Do meal replacements work? Yes they do…but at what cost?

2 women decided they wanted to lose 10kg. Person A decided to do an intensive meal replacement program by replacing each meal with a shake. Person B had done thousands of diets in the past and none of them had been successful in the long term, so she decided to take a different approach.

Person A – let’s call her Amanda started her meal replacement diet. She felt pretty crappy for the first few days – hungry, lethargic, irritable, moody, but she knew this would ease off after a few days. By day 4 she started to feel better however still a little tired and hungry. Amanda continued with her meal replacement diet for the next few weeks. One weekend she was invited out for dinner to celebrate her friends birthday. She had been doing so well on the diet and she had been losing weight so she declined. She felt guilty but she didn’t want to be tempted by the food and drinks. Her kids started asking her why she wasn’t eating dinner with them and she started cancelling other social events because she didn’t want to break her diet plus she didn’t really feel like going anyway. She was feeling tired, hungry and moody. And she hadn’t done a nice soft poo for weeks!

By week 8 on the diet she had reached her goal of losing 10kg. Great she thought! She can now stop the diet! She immediately went back to her regular eating regime. 8 weeks later she had regained the lost weight. She felt like a failure. She felt guilty. She felt ashamed. The meal replacements had not only damaged her physically but emotionally, socially and mentally too. Unfortunately this is an all too common story. This story is filled with words like ‘shame’, ‘guilt’ and ‘failure’ which is unfortunately what many people feel when they use these products.

Person B – let’s call her Betty. She was sick of the yoyo, fad diets. She had done them all before so she decided to take a different approach. She wanted to lose 10 kg but she decided she didn’t care how long it took her. She decided that to start with she wasn’t going to change her diet at all. She was going to eat exactly the same food but just try and control her portions. She decided that instead of having 200g of meat with her meals she was going to reduce it to 120g. However, she wasn’t going to do this right away she was going to reduce it by 20g a week. She got out a kitchen scale and weighed 180g of meat and educated herself around what it looked like. For the next week she ate 180g of meat with her meals and was surprised that it didn’t effect her hunger at all. The next week she reduced it to 160g and also started to reduce her servings of rice and pasta. At the same time while she was reducing her portions of meat and rice she was increasing her veggies/salad.

The next step she took was to look at her habitual snacks. Without a doubt she would have a 10am muffin and 8pm chocolate biscuits everyday. She decided that before she went to get these snacks she was going to take 1 whole minute to stop and listen to her body. She was going to ask herself – Do I really want these or am I just doing it out of habit/boredom? If after the 1 minute of talking to herself, if she did truly want them she would have them. And for the following week she did have them everyday. Then one day she thought well actually I’m still feeling pretty satisfied from dinner I don’t actually want my biscuits. Over the next few weeks she only had the biscuits about twice a week.

Betty then decided to get up 10 minutes earlier every morning and eat breakfast, she figured 10 minutes wasn’t going to make her feel extra tired throughout the day. She started to make new goals to focus on each week and she felt so proud when she achieved them and excited to start a new goal. During her walk around the block one night she decided to jog the length of her street. And she did, she actually jogged, not power walked but jogged – she hadn’t done that for 10 years!!! Man did she feel proud!!! The following week she was in the tea room at work and someone offered her some muffins. Before she said yes she stopped and thought about it and said ‘no thanks, I don’t really feel like it right now. I might have one later if I feel like it’. She went back to her desk feeling pretty chuffed with herself. She started to slow down and really focus on enjoying the food she was eating. Eating meals was no longer a chore, she wouldn’t quickly scoff them down while sitting at her desk. She would take time to really enjoy every mouth of food with all her senses.

6 months later Betty was feeling great! She had so much energy and she had even signed up for a 5km fun run!!! Her skin was glowing, but most of all she felt SO proud of herself and all of the great achievements of the past 6 months. She no longer felt scared around food! She felt in control, she knew she could eat anything she wanted – if she wanted to! She was proud that she was kinder to herself and her body. She really listened to her body and gave it what it truly wanted. She still went out with her friends for dinner and enjoyed eating what she wanted without any bad feelings. She was so proud of her new relationship with food and with herself. Did she lose 10kg? She didn’t even know! She stopped worrying about the scales and she started focusing on herself and her health and her happiness. This story is full of words like ‘achievement’, ‘proud’, ‘happy’ and ‘health’. While it took a long time to get there Betty feels this new lifestyle is something she can continue.

Yes quick fad diets are so tempting as they promise quick fast weight loss results. Meal replacements do work because if you follow them you will be consuming around 800 calories each day – less than what an 8 year old child eats!!! Really think about how they will affect you physically, emotionally, socially and mentally. Food should be enjoyed, not feared! If you have a poor relationship with food it can take a long, long time to turn that around, but in the long run it’s totally worth it! Take small steps. Take tiny steps if you need to! Just give it a go!

Latest Comments

  1. Jo @ The Balanced Lunchbox says:

    Great post, Alex. Great way to illustrate it. Thanks.


  2. Philomena says:

    Excellent post Alex, you see weightloss shakes being advertised everywhere but I’ve always been concern about how healthy they are and whether they really work. This post has definitely clear this up. I will be taking Betty’s approach and cut back my food intake slowly and increase my exercise. Thanks again for your great advice.


    • alexandria2587 says:

      Thanks for your feedback philomena! Often when people try and make too many changes at once they feel overwhelmed and give up. Taking things one step at a time may take longer but will be more sustainable in the long run 🙂


  3. nourishmesimply says:

    Really well-written. And love how you highlighted the difference in Amanda vs Betty’s self-efficacy. So many other benefits to making small, sustainable changes to your diet!


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