Some diets promise extraordinarily fast weight loss – achieved by cutting calorie intake to (dangerously) low levels.
If you’re ever tempted to follow a Very Low Calorie diet, make sure you know the facts first.
What is a Very Low Calorie diet?
A Very Low Calorie (VLC) diet is one designed to promote rapid weight-loss at the start of a long-term dieting program. People on the diet consume below 800 calories per day.
Some well-known plans which are cut calories to VLC diet levels are:
When can you go on a VLC diet?
If a patient has a BMI of over 30 (putting them into the “obese” rather than just “overweight” category), their doctor may put them on a VLC diet. However, this is only done when the risks of remaining obese outweigh the health risks posed by the diet.
The article What is a Very Low Calorie Diet? explains:
[VLC diets] are intended for patients whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is greater than 30 with significant comorbidities (illnesses or diseases related to morbid obesity, such as diabetes or high blood pressure). VLC diets are not normally used for patients with a BMI between 27 and 30 unless they have medical conditions related to their weight.
You should never attempt to follow a VLC diet without medical supervision, as mentioned in Very Low Calorie Diets: Good or Bad?
What if you’re dieting for a special occasion?
There might well be times where you’re tempted to cut calories right down in order to lose weight that bit faster – especially if you’ve been dieting for a special occasion.
Try not to regularly drop below 1100 calories per day. If you don’t do any exercise, it won’t damage your health to occasionally eat only 800 – 1000 calories, but this certainly should never be for more than a few days at a time.
Do you really want to reach that special occasion feeling exhausted, ill and stressed because you’ve been starving yourself for days?
Surely the faster I lose weight, the better?
It can be frustrating to only lose a pound each week, but slower weight loss is much more likely to be permanent.
Following a VLC diet can often have a “yo yo” effect on your weight; you lose weight rapidly for a few weeks whilst on the diet, but when you start eating “normally” again, your metabolism has slowed to cope with the lack of food – and you pile the pounds back on.
Eating so little can have a number of side effects such as extreme tiredness, constipation, diarrhoea and nausea. If you are severely overweight when you start rapidly losing weight on a VLC, you also put yourself at more risk of developing gallstones.
What’s best for long-term weight loss?
When you lose weight fast, you often change your eating patterns radically. The three diets mentioned above all involve replacing meals:
- The Cabbage Soup diet: no prizes for guessing what you eat a lot of here 😉
- The Cambridge Diet and Lighter Life both involve meal replacements – bars, shakes and soups – which are designed to include the nutrients you need whilst remaining low calorie.
The problem with these plans is that you won’t be re-educating yourself to change your “normal” eating habits. If you go straight back to what you were eating before the diet … you’ll inevitably put on all the weight you lost.
If you want to keep the weight off for good, follow the common sense advice given by nutritionists down the years and increase the amount of exercise you do.
Maybe it’ll take you a few months longer to reach your goal – but isn’t that worth it, if you stay slim and healthy for the rest of your life?
Have you had long-term success using a VLCD?