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Debunking the myths about meal-replacement diets

There are many myths surrounding meal-replacement and very-low-calorie diet (VLCD) plans such as the LighterLife TotalFast plan, and you’ve probably come across a few – they’re difficult, they don’t fill you up, they’re expensive, boring, unhealthy. But fear not! Research from Dr Nerys Astbury, senior researcher into diet and obesity at Oxford University, debunks the fake news…

They’re a quick fix…

“Although only a few of the studies included in our latest review reported on long-term follow up (which is common for diet and weight-loss studies), the studies that did have a longer follow-up showed that people who followed a programme that included meal replacements weighed less than when they began the programme up to four years later.”

LighterLife says: “With us, you don’t just get great tasting meal replacements and effective weight plans. You get to understand your relationship with food and ditch that ‘just one more won’t hurt, I’ll start the diet tomorrow’ mentality – and that means you’ll be more likely to stick to your plan, lose weight and keep it off in the long term. And with weigh-ins and meetings totally free, it’s a win-win-win!”


They’re too complicated…

“Swapping some of your usual meals, which might contain between 500-800 calories, with meal-replacement products that typically contain 200-300 calories each, helps reduce your daily calorie intake. Since meal-replacement products are calorie counted and portion controlled, it’s a lot easier to follow this type of diet than one where calories have to be calculated.”

LighterLife says: “Weight-loss plans don’t get easier to follow than our Total VLCD plan, where you replace all your ordinary food each day with four Foodpacks. These give you at least 50g protein, 14g fibre, plus carbohydrate, essential fats and 100% of your daily vitamins and minerals – all for 600-800 calories a day. There’s no cooking, no weighing and no fuss.”

I’ll be limited to repetitious shakes…

“Meal-replacement products have come a long way from chalky-tasting shakes that only come in one flavour. Today there is a wide range of products to choose from, including the traditional shakes in flavours to suit all tastes, soups, bars, smoothies and even some prepackaged meals, meaning that your diet won’t be dull or boring.”

LighterLife says: “You’ll be spoilt for choice with our Foodpacks. We’ve got everything from Chocolate Mug Cake, Spaghetti Bolognese, Fragrant Thai Noodles and Porridge Fastpots to chunky Nut Fudge and Chocolate and Raisin bars, hearty Scotch Broth, Superfood Green Soup

 and lush Berry Smoothie, plus our smooth, creamy and ever-popular Chocolate, Banana, Strawberry and Vanilla shakes. We reckon they’re the tastiest you’ll find anywhere!”

They don’t work…

“Our latest systematic review on the effectiveness of meal replacements for weight loss included 23 clinical trials that compared weight loss in people who followed a meal-replacement diet with a weight-loss plan that didn’t include meal replacements. We combined similar trials into groups for analysis. Across each group, although people in the control programmes lost weight, the people who followed a meal replacement diet lost significantly more weight after one year. On average, people who followed a meal-replacement diet lost 1.4kg more than people using other diets after one year. Those who followed a meal-replacement diet, combined with support from a dietitian or healthcare professional, lost 2.2kg more than those who followed an alternative type of weight-loss diet (with no support), and 3.9kg more than those who followed an alternative type of weight-loss diet combined with support.”

LighterLife says: “A recent study in the British Medical Journal from Oxford University shows that total diet replacement VLCDs like our TotalFast plan, combined with regular counselling like our CBT groups and Slimming Clubs, are three times more successful than standard dietary advice from a GP.”

They’re unsafe…

“Some people believe that diets that limiting the intake of ‘real food’ can cause headaches, insomnia, fatigue, constipation and diarrhoea. But these are common side effects associated with many forms of dieting and are not limited to the use of meal replacements. In our latest review, although many studies did not report harms, the studies that did report harms found no evidence that using meal replacements for weight loss caused any more serious side effects than other sorts of weight-loss programmes (including traditional diets using real foods).”

LighterLife says: “Our Foodpacks are made to the highest standards within the UK and the EU, and their quality independently checked. Any minor symptoms like headaches and fatigue that you do notice are temporary, mostly due to carb withdrawal, and they clear up after your first week on TotalFast.”

I’ll feel hungry all the time…

“Meal-replacement products are formulated to be high in protein and fibre, both ingredients that have been shown to suppress appetite. Even though the portions look small, they fill you up so you won’t feel hungry and go seeking calorific snacks between meals.”

LighterLife says: “All our Foodpacks are high in protein and a source of fibre, and they’re low enough in carbohydrate to get you into ketosis, where your body switches from burning carbs to burning its stored fat stores as its main source of energy. Ketosis also affects the hormones that regulate appetite, so you don’t tend to feel physically hungry.”

I’ll end up with a poor quality diet

“When people reduce the amount of food they eat in order to lose weight, it becomes more difficult to get the recommended intakes of nutrients that are essential for good health. However, our review found that the use of meal replacements in an energy restricted diet was not associated with any nutritional deficiencies. This is presumably because the meal replacements are fortified with vitamins and minerals to meet strict regulations on their composition.”

LighterLife says: “Our Foodpacks each provide you with at least a quarter of your daily nutrition – including protein, fats, fibre and key vitamins and minerals. So on our TotalFast plan, you’re getting 100% of the nutrition you need, in around 600-800 calories, which independent research shows is simply not possible with ordinary food diets below 1000 calories.”

I might lose weight but I’ll still be unhealthy

“Our review showed that risk factors for disease including HbA1c, a blood marker used to diagnose type 2 diabetes, improved more in people using meal replacement than in those using other types of weight-loss programme. If you’re considering losing weight, our latest evidence suggests that replacement diets can be a sound option.”

LighterLife says: “Successful weight loss and mindfulness techniques help you change the way you think about food. Meal replacement and total diet replacement Foodpacks are part of your LighterLife toolkit that empowers you to do this, and our Mentors are another. They all work together on your LighterLife journey, helping you create a new, healthier lifestyle and eating plan that work for you in the long term, so you can enjoy better health and the life you deserve.”