Traveling through life with a timer and sneakers

A review of the HMR Diet: Six Months Decision Free and #HMRStrong

If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be eating prepackaged entress and shake packets as my sole form of food, I would have laughed you out of the room.

If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be running a sub-10:00 mile and swimming a mile, I would have looked at you like it was a pipe dream. “Someday… maybe….” But my heart would ache because I would doubt that I had the ability to ever pull it out.

If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be down almost 90 lbs after six months, I would have asked what limbs would I be losing in the process.

I was recently asked why I decided to take a drastic move in my life starting HMR and all of my physical training. Why now? What prompted this move?

If you have known me for years then you will know that I have had a series of struggles with my health. I gained a significant amount of weight right out of high school. I continued to put on weight when I started teaching and commuting 90+ minutes each way to work. I then lost some of that weight in 2006 counting points but some significant events in my life brought back the stress eating and the pounds. I attempted to learn to run in 2009 and lost a bit of weight but improper training and an injury uncovered bigger health issues. All the while I half-assed various diets in an attempt to both control my health but also my weight. Finally, I gave up on all of it and just “enjoyed life” while the pounds piled on.

This past summer we took a cross-country road trip. And roadside hikes that should have been easy were extremely difficult. We went to Hawaii and I felt limited in everything I attempted. I was constantly out of air. I got tired easily. I didn’t find physical activity pleasurable because I wasn’t fit and was carrying so much extra weight. Multiple people in my life passed away in the months leading up to my starting HMR and many were due to weight related health issues. I had trouble sleeping at night worrying that every ache and pain was a sign I was next.

A friend had recently gotten weight loss surgery and I was seriously contemplating it after hearing about her experience. However I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it until the summer at the earliest and we were just a couple months into the school year. So I went to my medical group’s Web site and looked at what programs they were offering to help. I saw orientations for HMR and thought “well it couldn’t hurt to check it out?”

At the time I was opposed to processed food. I wanted to lose weight on my own. I wanted to do it naturally. I was judgey-mcjudergerson about everything I thought HMR stood for. I thought “well even if I lose any weight I won’t learn how to keep it off and it will come right back on.” I had tried Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem so I was *obviously* an expert about meal replacement diets… Ha!

However I forced myself to enter the medical offices with an open mind. After all, I had kind of sucked at doing it on my own. Despite years of weight loss meetings and web sites and books and talks, I was at my heaviest weight ever. I ate more veggies than most people I knew but along with that ate and drank super high calorie foods and considered 20 minutes on the elliptical as an intense workout. In other words, I knew I needed help and I wasn’t afraid to ask for it.

At that orientation meeting, I began to understand that the HMR Diet would be a major overhaul to my social lifestyle. No alcohol? No outside foods? A WEEKLY meeting? I work over 80 hours some weeks… where was I going to fit all of this in?

But something inside of me said that I could do it. That my life depended on it.

So I drove straight from the orientation to speak to my doctor. She said I should try it. She had been an HMR doctor at a previous practice. She thought it would be harder than surgery but it would be good to do it, even as a precursor to surgery, to learn healthier habits. And so I went in for all the lab work.

As a high school student, I didn’t follow good study habits. However as a high school teacher I have learned a few things about setting myself up for success. And so I spent the couple of weeks between orientation and the first night of class preparing my environment, talking to those closest to me, and mentally preparing myself. Confession: I also had a number of “last meals” where I ate whatever I wanted and committed those tastes and textures to memory. I will write more about preparing to begin in a future post but the process itself really set me up for a successful journey.

I have social anxiety. I get nervous in new situations and meeting new people. But luckily I have an amazing health educator, a fabulous clinic full of super positive staff, and a class that had some really nice and positive people in it to provide a safe and supportive environment. The clinic is my safe haven. The first couple months I would show up an hour early sometimes to protect myself from wandering off to a drive-thru because I didn’t know how to spend that hour. I cannot stress how that support helped me get through some tough time. When I felt judgement from others for taking on this diet, I knew I had a judgement free zone.

Judgement is a big thing on this diet. Because you isolate yourself from outside foods, people feel like they can make all sorts of snide and snarky comments to you. I am not open about being on this diet, both because I don’t want my diet to define me, but also because I want to spare myself the nasty comments. If someone asks and seems interested, I will tell them about it. But unlike previous diets where I would declare to everyone what I was doing, I started this one quietly and have remained relatively quiet about it. However through my health classes I have learned how to empower myself and to deal with some of the comments. I know I will have more to face along the journey, but I am building a toolbox of responses.

Cost is the other big hang up for many people on this diet. Yes, the medical tests and supervision is pricey and yes the shakes and entrees cost money. The gym, training sessions, new clothes all cost money as well. You know what else costs money? All the bad food I was eating. All the medical bills I paid. All the unproductive hours where I couldn’t focus and didn’t get things done that needed to be finished. And losing my life day by day to my obesity was the most expensive part of my life. So yes I have depleted some of my savings but I also know I am saving money in the long run. I also know that the improved quality of life is worth the investment. And honestly, I just cut out a bunch of crap I had been wasting it on. Even at happy hour prices those beer and french fry orders add up!

Over the last six months I have been on the road more than half the weekends. I have attended galas and other social events. I have run multiple races. Attended family events. Tried a variety of fitness opportunities. Struggled through exhaustion and stress. Celebrated life and mourned loss. In other words, I have lived. And I have lived “in the box.”

I will be honest. It has not always been easy. And it is getting harder. Because as I see results and feel stronger, I question why I am still in the box. I miss outside food. I feel like I can take a cheat meal… But I won’t. As long as I stay in the box, I am working towards my final goal. This time is truly different and I don’t want to give myself an excuse to halt the journey before I finish it.

