After 14 Months With Mercy Weight Management, Local Woman Loses 170 Pounds
Last summer, Sarah Young, an area field manager for U-Haul, was in the waiting room at Mercy Medical Center filling out paperwork for her physical exam to renew her commercial driver’s license. At 350 pounds, she was uncomfortable sitting, in constant pain and always exhausted…and frustrated. “An OPTIFAST® poster was on the wall, staring right at me,” she said.
OPTIFAST is a weight management program offered by Mercy Weight Management that helps patients achieve permanent weight loss by combining lifestyle education and medical monitoring with a meal replacement plan.
After barely passing her physical—she was borderline hypertension and had to lie down during the exam to get her blood pressure to an acceptable level—she took another look at the OPTIFAST poster. “I’d seen it two years prior when I was there for my physical, but I wasn’t ready then. This time, I was desperate.” She scheduled a one-on-one consultation with an OPTIFAST representative.
In September 2018, Sarah signed up for the OPTIFAST plan and started making profound lifestyle changes. Fourteen months later, she is down 170-plus pounds and counting.
“OPTIFAST is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” she said. “After all those years trying diets and weight-loss pills, I’ve finally found success that I know I can maintain. Best of all, I feel good about myself.”
“I’ve struggled with weight all my life.”
A former race horse trainer, Sarah has always been active, throwing hay, feeding and caring for horses and working outdoors on her Portage County farm. Food, she said, has always been her problem.
“I’m on the road a lot with my job which means a lot of gas station stops,” she said. “I’d never leave without buying unhealthy beverages and snacks.” Her on-the-road meals consisted of fast food, five days a week. Sarah and her significant other live with their four children, ages 21, 12, 13 and 6, plus their one-year-old granddaughter. “With a big family to feed after working long hours, my goal was to just get a lot of food on the table quickly. That meant relying on noodles and potatoes for almost every dinner.”
In between meals and at night, compulsive eating took over. “I was a counter surfer,” Sarah said. “I would just work my way down the counter, eating everything that was out. Then I’d open cupboards, get snacks, microwave leftovers and grab things from the fridge. I wasn’t hungry, it was a habit.”
Struggling to manage her weight and diet on her own, Sarah turned to over-the-counter diet supplements and pills. “I worked my way down the store aisles, trying Hydroxycut®, SlimFast®, and pretty much everything else. I wasn’t making any lifestyle changes so if I’d lose a few pounds, I’d gain them back and then some.”
While she avoided mirrors and ducked out of family photos because she was embarrassed by her appearance, the extra weight was also taking a toll on her physical wellbeing and relationships.
“It got to the point that I was in pain all the time—my knees, back, and neck. It was all I could do to make it through the work day. I’d go home and I wasn’t even able to spend quality time with my kids because I couldn’t get comfortable on the couch. I’d just go to my room and lay in bed.” Restful sleep was a rarity. “I had acid reflux so bad that I’d wake up gasping with it coming out of my nose,” she said, adding that she was hospitalized for aspiration pneumonia.
OPTIFAST is more than just meal replacement products.
Though she was ready for a change and willing to commit to a program, Sarah wasn’t optimistic when she met with the OPTIFAST representative. “I’d sat through other presentations before and they were like sales pitches. It seemed like all they cared about was convincing me to write a check so I didn’t follow through.”
OPTIFAST was different. “The representative wasn’t shoving the program down my throat, she spent most of the time making sure that I was ready to commit to the program,” Sarah said. “It didn’t take much convincing. I was like, ‘can we start yesterday?’”
Sarah said that the support, guidance, encouragement and medical monitoring—lacking in other programs she’d tried—made all the difference. When she began OPTIFAST, she was considered high-risk. “As part of my OPTIFAST plan, I saw a doctor twice a month, a dietitian once a week and attended weekly classes on topics like exercise and making better food choices.” Sarah has never missed an appointment, and even though she’s considered low-risk now, she still sees a doctor once a month. “Once you pay the initial fee, you’re welcome to come to classes, meetings and weigh ins for accountability,” she said.
