What to Know About Starting Nutrisystem

After reading so many questions on the comment section of some of the info on Nutrisystem’s FB page and website, I figured I’d try to clear up a few things. I’ve been on it several times- the other times, my health was a reason I needed to stop, but now- a few years after the last time I was on it, I have the all-clear from my doctors. In 11 days, I’ve already lost 5 pounds, and am still loving most of the food ! 🙂 My blood sugars have gone down, and I’m on the way to saving my rickety hips and knees, since I can’t get any of them replaced.

Here are the basics:

Cost: On the women’s plans (shelf stable, or the option to choose from shelf stable and frozen, the cost is about $9-13/day, PLUS any add-ons (I’ll cover those in a minute). They always have some type of promos to cut the costs, and you can choose from 5 days/week or 7 days a week. You can also ‘wing it’ and get ‘a la carte’ for $49/6 months for free shipping and %20 off of the foods. If you call Nutrisystem and talk to the folks who know about the various options, you can get some good deals. And if you are a Costco member, you can get a $100 Nutrisystem card for $80, saving another %20-you can use as many cards as you want with each order. I’m actually saving money- when I pay 2 months at a time, each month is less than $250/month.

Add-Ons: This one tends to be a bit polarizing. Some folks complain that having to spend more on food than ‘just’ the Nutrisystem products is too much. Nutrisystem’s food is not just a frozen dinner (or whatever frozen or shelf-stable product that you can get at the store). The fiber, protein, carbs, sodium, and fat content are much more healthy. You are paying for healthier versions of favorite foods. The add-ons include vegetables, fruit, and dairy (for cereal, or light string cheese for snacks or Power Fuels (explained below). Vegetables that are fresh or frozen are preferred- and frozen veggies (without sauces) tend to be more cost effective (just be sure you have the freezer space if you also order frozen foods). Fruits are the same- fresh, frozen, or canned without sugar ( fruit packed in fruit juice isn’t so great… processed fruits tend to be stripped of fiber).

A Power Fuel is an added protein with 80-120 calories with at least 5 grams of protein (light cheese sticks, light GREEK yogurt, skim milk for cereals, nuts, nut butters, peanut butter powder, etc are examples of a power fuel). You’ll need 2-3 Power Fuels/day for women. Men have more. Cost wise, peanut butter, nuts, milk, light cheese sticks, and milk aren’t that expensive. You can add low sodium meats, seafood, or other proteins. The portions are ‘normal’ portions – which is often complained about, but portion size is how many people end up on Nutrisystem or any other weight loss plan.

Smart Carbs include whole grains, fruit (fresh or frozen- always unsweetened), and other items. Bagel Thins are great with the NS Tuna Salad pouch. A Smart Carb has 80-120 calories and at LEAST one gram of FIBER- but the more fiber the better. You’ll have 1-2 servings per day for women depending on if you’re on the diabetic plan or not (diabetic plan has 2/day). You’ll eat six times a day no matter what plan you’re on. The portions aren’t huge (I’m satisfied by the portion size), but you’ll eat every 2-3 hours. There are also limited extra and free foods, with that info being online once you join. They include some caloric seasonings, spices, herbs, broths, lemons, etc.

Vegetables: There’s no set limit, but for those who want more food, veggies are encouraged. There’s a minimum of 2 cups cooked (or 4 cups raw) of non-starchy veggies (list is on the site once you join). Just no sauces, dips, or dressings unless they are suitable for weight loss. I LOVE Maple Grove Farms- no funky chemicals like one popular brand. You might have to send for them, but some are available on Amazon, Vitacost, and others. Veggies are important. And the frozen ones are not expensive- I pay about $1.10-2.00 per bag of cauliflower, broccoli, stir-fry veggie mix, etc. There are some veggies that are ‘free’ and unlimited. One is lettuce, so some spectacular salads can be made, especially if used with a Smart Carb Igarbanzo beans – or what you like from the list – and some feta cheese – a Power Fuel (again- you can decide what you like from the Power Fuel list). I’m not sure if you can see the Power Fuel and Smart Carb lists if you’re not a buyer, but look for ‘Grocery Guides’ if you can- there are things at the bottom of the website page to help with questions. A pound bag of frozen veggies has about 4 1 cup servings- so no more than 50 cents or so per serving (2 cups cooked per day- a buck)

Water: Not optional. You need a minimum of 2 quarts of water or other non-caloric beverages. Nutrisystem doesn’t use artificial sweeteners, but there are plenty of naturally sweetened drink mixes out there (Crystal Light Pure, True Lemon/Limeade, etc) or unsweetened tea, sparkling water (lots of flavors out there these days), coffee without sugar, etc. Water is one of the most important nutrients out there. If you’re not a water drinker, it could be that city water is so heavily chlorinated, or something like that. If you have well water, you’re in luck (I love well water). You can get spring water at the store for $1.25/gallon.

