Firstly, please understand that I am writing this article as an honest insight into one of the struggles of a person with Bipolar and OCD. Please don’t write critical comments/feedback. I am well aware that my ‘diet’ is unhealthy in the long term and that I need to improve it as soon as possible. This is simply an explanation of where I am at right now, not where I want to be or where I think I should be.
Secondly, let me explain that when I feel ‘normal’ not ‘manic’ or ‘depressed’, I eat fairly ‘normally’. Breakfast, sometimes lunch and dinner. A few snacks, a few coffees and lots of water. When however, I am unwell (manic or depressed) I all but lose my appetite entirely. The only cue I have to eat is that I am Hypoglycaemic and my blood sugar gets low; I start to feel funny and get the shakes. The other time when I DO eat is when I feel particularly sad or hopeless or when I am so high that I don’t care, and in these circumstances I binge – eating LOTS of very unhealthy foods/drinks – and these binging sessions can go on for days.
In order to counteract my complete lack of appetite I have constructed a shake diet/meal replacement plan, that I find I am able to manage. Considering the alternative is me eating nothing, I have been told by a number of doctors that this ‘diet’ is acceptable in the short term, relatively nourishing and effective for combatting my Hypoglycaemia. So they ‘approve’ it conditionally. Of course ‘real food’ is preferable, but if I can’t face it, ingesting at least these shakes is better than nothing.
If you too are experiencing difficulty eating you could consider something similar to this meal replacement plan I am about to describe. But PLEASE consult your doctor first and make sure they are satisfied with your plan, don’t take my word for it!
As I said it is a shake diet – but not one that you will find in any chemist or anywhere else for that matter – because I made it up myself. You can get what you need at most chemists and it is FAR cheaper than any commercial shake diet.
I use Sustagen Hospital Formula. This hospital formula is a balanced intake of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals etc. It is designed to sustain people whose dietary intake is unbalanced or who are unable to eat. I was first introduced to it when I was in hospital and suffering severe depression which was playing havoc with my appetite as I’ve described. The nurses gave me at least one glass a day of Sustagen Hospital Formula as a meal replacement to try to ensure I was getting enough calories, vitamins and minerals and to keep my blood sugar stable.
When I devised this diet, some months later at home, I was struggling to eat at all but I was also conscious of the calorie intake as I struggle with my weight and I did not want to be gaining weight by undertaking this diet; in fact I would like to lose weight (slowly) if possible. So basically what I am about to describe is based on having a daily calorie intake that is sufficient to sustain you but low enough that you can lose weight slowly. If you don’t need or want to lose weight you can of course alter the quantities to suit your requirements. Furthermore, I like to be sipping on my drinks most of the day, where other people might like to have fewer drinks with higher calories (which would also give you more flavour as you would have more of the powder in each shake).
The way I like it: So the recommended use of the product (3 scoops per shake) is high in calories and nutrition but if you use the same product in constricted amounts you get a balanced intake of calories that you can stretch out across time. This allows you to keep your blood sugar and your hunger (these two are often closely linked for me) in check because you are drip feeding your body throughout the day, with small meal replacements. To be more specific, I have four to eight shakes per day but I drink them slowly over about an hour each. Some days four is enough (particularly if I am sleeping a lot) and other days I have eight. I should mention here that I do have some (mostly low calorie) snacks, a few coffees and lots of water too.
I use one and a half’ish scoops (33gm) of Chocolate Sustagen Hospital formula (you can get it in Vanilla too) in each shake (instead of the recommended three scoops) plus a shot of real coffee (from my coffee machine) water and ice. Each shake is about 750ml and 125 calories. You could also use lite milk also depending on your taste preference and calorie requirements. Recommended minimum calorie intake depends on a number of variables. Height, weight, age, gender, etc etc. So you can research this and make up your own mind regarding what calorie intake would work for you and then play with the numbers and devise your own meal replacement plan.
My OCD comes into play because I can compulsively stick to this diet because I have correlated it in my mind with losing weight and controlling my Hypoglycaemia. So when I have no strength to stick to anything else or no desire to eat at all, I revert to this diet because it is ‘conditionally’ approved by my doctors, and it has kept me alive in the past, with a positive side effect of weight loss, which does wonders for my state of mind.
Once more, don’t take my word/ideas as gospel. Seek advice from your doctor or nutritionist and only use this type of meal replacement plan for a short while, when you really need it.