I am on a lifelong journey of living the best possible life I can. I believe in myself and my inner strength. And while life happens, I am building skills to pursue health and happiness in spite of life obstacles. It takes dedication and a sense of purpose. But it also takes faith in whatever diet program you choose to pursue. The HMR Diet does work, if you put in the work. I am #HMRStrong.


16 responses

  1. anastasia

    I’m considering doing HMR and this was so helpful. Congrats on your success and thank you for sharing…your journey is inspiring

    July 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    • I am so happy this helped you. HMR is a great program! And thank you!

      July 19, 2014 at 12:30 am

  2. Kendra Cole

    I can really relate to your story, as I was just about in the same place. I started HMR in November 2013 and have lost over 73 pounds. I have 10 more pounds to goal weight and I feel great. While reading this, it sounded so familiar. I am very happy that this is working for you. I, like you, believe that the cost is worth it, because having my health, energy, motivation, self confidence, and control over my life back has been PRICELESS! Thank you for sharing your story!!

    July 21, 2014 at 7:50 pm

  3. Pingback: How do you summarize a year? 2014 in review. | The Healthy Academic

  4. Theresa Kruse

    You are very down to earth and brave for putting it all out there! I wish there were more HMR Blogs out there…your blog is AMAZING!! your views are easy to identify with and i really enjoy and appreciate your postings. I have been “in the box” every single day since March 29th and i have lost 34lbs, 22.5inches overall and at my clinic the call me ” the queen of jon-scale victories” because I have had so many life altering changes 🙂 …I’m proud that people ,are proud of me now but most of all I’m proud of myself. I couldn’t walk around the block when I started 12weeks ago and now I do aqua calisthenics 1.5 hours a day 5-6 days,a week..keep in keeping on my,friend!

    June 18, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    • Thank you so much and way to go!!!!!! Sounds like you have made some amazing changes in your life! Look forward to hearing more 🙂

      June 18, 2016 at 7:12 pm

  5. Shabadana

    Thanks for the great post and blog! I was struggling for years to lose those last 10 pounds (may not sound like much, but it’s a lot of extra weight when you’re just over 5′ tall). I practiced largely clean, unprocessed eating for years and included fish, lean meats, vegetables, fruits, etc in my daily diet. Plus I exercised 6 days a week. Despite all my efforts and good intentions, my weight would not budge and I felt like I was destined to continue with the middle age creep. Then 6 weeks ago I tried the HMR diet. Now I am down 8 pounds and feel great. This diet works for me. It is easy to follow, keeps me satisfied and is much better than being stuck where I was. I have also learned portion control and how to make better decisions as to what I will allow myself to have that is off the plan. Thanks again!

    February 26, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    • Way to go!!! I completely understand where you are coming from – it really does reduce the amount of times a day we have to think about food which means we can make better choices when we do. Congratulations on your success!

      February 26, 2017 at 3:35 pm

  6. Foster Brown

    I am about to start HMR. I have 90 lbs to loose. I am anxious and worried about the nutrition labels on the meals. I have been eating very healthy and clean. I feel like I’m giving up healthy and clean for weight loss and if it works I think it will be worth it.

    September 28, 2017 at 1:39 am

    • I absolutely understand your concern. This was my initial struggle (take a look at my early HMR posts) – but getting the weight off was worth it because I am significantly healthier at a lower weight now eating much cleaner. But while on the HMR program you don’t need to think about food decisions for awhile and when you reintegrate outside foods, you can figure out what clean foods are supportive of weight management and which ones might be problematic. But you won’t have to figure that out while getting the weight off (which I can attest to being a much more difficult journey).

      While the HMR ingredients may not fit a “clean eating” diet, it’s still relatively real food with a solid nutritional balance (and excellent portion control). And if/when you are doing the Healthy Solutions program, you can practice more is better with produce.

      Best of luck! You will be able to do this!

      September 28, 2017 at 3:24 am

  7. Tom Rifai

    Admire your commitment and successful follow through! Takes tenacity. Q: Considering the health advantages, don’t you think decision free could at least allow free access to low starch vegetables? It doesn’t seem consistent with health to discourage simply cooked (e.g. streamed, grilled, roasted, microwaved) or raw broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus etc. etc. this would’ve cut back on sodium, increased fiber and other vitamins and minerals (like potassium). HMR ranks poorly for overall health (e.g. #21 for heart health per US news) but could likely improve significantly with such a modification without any risk to weight loss success (it’s not veggies that causes us to gain weight). Would love your thoughts! Thank you

    November 7, 2017 at 5:03 am

    • One of the goals of Decision Free is reducing decisions. I know it is a lot harder to make decisions when you make it a larger box. The line is very clear when nothing is allowed. But where does a line get drawn when it starts to open up? However it is why people should transition into Healthy Solutions before finishing weight loss, to reintroduce those healthy fruits and vegetables and build the habits of choice with these foods before completely reentering the real world of choice.

      January 18, 2018 at 8:24 pm

  8. M

    How can you do HMR successfully if you don’t live near one of the centers?

    February 7, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    • My sister followed the Healthy Solutions at home and was incredibly successful. There are phone classes you can call into with a health coach for accountability as well as the various lessons.

      February 7, 2019 at 11:17 pm

  9. Tabitha Antoniak

    Hi. I am reviewing the Healty Solutions plan… but what is the difference in the Decision Free plan? Only not eating veggies and fruit? Anything else?

    April 24, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    • It varies at different clinics but it is medically supervised due to the nature of the program and its limitations.

      April 24, 2019 at 6:00 pm

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