While everyone’s goals are different, patients usually start the plan consuming a diet of nutritionally complete OPTIFAST full-meal replacement products which include bars, soups and shakes.
“You’re given a binder full of instructions and there are recipes so you can get creative with the soups and shakes,” Sarah said. Extracts and flavorings, as well as limited quantities of berries, and non-starchy vegetables help add some variety into meals. “The idea is that you’re taking a break from choosing your food. It has never been hard for me because the products are delicious and you learn how to keep things interesting with the recipes. Later, I’ll be in a position where I’ll be able to choose my own healthy foods.”
Gradually, patients transition back to self-prepared foods while they attend classes to help change their approach to food and alter their long-term lifestyle. When they enter the maintenance phase, patients are encouraged to participate in ongoing support sessions to help maintain their weight loss and manage their long-term weight goals. This phase may also include partial meal replacements.
When she started OPTIFAST, Sarah weighed 327 pounds and women’s size 26 clothes were a tight fit. Fast forward to November 2019: Sarah is healthier and happier at 178 pounds and is rocking a size 8.
“I’ve lost a full person,” she said. A big motivator was how quickly the weight came off, starting with a 10-pound loss the first week. “The year went by so fast and you have all the support you need to succeed. I’m competitive so can’t wait for weigh ins.”
Her job requires her to report to her home base once a month. “As I lost weight, I got so many comments from people, with many saying, ‘you’re melting!’ A lot of people don’t even recognize me.”
In an effort to avoid surgery to remove excessive skin resulting from her massive weight loss, Sarah began hitting the gym twice a day. Before work, she does cardio, usually treadmill or elliptical, for an hour. After work, she feeds her children dinner, puts them to bed, then heads back to the gym for resistance training. With her new goal weight set at 150 pounds, Sarah is working to make sure that she develops plenty of muscle so she can check off a bucket list goal: competing in a physique competition. “When I head home from the gym at night, I sleep soundly for seven hours,” she said.
Though she is now below her original goal of 180 pounds, Sarah admits that she’s hit some speed bumps along the way. On a trip to New York City, she over-indulged on high-sodium foods and put on a few pounds. “I immediately took the bull by the horns and went back to clean eating. It’s a learning experience. You get to know your body as you experiment with what you can and can’t eat as you work toward your goal.”
Weight loss reveals a new self-confidence
“A year ago, if my boss had asked me to give a speech in front of people, I would have said, ‘I’m out of here.’ Yet recently, I did just that. I stood up in front of a group and presented members of the military with a flag from U-HauI.
“I meet with a lot of people during the course of my day. Before, I just imagined what people were saying when they saw me getting out of my vehicle. Now, I enjoy meeting with people and have a new self-confidence. I definitely feel like I’m more respected at work.”
Like many people who struggle with weight issues, Sarah avoided cameras. “Now, I enjoy getting my picture taken and being involved with other people.”
With clothing, her motto used to be, “It’s ugly, but it fits.” Now, Sarah said she’s having fun buying clothes. “I’m excited to buy a special dress for the holidays. I haven’t worn a skirt since I was 14 years old.”
“One thing I do know: I’ll never go back.”
Inspired by her stunning weight loss and her healthy lifestyle, friends and coworkers frequently ask Sarah about OPTIFAST. “Often, they’re interested in the cost. I tell them that OPTIFAST is not as expensive as my bad habits—fast food every day, junk food, and the cost of bad health. The benefits of OPTIFAST far outweigh the cost.”
Her advice to anyone interested in OPTIFAST: “You have to be mentally ready. It took me awhile to get to that point, but when I started OPTIFAST, I was all in.”
Because she is close to her goal weight, people have started asking when she’ll be finished with the OPTIFAST program. “I’m never going to be done because I’m always going to be working on clean eating and exercising,” she said. “I may choose to always use OPTIFAST products as supplements. I don’t feel deprived and I’ve found that I don’t even want junk food or fast food anymore and I’m not tempted to overeat.
“One thing I do know: I’ll never go back.”