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Your most common diet questions, answered!

Choosing to follow a total diet replacement (TDR) like LighterLife’s Total Plan is becoming increasing popular following a wave of new evidence supporting this method of weight loss for people struggling with obesity and type 2 diabetes. If you’re thinking of starting a LighterLife plan or have recently began the programme, we’ve got your burning questions covered. Here LighterLife’s head of nutrition and research, Dr Kelly Johnston, answers the top five questions she often gets asked about the LighterLife programme.

  1. Can I gain all the daily vitamins and minerals I need from a normal diet?

To achieve such a fast and significant weight loss with a conventional diet, would be extremely difficult and given the fact that many people often restrict whole food groups to facilitate this, there is no guarantee that you would be receiving the recommended daily allowances for all nutrients.

Research shows that very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs) like Total are the safest, quickest way to lose weight.  You get all the nutrition your body needs every day while losing weight, with the average weight loss being 3 stone (18kg) in 12 weeks.

The LighterLife Foodpacks are formulated to strict specifications and four LighterLife Foodpacks per day will provide between 600-800 kcal, at least 50g protein and 50g carbohydrate, around 17g fats, with an average of 14 g fibre and at least 100% RNI for 28 key vitamins and minerals.

  1. Why is protein important?  

Protein is important because it is essential for growth, repair and the maintenance of good health. All cells and tissues contain protein and the large amount of it in the body, is only second, to the amount of water found. Large proportions of it are found in the muscles, skin and blood. Protein is a fundamental structural and functional element within every cell of the body and is involved in a wide variety of metabolic processes. Protein also provides us with some energy and the amount of protein we need varies through our lifetime.  Different foods contain different amounts and combinations of amino acids which are the building blocks of protein.  Protein from animal sources (eg meat, fish, eggs and dairy products) contains the full range of essential amino acids needed by the body and all the amino acids needed can also be got from combining different plant sources of protein eg pulses and cereals.

  1. How much water should I drink each day and why?

Whilst following LighterLife Total you do not consume conventional food, which naturally contains fluid. So, it is important to increase your fluid intake in order to remain well hydrated.  The amount you need to consume depends on your body size and how much fluid your body excretes, and your age and sex.  Your water requirements also vary from day to day depending on such things as activity levels and weather conditions. So, consume water throughout the day little and often.

As a rough guide the NHS recommends the average person needs to consume about 1.2 – 2 litres of water per day. Be guided by your thirst and whether your urine is dark and concentrated (a sign of mild dehydration) and how often you urinate (infrequently is also a sign of mild dehydration), whether you are feeling hungry, tired or you are constipated or have headaches.

You should be drinking enough water to turn your urine a light-coloured yellow and urinating on average at least about seven or eight times a day.  You need water, and enough of it – but not too much at once. Don’t drink large amounts in one go – little and often is best. Your body works like a water wheel, keep a trickle going in and the wheel keeps turning – too little or too much and it stops being efficient.

  1. Why do I crave unhealthy snacks?

When we are feeling challenged or emotionally distressed and serotonin (a chemical messenger) levels are low, we can sometimes crave carbohydrates and, to some extent, fatty and rich foods – collectively what we tend to class as “comfort foods”. And whilst this is the result of very complicated biochemical processes, part of this is down to the fact that serotonin also signals satiety. Low satiety, i.e. increased hunger, means we start to crave quick fixes, i.e. the carbs and the fats.  So, eating comfort foods doesn’t remove the cause of the problem – the triggering event – but the emotions associated with it are temporarily diminished by the increase in other neurotransmitters (including dopamine) so we feel calmer and believe we can cope better.

We now know that having very large amounts of sugar and carbohydrate over long periods of time can actually max out our serotonin machinery, leaving us unhappy, carb-craving, and depressed.  Comfort foods are a short-term way to manage your uncomfortable feelings but they can lead to weight gain and further uncomfortable feelings in a vicious circle.

  1. How much physical activity should I be doing on Total?

Adopting a more active lifestyle plays a key role in long term weight management and health.  It is not recommended that a Total client starts or continues a strenuous high intensity exercise regime when embarking on the programme. An active lifestyle for example with walking and swimming is the key message when starting the programme, gradually building on this to achieve low to moderate intensity as you progress through the programme and into management.

If you are someone who is already exercising when you start, then take this down at the beginning of the programme to a low intensity level and gradually increase this as you become more established on the programme and continue as long as you feel well when exercising. Low-moderate intensity exercise is recommended as this helps the body utilise the various energy stores, in the most appropriate way while dietary energy intake is so low.

Also, exercise helps to build muscle, and there is good evidence that exercise helps retain lean mass during weight loss too.  So aside from the obvious non-weight loss related benefits of exercise, by embarking on a suitable exercise regime (which could be walking) when you’re ready and tailored to your fitness, it may help you put on some muscle, which in turn increases your metabolic rate.  This is a general guide and individuals may find it helpful to speak to a sports physiologist about their exercise regime to gain expert advice on this.

If you still have questions for the LighterLife team, please get in contact via live chat or our social channels and we’d be more than happy to help you. We are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and can be reached on 0800 298 8988.

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