Flex Meals: when you get closer to your goal weight, you can ‘branch out’ and make up your own meals from foods you have. There is a ‘formula’ for each meal as far as how to put them together. You do NOT have to prepare meals while using Nutrisystem meals. If you go to a party or other get together, it’s nice to have a way to eat what others are (choosing the most Nutrisystem friendly options), and not derail your weight loss program.

_ Example Daily Intake for Women’s Diabetic Program-
Breakfast- one NS Cinnamon Roll, pancakes, waffles, bagel, cereal, muffin, bars, oatmeal.
Snack Power Fuel & Smart Carb (maybe a light string cheese-2 depending on calories, and a small apple)
Lunch: one NS hamburger, meal replacement bar (SO good), soup, chicken sandwich, Hot Pocket type thing, etc. plus add on vegetables.
Afternoon Snack- Power Fuel & Smart Carb (maybe a tbs. of peanut butter and some crackers w/fiber, and toss in some add on veggies).
Dinner- NS Dinner Entree (ravioli, beef stew, pizza, mac & cheese, spaghetti w/mushroom sauce, flatbreads, and others. plus add on vegetables.
Evening Snack- one NS ice cream sandwich, cream filled chocolate cupcake, cookies, BBQ multigrain snack rounds, candy bars (almond coconut, chocolate caramel, etc), chocolate covered pretzels, meat stick, popcorn, and others.

Portions: Nutrisystem uses portions that are reasonable and suited for weight loss AND maintenance. Most people on weight loss programs are clueless about portions and calorie content of foods. The veggies and water help fill you up. But people complain that the meals are too small. I’m never hungry after eating, and have to remind myself about snacks by leaving them out where I’ll see them.

Personalizing foods: One of my favorite aspects of Nutrisystem is that many of the items are easy to customize – like using low sodium chicken broth instead of water for the ‘cup’ lunches (pastas, mashed potatoes, rice dishes, etc- they come in a sturdy paper cup, and require water or broth for preparation, and a microwave to nuke them into lunch). Pico De Gallo is a free food- so that frozen NS Dinner Enchilada w/Rice can get a boost with that. Herbs and spices are ‘free’. The ‘Limited Extras’ are up to 35 calories of whatever you want (like butter for the waffles)- and up to 3 Limited Extras per day. You can save a Power Fuel of cheese (measured amount) to jazz up a cup lunch, or add to a pizza). Putting extra broccoli in the NS Cheddar Broccoli Rice and a bit (Limited Extra amount) of shredded sharp cheddar makes a great lunch. For those who complain about something being bland, Nutrisystem kinda needs to keep things suitable for milder palates. Those who like spicy stuff can always add salsa, herbs, or spices to jazz things up. I add sambal garlic paste to the Spicy Kung Pao noodles, because to me they aren’t spicy at all. But a 1/2 tsp of sambal, and there’s a little kick, and a few cocktail peanuts perks up the texture. Make the food your own! It’s easy to do- and then Nutrisystem appeals to more palates. I like the customizable products.

A word about the chocolate products and weather (except for the breakfast Double Chocolate Muffins)- order them during cooler months. The frozen items are shipped via FedEx in biodegradable styrofoam coolers with dry ice. All shelf stable foods, including chocolate snacks and lunch bars are sent in a regular shipping box via FedEx. I add a few extra ‘a la carte’ items that might not travel well in the summer in my winter and early spring months’ orders. If you live somewhere that isn’t really an area where ‘cool’ ever happens, you can minimize melting and misshapen candy bars by leaving the delivery box UNTOUCHED for a few hours after you bring it inside. There might be a whitish coating, but that happens with any chocolate that is exposed to heat. It’s called ‘blooming’, and just cocoa butter that has separated a bit. They are still perfectly safe to eat- but people complain about them, as if chocolate should never melt. I’m not sure why it is such a shock- regular chocolate melts in the heat… and Nutrisystem chocolate is ‘just’ regular chocolate with better nutritional content. Same goes for anything with a chocolate, peanut butter, or other coating.

I like Nutrisystem food regardless of weight loss. The frozen items are very good, but there are some things in the shelf stable option that I prefer (like my lunch choices- all 28 are shelf stable). I’ve found that things I normally can’t stand are good with the Nutrisystem option, and vice versa… try a lot of things. I’m using my first 2 months to try as many things as I can- there are a lot of new items since I was last on Nutrisystem. And the simplicity of the preparation is a huge perk with dud shoulders and legs. I get decent nutrition that tastes good, and my weight is dropping (5 pounds in 11 days, so far !). AND, my grocery bill- even with the add ons- has dropped dramatically.

