I decided to try out this very low calorie diet (VLCD) challenge or if you want to put a number on it - the 800 calorie diet!
Crash diets, I’m not a fan of it. Anything that is difficult to maintain in the long run will lead to failure as you will invariably put the weight back on. However, I’ve started to grow an interest in this diet which is based on the DiRECT (Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial) study.
What is it?
The very low-calorie diet (VLCD) is a clinically supervised diet plan that involves eating about 800 calories a day or fewer.
This is done up to a maximum of 12 weeks continuously or intermittently by replacing normal food with low-calorie shakes, soups, bars, or porridge.
Very low-calorie diets (VLCD) has been shown to put type 2 diabetes in remission in those recently diagnosed with the condition. It was announced that very low calorie diets will be piloted at scale by the NHS for the first time, from 2019.
Adults who are obese (BMI of ≥ 30 kg/m2) BUT this is not the first option of choice.
DiRECT (Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial)
Diabetes Remission: when your blood sugar levels (HbA1c level of 48mmol/mol (6.5%) or less) are within normal ranges without the need to take any medications but this is not a cure.
A simple overview of the study can be found here.
With such effort and commitment during the commencement of the trial, efforts were not wasted – it did work for some.
At 24 months, 35.6% of those commencing the intervention had remission, 11.4% had weight loss ≥15kg, and 24.2% of the intervention group maintained ≥10kg weight loss.
Ultimately, the weight has been shed off, visceral fat reduced, and their diabetes went into remission. Most importantly, their eating habits changed which led to further weight loss after the programme.
Weight loss of ≥10 kg provides remission for two thirds of the participants.
However, reading anecdotal experiences from forums, some people end up with an eating disorder. Cutting back to SUCH AN EXTREME not only puts you at risk physically but also mentally.
Note a VLCD WILL NOT WORK LONG TERM – it is extremely dangerous. Your body goes into starvation mode, your natural instincts may take over and make sure that you eat what it needs. This may lead to binge eating behaviour or disordered eating.
Thus, a total diet replacement with a formula product may not be acceptable to some patients as some may prefer a food-based diet. Food-based dietary strategies may help establish a sustainable diet for the longer term.
Possible side effects: Dry mouth, constipation/diarrhoea, headache, dizziness, cramps, hair thinning
Why I’m doing this?
For patient experience as this is being recognised by the NHS and pilot studies have shown to be beneficial for people who have type 2 diabetes. Of course, this is mostly done in inpatients in a controlled environment, so it is not recommended for anyone to try it.
At the end of the day, I'll get an better grasp on the calories in food, how to make swaps and attempt to have a still nutritious diet albeit having a very low-calorie one.
Things to be aware of
Different cooking methods
Cows vs. plant-based milks
Low-calorie bulky foods
In addition, this is something I would like explore in depth as I'm doing this for my dissertation!
How I Planned My Diet
It took me 3 days to plan out my week. First, I searched for 800kcal/VLCD meal plan but that was lacking, or it was based on very simple foods e.g. crackers, yoghurt, fruit and sandwiches.
Instead, I wanted to challenge myself by putting in some effort into creating a dish every day – that is by involving the hob.
I then looked up meals under 300 kcal and there are surprisingly a lot of recipes out there!
However, when I put the ingredients into a food database, I realised they don’t add up to match with the total calorie content that they showed – sneaky! They were around 100 calories off, but in reality, this does not really matter as there are always factors we cannot control e.g. cooking method, cooking time.
No one will double check the calories displayed on the websites (except for those whom calorie are counting) and will simply believe what the recipe says. So, I altered some of the recipes by omitting certain products e.g. cream, butter, oil or simply by reducing the portion size.
Without further ado, here's the video!
01:13: Day 1 starts
*DO NOT follow this diet unless advised and done under supervision by a professional!