes that tastes like chalk that you are convinced are actually Oreos in disguise (hint: they’re not).
I give you credit for acknowledging this stuff isn’t sustainable. And credit for asking for some guidance on how to exit the program. This is no easy feat. Rock on for taking the initiative to get out while the gettin’ is good. Kudos to you for realizing that you deserve better and MORE than some low-calorie plan in wildly expensive powder form.
There might be a hiccup though. You really didn’t learn any sustainable habits while on the shake program. You didn’t learn how to properly fuel yourself and trust your choices surrounding food. You learned how to drink shakes, and depend on very low calories, and fake energy from tea and pre-workout drinks….to rock your life. So now, it’s time to ditch the shakes, but you might find yourself feeling a little lost, and a little like “now what?”
Well, I’m going to give you two options. Maybe they are good choices for you, and maybe they aren’t. It depends on YOU. I want you to realize I work with clients based off personalized questions and screening and information. What I’m doing here is very generalized, and NOT a full-fledged guideline of how YOU should approach things. You know?
Go cold turkey. Today, you drank shakes and “did the program” and tomorrow, you decide, I’m eating my meals. I like to think of this as the “rip the bandaid off” way. To me, this does make some sense. But I think it’s important to talk through some pros and cons.
Pros: Yay! You’re done! No more shakes! You can now enjoy eating food again, and you might be highly excited for this. You might suddenly feel like the world is your oyster, and you can make meals and eat off menus, and not be the oddball drinking your lunch (not in the fun way) when you are out to eat with friends. Win! Also, chewing, and tasting and flavors….and all those fun things! Woohoo! For many, workouts become FUN now, because there is all this new fuel to play with. Also, you don’t have to feel guilty about “cheating” on your plan all the time because it was too strict to begin with.
Cons: Well, there could be a couple, but each individual is different.
First, if you’ve been eating very low-calorie for quite some time, there’s a good chance you body has gotten used to running on very little calories, AND this might mean that suddenly adding in food, and most likely, more calories….you might experience a bump in weight, and your body is going “WOOOOAAHHHHHH, what’s all this about? We’re not used to this. We’re not used to working on a full (or more full) tank, and now WTF do we do….aaaaaarrggghhhh!” Which sometimes cues the freakout period, especially when you’ve desperately been clinging to shakes to control your weight. While you might experience a jump in weight, there are some factors that come into play here. You are eating and chewing and digesting FOOD. This takes up space, and weight, in your body. And when you think about all this, we should review energy balance as well. You aren’t gonna gain craploads of weight if you eat the same amount of energy you burn everyday, it’s science. However, after ditching shakes, it’s sorta easy to go “off the rails” for a bit while you eat everything you COULDN’T eat while on the shake plan, which may mean you are eating MORE than what you burn each day. Guess what? This generally levels out a bit for most, but if you’ve been on a lifetime of diets…..this WILL NOT happen overnight, and it WILL require patience. And I will not lie, it is not the most fun process to go through (speaking from a former chronic dieter who has put in lots of work in her personal life on this very subject).
Second, feeding off the first con, or getting your body used to eating a sane amount of food, and perhaps experiencing a slight bump in weight (temporary or not) can come with some mental baggage. It can be SCARY to see the scale climb a bit after you’ve controlled it for so long. It might make you feel like a failure, or just icky in general. I heard a great analogy today, and I can’t remember where, so I feel bad for not giving credit where credit is due for using this, so just know it ain’t my original thought. This controlling of weight through shake programs is similar to holding a beach ball under water. Holding that ball under water takes CONSTANT EFFORT and that ball is waiting, just waiting to explode up from under the water into the air. Same thing happens when the shakes take a hike. Control, control, control of the weight and then BOOM, it pops up a bit when you begin eating sane amounts of food.
Third, you have to learn how you like to eat and what fuels you and makes you feel good. This takes time and effort. On the shake program, your meals were pretty much determined for you. Now, you gotta make them, and know HOW to make them out of WHAT foods, you know? What foods do you even like? What foods make you feel good? Do you even feel hunger signals anymore? How do you even know?!?!?! It’s a process.
Slowly wean yourself off. Basically, you begin slowly adding food and slowly easing out shakes. For example, if you did a breakfast shake, a lunch shake, a small afternoon snack of a cheese stick and apple, and a dinner of veggies and protein, we gotta start somewhere. So, maybe you pick a shake meal, say lunch, and “add” stuff to it to make it more of a meal. Maybe you start with half a turkey sandwich, or an apple, and over a week or two, you beef that up to the shake PLUS more of meal type stuff, until your meal is big enough and your shake is no longer needed. You keep doing that each day until this meal feels good and sensible. Then you begin attacking the other shake meal and follow the same process. Then finally, you begin beefing up the dinner a bit if necessary, or that afternoon snack. Let’s chat pros and cons again.
Pros: You are slowly adding in more food, and it’s likely your scale won’t go haywire temporarily. You might feel like you have a better handle on things, and that you are learning to build your meals to things that make you feel good while weaning out of shake land.
Cons: This takes time. And lots of patience. It is a bit of a disciplined process. You literally slowwwlllyy “allow” yourself more food and more calories overall. This also remains a bit expensive, as you are still drinking shakes for a bit PLUS eating food. I would throw in that it’s mentally expensive as well, as your brain is probably CONSTANTLY thinking about food and this process.
There are MANY other factors to consider with this stuff, but these are two Cliff’s Notes scenarios that I have gone through with a few clients needing help ditching shake land and easing into habit land and real food choices. To be honest, both work, but it is a very individualized process. If I can help clients through nutrition habits here, I can and will. I’ve also done a combo of these two, where we start slow, and say eff it after a week or two and rip the band-aid off.
I want to be clear though. This shiz is serious business. It’s appropriate for me, as a certified nutrition coach, to run through healthy habits. I am NOT qualified to set up meal plans or treat disordered eating. Those things require professionals such as a Registered Dietician or a counselor specialized in eating disorders. Chronic dieting, shake land, thinking about food, obsessing over healthy food and clean eating and healthy living and the like, can be a very slippery slope towards seriously disordered eating behaviors, and I write about it so people (hopefully) take it seriously. I want better for YOU. I want you to know what it feels like to NOT be obsessed over food and to be absolutely alright trusting yourself with your food (and life) choicees. Please take your mindset about food and your choices seriously, and give it priority and the respect it deserves.
Got questions? Please ask ‘em here via comment. Or, shoot me an email at tmwellnessrevolution at gmail dot com. I love to hear from people!