Initially, it can sound complicated, but it really isn’t. Some items are ‘open and eat’, some need to be microwaved, and the cup lunches just need liquid and a microwave (put the cup in a microwave bowl until you see how your microwave works with the products, to avoid messes from boil overs- or get a Sistema- see below). My goal is to have 4-5 items per meal (and snacks) that I really like- having representatives from my favorite flavor profiles- comfort, Italian, Tex-Mex, and Mediterranean. I add a few a la carte items just to jazz things up a bit (and some items fit the requirements for Power Fuels or Smart Carbs).

Consider getting a Sistema soup cup- they are perfect for cup lunches and soups/stews/chile. Amazon has different sizes and shapes- this is my favorite for the cup lunches and soups. The vent avoids boil overs, and closing it helps with the ‘resting’ time required (I often reheat for a minute, then let it sit for another 4-5 minutes for a total of 9-10 minutes total so all liquid can be absorbed). Also, a food scale (I got a $12 digital one from Amazon), measuring cups, and measuring spoons are needed.

You CAN order just one month, but ordering 2 months at once saves you %50, and shipping is free on auto-ship. You can also eat dinner for breakfast, and breakfast for lunch, and lunch for dinner- or however you want to do it- just get all of the food and snacks in for the day along with the veggies and water.

There are several vegetarian options (lacto-ovo, mostly). A couple of items might work for vegans, but not a lot.

Trying it for a couple of months will give you a chance to try a lot of the items (150+). You can always cancel- but know that if you are on auto ship and want to quit before the second month, you will have $125 fee for restocking, etc. Auto-shipping is easier for the company, even if you want to delay a month (or speed one up). You’re already in the computer.

Nutrisystem is on Twitter and Facebook, and will answer questions. If you leave questions in the comments, I’ll do my best to answer them. I don’t work for them, but have always liked the program since first trying it years ago (maybe 9 ?). I don’t feel like I’m eating diet food.





Thoughts About The Intervention & Inpatient Eating Disorder Treatment 25 Years Later

This started as a reply to a Facebook post, but I got long-winded as usual… *rolling eyes*


I had an full blown intervention done on me when I was working as an RN in the detox unit of a chem dep treatment center in the Hill Country. Eight or nine co-workers ambushed my butt after working a double shift. I had dropped a lot in just 3 months (like %25 of my wt in that 3 months, %40 in 9 months). While I hated leaving my dog, and not being at work, I was exhausted. I didn’t have anything to say to ‘make my case’. They had the van, driver, and ‘babysitter’ (nurse I worked with) ready with the plane ticket. I flew on my own, which was medically questionable to the other nurses, but was met at the transferring airport, as well as LAX- where I could barely see from fatigue, and had an hour drive to the facility (it sucked- as in being in the business and knowing what to look for, not just being bummed at being there as an inmate). The driver asked what pills I’d taken because I was drifting off- it was pure exhaustion, from working the double, getting about 2 hours sleep at the facility where they had cabins (my coworker stayed in one on the weekends to avoid having to drive back and forth for 12-hour shifts), and being weak in general. There were between 3-6 eating disorder patients at the drug/alcohol rehab place, and we were the oddballs. They finally put our dining room table behind an ‘accordion’ partition so staring at us while we ‘ate’ wasn’t as easy. Early on, when going on beach walks, I couldn’t keep up. The sand was impossible to walk in. Cold turkey from laxatives was horrific (I threatened to steal the vacuum cleaner from housekeeping if they didn’t do something after a week)… but my coworkers cared enough not to let me die. They’d rather I live and be mad at them vs. regretting doing nothing after I died. My primary doc had given me a couple of weeks to survive.

My weight wasn’t low (I started very overweight), but the skin on my heels had come off, leaving craters, and I couldn’t focus. If I ate cereal, it was one piece. In my mind, it was a WHOLE PIECE. If the medication nurse left small pieces of food on a plate near me after saying something like “I’m so full, do you want this?” (uh, no… but I’d take pieces if nobody was looking- I knew she was trying to help- and I was tired of my main prayer at night being “God, please just let me wake up tomorrow, I don’t want to die in my sleep.“) I didn’t want to die, and I didn’t know how to eat enough to function. It was my worst relapse.

