When I first heard about the UAMS program, I looked on their website for more details. There were a few patient stories and a promotional video, but the details were scarce. I asked around, but all I could really find out about the program was what others had heard. Facts were few and far between, but the myths were abundant. Since I’ve been in the program for over a year, I have come to know quite a lot about the program, and I’m constantly surprised by the things I hear about the program that simply aren’t true.
#8 “UAMS Program. That’s that liquid diet.”
The UAMS Program uses Health One Meal Replacements, a nutritionally-designed meal replacement that can be prepared in a variety of ways. Yes, you can consume it as a shake, but it has a variety of non-liquid forms, too. I’ve made it into muffins, chips, cookies, pasta, pretzels, chocolate bunnies, and waffles just to name a few. Making it into a pudding or brownie batter is, by far, my favorite way to consume it. The UAMS Program is not a liquid diet.
#7 “Parking is impossible at UAMS.”
Parking is not only possible, it’s included in the program costs! The UAMS Program is located in the outpatient clinic, which is served by Parking Deck 3. Program participants park on level 3A and walk across a covered skybridge to the clinic. Parking is validated at check-in for each visit. I have never had difficulty finding a convenient parking spot. Even at 448 pounds, the walk from the car to the clinic was never a burden.
#6 “You don’t eat anything but meal replacements for 16 weeks.”
While the duration of the UAMS Program is 16 weeks, fruits and vegetables are introduced during week 6. As participants gain control over their behaviors and learn to make nutritionally-sound food choices, the types of foods available to the participant increase. As you approach your goal weight, the Registered Dietitians work with you to incorporate more and more conventional foods until eventually you are consuming no meal replacements at all.
#5 “It’s the same stuff they use at XYZ program.”
The UAMS Program uses Health One Meal Replacements, which are available exclusively through medically-supervised weight loss programs. Currently, UAMS is the only provider in the state offering Health One products. Nation-wide, only 10-12 states have programs qualified to sell Health One Meal Replacements.
#4 You Have To Buy UAMS “Food”
While many people in the program take advantage of the meal replacements, there is no requirement that participants consume Health One Meal Replacements at all. If a participant doesn’t like eating the meal replacements, cannot afford the meal replacements, or does not respond well to the meal replacements, conventional meal planning services are available. One of the best benefits of being a participant is having access to the services of the team of registered dietitians.
#3 You’ll Starve on 800 Calories a Day
While it’s true that a person consuming 5 meal replacements per day only gets 800 Calories, it’s also true that those 5 meal replacements contain 125% of the recommended nutrients that the body needs. I was completely satisfied with my meal replacement experience, and I had no issues feeling starved. Eating fast food filled my body with Calories, but it didn’t provide me the nutrients I needed to be healthy. Consuming meal replacements actually left me feeling more satiated, surprisingly.
#2 You Have To Have A Referral
Nope. You just call the clinic to schedule an orientation session, which is held most Thursday evenings at 6PM. The clinic operates on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so if you call when they’re closed, just leave a voicemail. Orientation is free! You get to meet the clinic staff, sample the meal replacements, and learn more about how to get started. There’s no obligation to join, but there’s plenty of information available.
#1 “It’s Prohibitively Expensive.”
The UAMS Program has several elements which contribute to the cost. Essentially, there are start-up costs and recurring costs.
The program fee covers administrative costs for the program as well as provides you access to the services of a team of registered dietitians. Think of it as tuition. Additionally, each student receives a binder with orientation materials which is then used to collect class materials each week including a recipe book with over 40 pages of meal replacement recipes. The initial doctor visit and lab fees are used to determine not only patient eligibility for the program, but also to place the patient on a “track,” which determines how frequently follow-up doctor visits and labs reoccur.
Each week, expect to purchase meal replacements from the clinic. Patients generally consume 5-6 meal replacements per day. Doctor visits and labs occur as often as monthly or as infrequently as quarterly, based on the risk level assessed by the Endocrinologist. When I began, I did labs very frequently. As I lost weight, my labs were reduced to once per quarter. At this point, I’m off meal replacements entirely. My only expenses are fees for the doctor visit and blood work four times per year.
When taken in one lump sum, the cost of the program can seem high. Occasionally, though, the start-up costs for the program have been made available at a discount through Groupon and/or Living Social offers. Be watching for those, because they can cut start-up costs by as much as half.
Even at full price, if you intend to join the program and stick with it, you come out with an amazing deal. You pay a one-time program fee and have ongoing access to a team of registered dietitians as long as you’re a program participant. If you “disappear” for more than 6 months, you lose these privileges and must re-join the program.