Posted on October 24, 2013 · Posted in News

Low calorie diets using shakes for breakfast, lunch and tea are the most effective form of weight loss after bariatric surgery for people with a lot of weight to lose.  Effective yes, but is it realistic to follow?  This dietitian decided to give it a go!  Read on to find out more……………………

A low calorie liquid diet is the most effective form of weight loss without having bariatric surgery.1  Recent evidence from a study based in GP practices, involving 91 patients has shown mean weight losses of 17kg after 3 months on a total diet replacement plan of Cambridge Health shakes.1  

I was so impressed with these results and the positive feedback from patients who were part of this trial that I looked into delivering it in a private setting.  I am astounded at the results.  Trialling the programme has been a fantastic experience for me.  Each client has the seal of approval from their GP.  All have completed the total diet replacement stage with weight losses ranging between 2 and 5 stones.  All are now embarking on a programme of food reintroduction followed by weight loss maintenance.

It is not only the weight loss that is impressive.  There have also been consequent reductions in blood sugars and blood pressures to near normal levels.  This has meant a huge reduction in medications.  It means a real reduction in risk of diabetes and heart disease in the near future, and an improved quality of life. 

As I was guiding these clients through the first 3 months, I felt a little lost. I was ignorant as to what they were going through.   I needed to experience it first-hand to truly understand the expectations of the programme. I opted for a week’s trial.

My daily menu consisted of 4 shakes, each just over 200 calories.  I was also allowed 100mls of milk and 2 plain yogurts daily.  Now finding a plain yogurt in my local town is trickier than you think! 

Breakfasts were by far the easiest.  I prepared the shake and drank it out of a mug.  Not ideal, but if my children had seen me having a milkshake for breakfast they would demand the same!  I was quite amazed how much I enjoyed the chocolate shake for breakfast.  Didn’t think I would but it felt quite continental!

The mornings were long.  Having a shake at 6 30am, then no other shake until 12 30 is a long time.  This is when I had my yogurt.  Sadly due to the availability of plain yogurts either where I lived or where I worked, I settled for a flavoured diet yogurt. 

Lunches at work were tricky.  I opted for savoury shakes.  They tasted like a thicker and more filling version of a cup a soup (and infinitely less salty!). Other dietitians questioned my plan with a few concerned looks and comments like “ don’t need to lose weight…” . I considered how clients deal with this focus of attention.  It would be very difficult to not tell someone you are doing this type of diet as it is clearly visible and as such work colleagues really needed to be on board. 

Afternoons were shaky times for me.  If I was busy and out and about, it was not really a problem.  The challenge was at home. Preparing meals for the family was tough! It was torture to make and smell a roast chicken dinner and not eat it! This was compounded when I was left with the washing up!!

A plus point of only having a shakes at mealtimes was that I didn’t nibble.  I am dreadful for eating children’s leftovers (even dietitians do this too!!!), and this week I amazed myself that I didn’t even feel tempted.  Bring it on, I love this plan!!! 

Evenings in general were the difficult times.  By the middle of the week, day 4 to be precise I was crumbling. I was warned this would happen.  I felt tired, shaky and struggled to focus.   I have to say I was at breaking point.  This did get better and easier as the week wore on. Perseverance is definitely the key.

What I didn’t fully expect was the raging thirst.  It is recommended that you drink at least 8 pints of fluid.    I enjoyed every drop!   By night-time however I was running to the toilet every hour! Ah, no need to go out for a run! 

I was glad when the week came to an end and really enjoyed my first meal!  I think my family enjoyed me eating again too.  It really was the social side that became increasingly difficult.  I have complete admiration for my clients who sustained the programme for 3 months.  True commitment and great work. 

A low calorie replacement plan is certainly not easy and not for everyone.  I am pleased that I experienced this week and it has given me an insight as to what is involved and the commitment needed. I feel very lucky to be working with the motivated clients that I have and their patience when I openly admit that I am learning from their experiences too.  I am sure this will still be the case as they embark on the food reintroduction and weight loss maintenance phases of the programme.


1. Lean et al 2013. Feasibility and indicative results from a 12-month low-energy liquid diet treatment and maintenance programme for severe obesity.  British Journal of General Practice 2013;63:81-82.

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