Once I got nutritionally patched up (took another 3 years after I was sent home to no aftercare to be able to eat in front of other people- which bosses noticed, though I did eat holed up in my office or behind the office door at the rehab place), my thinking completely changed to more normal views on food (the starvation really messed up food reality) but I had to treat myself like I’d take care of someone else as an RN. I didn’t have the self worth to work on ME, but thinking of myself as one of my patients helped a lot. I had a checklist of food groups I had to consume (from the info the registered dietician gave me at the inpatient place- she was sane), or I didn’t allow myself to exercise. If I really fell short, there was the dreaded Ensure.

I knew I was on my own- the “big mouth” at OA (all 3 people; we met in a parking lot, sitting on the ground… so lovely 🙄) would bring the diet of the week that we “should all be using”. I bailed on that, but got some OA books and other ED recovery books written for professionals. I was eventually allowed to go back to work at the treatment center, where I still struggled with food, but was doing a lot better. I went on to work at a nice nursing home, and a hospital before moving back to my hometown out of state. That was 25 years ago. I can’t say it’s never a struggle- it’s daily to some degree, but the treatment center was horrifying, and the fear of going back to someplace like that was more awful. It’s since been shut down.

Ways to Support Someone With Cancer

This came about after a ‘share the picture of a pink ribbon to show you care about people who have or have had cancer’ thing on social media. It’s always well-meaning, and meant to be a show of support. I hate those ribbons. I’ve had cancer. This is what I posted- but it got too long, so now it’s a blog post !

…..OK, this got longer than I expected. It’s a well-meaning thing to ‘support’ folks who have cancer- but I just want to forget it. NOTHING is the same after cancer, even when everything goes as it’s supposed to. Maybe I’m weird, but I loathe those ribbons. I’ve had cancer, as have SO many family and friends. Each cancer has its own color ribbon, but tits get the most attention (my mom had bilateral mastectomies, lung metastasis, and brain metastasis- lived for 17 years, the last 10 with dementia from brain radiation). Dad- thyroid, lived through that. Others who lived- cousin on dad’s side- thyroid, close friend of dad’s- now fighting multiple myeloma, dad of a friend-chronic myelocititc leukemia, cousin’s wife-Hodgkins, wife of another cousin- non-Hodgkins, mom’s brother in law- lung & brain, mom’s dad- lung, cousin’s husband-prostate. Died- 7 year old son of dad’s first cousin- leukemia, cousin-neuroendocrine colon; other cousin, pancreatic, mom’s brother -esophageal, wife of mom’s brother-lung, aunt-cervical, close friend of dad’s- ovarian, bio-grandmother-uterine, Phil-kidney & brain, former boss-not sure of site, dad’s friend’s daughter- brain, former co-worker, leukemia, former administrator- brain, co-workers 11 year old nephew- APL (more on what that is in a minute), co-workers 8 year old niece – glioblastoma multiformae (brain), local anchorwoman- APL, etc. The list goes on; add those I saw when I was working- can’t begin to count, but remember melanoma killing a 30 and 40 yr old (one of those in a month), pancreatic, liver, bone, etc.
 
Ribbons ‘do’ nothing. Everybody is “aware” of cancer. What people can do to SHOW they care? A load of laundry, grocery shop (but ask what the person can eat- and it might change every couple of days), vacuum, clean out the fridge (for someone who can’t eat because of chemo and the various issues w/eating, from blistered mouths to blistering asses when that chemo burns through it, cleaning the fridge is horrible). Other things- pick up prescriptions, change the sheets, take the pets to the vet, take the trash out, help with writing out checks for bills so the person just has to sign them (dad found that very helpful), tidy up the area where the person spends most of their time- and if they just want to be left alone, do that. If you don’t know what to do, ask. And if the person is just too tired to even begin to think about what they need, and you see something is out of sorts, ASK if that is something that would be helpful to have done. Help with bathing (back, feet, and legs are hard with no energy, or longterm medication access devices that need to be kept dry aside from prescribed cleaning and dressing changes)… I’m surprised I didn’t have a green fog around me after being in the hospital for 6 weeks- between horrific fatigue, constant IV meds, 25 infusions of blood and platelets, and a PICC line, I relied on bath bags (basically big baby wipes with no-rinse cleaner). I needed a sandblaster when I got home, but was still very tired- so I chiseled a bit off at a time.

