Very low calorie diet (VLCD) also known as a total diet replacement (TDR) is typically a weight management programme that consists of eating approximately 800 calories a day. The plan provides all of the food you need to consume each day in the form of 4 specially formulated meal replacements per day such as porridge, soups, shakes, bars, etc. The meal replacements are usually mixed with either milk or water before consumed. The meals provided are designed to contain all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that the body needs, while containing 800 calories a day or less.
These style of plans are mainly for adults who are classed as obese (BMI over 30) and for those who want to kick start there weight loss by resetting their metabolism. In accordance with NICE guidelines it is recommended that the maximum length of time to follow such a plan would be 12 weeks. Then you should switch to a diet above 800 calories such as a low calorie diet (LCD) for at least 1 week before switching back to the VLCD diet.
VLCD plans can be tough to follow but have been proven to help people suffering with type II diabetes in to remission. They can be instrumental in assisting patients to lose weight for surgery and helping to prepare for receiving fertility treatment. It’s good to choose a plan that has a good support network to help you if you struggle or have any questions such as Actidiet.
This type of diet is not recommended if you are under 18, or pregnant or breast feeding women as VLCDs do not contain enough nutrients for mum and baby. If you have any medical conditions (such as an eating disorder, diabetes or high blood pressure) or are on any medication it is best to discuss the VLCD programme with your GP first before starting.
It’s not going to be easy, but if you have the right mind set and feel ready to start, the best place to start is your immediate environment, ensuring it’s the right time to start – but make sure they are not just excuses! Ask yourself what will make following this plan difficult for me? And if you can remove or minimise these threats to success do so. Make following the plan as easy as possible for yourself.
Sort through your kitchen cupboards and remove all the naughty tempting treats and goodies, out of site out of mind! If you don’t live a lone put all of your meal replacements / allowable food in a separate cupboard so you don’t have to see anything that may coax you on to the dark side. Trips to supermarkets or food shops can be a nightmare when following such a meal plan, so in this instance it would be best if you are in charge of doing the family shop to order your family’s groceries online.
Keep track of your measurements, even take photos on a weekly basis benefits you as if you are feeling a bit low along your journey (which will probably happen – we’re only human!) the progress you have made from the beginning can really help you stay on the straight and narrow.
While following a VLCD it is a good idea to recruit the support of family, friends and even work colleagues will be a great help as they will know not to offer you anything that may derail you and could help with getting you more active. For example, you could say “instead of going for lunch on Saturday could we go on a walk instead? If you explain why losing weight is important I’m sure they would understand.
You will be tested…
Losing weight is hard and isn’t something that is going to happen over night. This is why you must try and keep focussed on why you you are doing it, how much healthier you will feel and be once you reach your target.
The first few days you may feel a little lethargic, dizzy, hungry and irritable and struggle to concentrate. As your body adapts these symptoms will fade. It’s easy to confuse thirst and hunger avoid the confusion and make sure you drink plenty of water (2-3 litres per day) and healthy zero calorie drinks (water is the best) to combat this.
It is common for people to have a complicated relationship with food. Stress, anxiety, loneliness and boredom can all have an impact on our wellbeing and trigger certain behaviours such as eating more, and more of the ‘wrong’ (unhealthy) foods. These kind of cravings do pass and usually only last up to 5 minutes, making distraction the key to get through them. A great way to distract yourself is to give a friend a call until the craving fades.
A healthy BMI is classified as between 18.5 and 24.9, once you’ve reached it that is the time to slowly reintroduce food back into your diet. To remain at your desired weight it is essential to do this process gradually by reducing the number of meal replacements consumed each day which can take up to 8 weeks.
It is important not to regress into old eating habits, many of these programmes have guidance detailing the best way of doing this. At this point frequent monitoring (1-2 times per week) of your weight and measurements is crucial to help prevent weight gain while getting used to your new way of eating.