If the tri-county area held its own "Biggest Loser" contest, Very Low Calorie Diet faithful Jim Oros would surely be in the running for the top prize.
Oros has dedicated his diet to mostly liquid for 11 months and is half the man for it -- literally. Oros, of Grand Haven, weighed in at 411 pounds when he started the same rapid weight-loss diet late last January.
He hit 210 in November and has no plans of quitting. Maintenance now has become the focus for both.
Hackley Health Management offers the national Health Management Resources program locally and sells HMR shakes, entrees and BeneFit bars. The HMR program offers a variety of options for people battling the bulge.
Personalized plans (that range from medically supervised to home do-it-yourself diet kits) can help a person lose 10 to 200 pounds, said Carrie Kelly, Hackley Health Management's program coordinator.
Whereas many weight-loss plans require participants to count calories and points or pick and choose food, the HMR Very Low Calorie Diet, also called Decision Free, makes it easy.
"They don't have to think about their choices," Kelly said. "There's no guesswork involved. The accountability also helps. When people don't attend their classes, you can tell. The weight comes back."
The program does have rules, including a strict attendance policy, exercise requirements and a restrictive diet monitored by blood tests. However, both Rieger and Oros found them helpful.
"They have to be ready. Jim is a perfect example. The mind has to be in sync with the body," she said.
Oros gives the credit to God and even wrote a small story about his weight-loss journey for his church's newsletter. Obese for most of his life, Oros tried different diets and exercise without much luck. His weight climbed to 460 at different times.
He went for an annual physical last January and his doctor suggested Hackley Health's plan. Oros agreed to try it, and after insurance approval for the medical portion, signed on -- with an impressive 19-pound weight loss in the first week.
The single 44-year-old became a dedicated shake drinker and, even now that he can have food, still drinks about five a day.
"I like doing that because it's easy to follow," he said. "One thing that's different with this program is that if you need to have six or seven shakes a day, then you can have them. I had a hard time grasping that at first. This is the only diet I've been on where they say more is better."
Oros learned to be creative with flavoring extracts and sugar- and fat-free gelatin and pudding mixes combined with the vanilla and chocolate flavored powder. He has experimented with blending and baking the mixture in different ways.
His favorite concoctions are brownies and cheesecake and chicken chips made with HMR's chicken soup variety. His latest recipe is a tasty mousse with frozen fruit.
"I really didn't miss anything because I was in the right frame of mind for losing weight," he said.
Need help with weight loss?
* Hackley Health Management, 3535 Park, 830-9684 or www.hackleyhealthmanagement.com.
Hackley Health Management opened in 1990. It has helped nearly 2,000 people achieve their weight-loss goals. The medically supervised weight- loss clinic offers a variety of weight-loss programs, serves as a local clinic for Health Management Resources and sells HMR products including shakes, entrees and BeneFit bars.
HMR has 200 clinics nationwide and Muskegon's clinic ranked third in the nation in 2005 with 12 Gold Standard awards.
There are generally three phases for people who start on the medically supervised Very Low Calorie Diet. Clients begin with HMR meal replacements only. They must consume a minimum of five shakes per day and also eat entrees and benefit bars. They weigh-in weekly with a doctor or nurse, who monitors their health through blood tests and blood pressure checks. They attend a weekly behavior modification education class with other participants.
The next phase is the optional Healthy Solutions program that allows participants to have a minimum of three shakes, two entrees and a combination of five fruits and vegetable servings per day. The new HMR at Home option allows people to follow the Healthy Solutions program from home using a conference call line and virtual classroom. Those in the traditional program still meet with their health educator to get weighed and attend a weekly behavioral modification class.
Once clients hit their goal weight, they are encouraged to continue in the maintenance program for 12 to 18 months. They still use HMR guidelines and food products, but can eat more regular meals. Weekly education class focuses on nutrition and forming healthy, lifelong eating habits. It provides accountability and offers a safe place to share setbacks and trade tips for keeping the pounds off.
Jim Oros, 44
Weight-loss highlights: Began Very Low Calorie Diet on Jan. 26 at 411.6 pounds. Survived on shakes and entrees for the first four months. He transitioned to Healthy Solutions program, which incorporates fruits and vegetables, for three months until he hit his goal weight of 210. He has been on the maintenance program since late September.
Exercise regime: Swims three days a week and works out five or six times weekly at Powerhouse Gym in Grand Haven.
Health improvements: He had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and varicose vein issues. He has been off blood pressure medication for a few months and recently had the varicose veins repaired.
Key to success: Being in the right frame of mind.
Words of encouragement: "I'm a Christian so I believe God had a plan for me to do this, to help me become a better person. I feel better now than I did when I was 25, I have more energy and stamina."