“Health Basket”- some things that most people could use- ginger ale, 7-up, Pepsi, jello, pudding, sherbet, chicken noodle soup (actually chicken and stars is easier to keep on a spoon for someone who is exhausted), saltines if mouth sores not an issue, alcohol-free mouthwash, a very soft toothbrush, no-slip socks, easy to watch movies (attention span is shot from fatigue), baby muslin washcloths (terry can be too rough), etc. During the early days of chemo, it’s not the time for the family favorite recipe for ‘lava’ Buffalo wings, nachos, or many foods that are hot in temperature or seasoning, because of mouth sores. If the person’s appetite is next to nothing, don’t get diet products unless they can’t drink/eat the regular stuff (dad actually puked the regular Sprite, as he only drank toxic artificially sweetened sodas- but he also had an easy puke trigger, and the anesthesiologist wouldn’t listen to his sensitivity to midazolam, and gave it anyway- he always puked with that, and that doc was told).

If someone has an increased risk for infection (from actual cancer or chemo side effects), DO NOT bring fresh flowers, plants, fruit/veg that isn’t peeled by YOU, any water that isn’t bottled, and never go see someone on chemo if you have even the slightest possibility of being sick- your cold could literally kill someone with low neutrophils (a type of white blood cell).

https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/neutropenia

https://www.drugs.com/cg/neutropenic-precautions.html

The fatigue is indescribable. If you know the person well enough, ask if they need help finding social services to help with bills (social workers have a lot of info on resources for various issues)- cancer is horrifically expensive. One of my oral meds that I was on for 20 months (daily) was $10K/month. My copay was $450, and not doable on a fixed disability income. The social workers found a pharmacy that would fill them (thinking the Lymphoma & Leukemia Society would honor their agreement to pay my copay- they refused because THEY didn’t know that AML subtype M-3 was the same as APL – same exact thing, but they only acknowledged AML subtype M-3-so backed out; the pharmacy ate the costs until I could find a part D, where my copay was ZERO dollars…), or help someone find a different part D plan if they’ll be on chemo into the next year, if they’re on Medicare is also very helpful. I couldn’t leave the hospital without that medication. Dad literally had to bring the first prescription TO the hospital before the doc let me leave the building. The differences in part D are huge- it truly is worth checking them out on medicare.gov.

I remember being too tired to even get up from the recliner to go to the bedroom at night (no TV in that bedroom) and often just sat there for most of the night except to go to the bathroom- which is when I usually made it back to bed, unless I had to turn off the TV- then it was being stuck in the chair until I had to go to the bathroom again, and turned the TV off before I got up. It was too exhausting to think about doing more than one thing at a time. Somehow, I got myself to the hospital at 6:15 a.m. every M-F for two 5-week cycles of arsenic, and the follow-up appointments for another full year of daily oral chemotherapy, as well as a total of six years of follow-up appointments.

Some things patients taught me- sometimes Frosted Flakes at 3 a.m. is the only thing that has sounded good for 2 weeks (so I sent the aide in search of Frosted Flakes, and in the end, sent him to the store with 10 bucks and told him to get as many as that would buy- back then it was 4 boxes). Sometimes gently pulling the hair that is falling out gives a feeling of a bit of control- I had a patient tell me that he was just ‘even-ing things up’. The patient decides how bad they hurt- if it’s time, medicate; if not, call the doctor. If they have lost control of bodily functions, it’s not personal if the patient wants someone with more experience to help clean them up- the younger ones didn’t mean to sound ‘short’-they just needed time and experience (I was generally the one asked to clean them up, and I was OK with that- the younger ones didn’t get into trouble- they meant no harm and were simply new… they were very good, especially being so new- but the patient wanted someone older).

And sometimes the most helpful thing to do is just to listen IF the person wants to talk. The topics might be very hard – but someone needs to know what they want if they die (dad and I had several talks over the years, and especially the week before he died, like he knew… that info was priceless). There are no do-overs when someone dies. Knowing what they want is the last gift you can give them. If it’s legal, nothing should be off limits unless it’s just logistically impossible, and the person wasn’t thinking about that- just get as close as you can to sending them off how they’d want to go if they were there to participate. Humor is healing- it’s not ‘wrong’. IF the person wants something silly, go for it ! If they don’t want people standing up and telling stories, don’t include that- suggesting that those who want to honor the person with stories meet up together at a restaurant or park (gotta mind the COVID-19 rules right now).

But maybe most important- don’t do anything you wouldn’t normally do (unless it’s a risk to the person with cancer). Keep relationships a constant during a time of seemingly endless chaos. If you used to visit every week, go see him/her. If the person has had disfiguring surgery (especially facial, or gender specific), it can be a shock if the surgical site is visible. The person you knew is still in there. Treat them like they are. Don’t foster a victim mentality. Every cancer patient is a survivor from the minute they are diagnosed. Even if you know the statistics on some of the more vicious cancers, it’s so important that the one with the cancer is allowed to believe they have a chance. And ‘terminal’ or ‘end stage’ just means that’s what the person is likely to die from… not when.