Welcome to episode two of my series three recap of Channel 4’s How to Lose Weight Well. Six volunteers test different diets each week on the show since we’re a nation of dieters, but we’re also a nation of diet quitters.
Their aim is to find the diets worth trying if there are any. My aim as ever is to find the value for money beneath the pain. Or is there an affordable way to eat nutritiously and get fit while saving for life’s big goals?
Here’s what I’ve covered below:
Crashers: The Egg Diet And The Strawberry Diet
Lifechangers: The Dude Diet And The Skinny Bastard Diet
Shapeshifters: The Ayurvedic Diet, And The New Nordic Diet
Xand Investigates: Fat Dissolving Injections And Fluid Retention
I explained the premise more in the episode one recap and a bit about the presenters Dr Xand van Tulleken, Hala El-Shafie, and resident chef Stacie Stewart.
I’m not a dietitian or similar myself, but it winds me up whenever anyone says it’s expensive to eat well and stay fit. It also winds me up to see stories telling people they can’t achieve their savings goals. There is always a way.
We can achieve a giant savings goal like a house deposit without sacrificing any health missions. It’s very possible to exercise for free. I’d argue that it’s cheaper to eat more nutritiously, especially if it’s instead of takeaways and ready meals.
As I mentioned in the episode one recap I haven’t included anyone’s weight below even though they include before and after’s on the show. This might seem counterintuitive(!). However:
A) not everyone loses the same amount on a diet, so I don’t think this should be used as an advertisement or a frame of reference
B) I’m more interested in their health gains and the value for money
Weight is only one measure of health. All the volunteers lost some weight. It’s not uncommon to put weight on during a diet. Also it’s not uncommon to put on weight or maintain weight if we swap fat for muscle through strength training. The latter is an example of how the scales alone don’t give the full picture, and there is more than one way to improve our health…
Want to save money on great ingredients?
Try my recaps of both series of Save Money Good Food.
I combined my research on expert opinions on nutrition in those posts with my savings know-how for the health-conscious and budget-conscious among us. (I think that might be 99% of us now thanks to coronavirus…)
Just a reminder that I’m not a doctor. I just enjoy learning about food, property and personal finance. I’ve tried to avoid making health claims below. If I repeat anything said by an expert and reviewed by science, I always try and link.
I am human and sometimes forget though, so poke me in the comments if it seems like something’s missing. Please comment if you want to add your own expertise, everyday or otherwise! I hope this post helps you save money without sacrificing your health.
One more disclaimer because I’m thorough that way: the following post contains some items marked affiliate links at no extra cost to you. If you sign up for a free trial or purchase via those links, I earn a commission from the seller that I pray goes some way towards covering the cost of hosting the blog etc. Since I’m big on analysing value for money rather than big on big spending for its own sake, I obviously only recommend anything I think is genuinely good value. I hope you save on your spending priorities that way. On that note, if you want to jump straight to Dr Xand’s and chef Stacie’s books on Amazon, these images are affiliate links:
At the end of the post I’ve got a way you might be able to read Xand’s first edition or Stacie’s tome for free if you want to try before you buy.
IF YOU ARE IN DEBT, please do not try and support the blog through my affiliate links. Speak to National Debtline, StepChange, your local Citizens Advice, or all of these about your debts. If you want to support the blog, tell someone you know about it and the free mailing list instead.
Crashdieters: AK thinks she has two sets of boobs, and “flabberdabbadoodah” under her arms. She claims that both are killing her love life (and here’s me thinking two sets of boobs would be good for your love life… Perhaps she hasn’t read Heatwaves by Mick Rory? Any Legends of Tomorrow fans here?)
Second volunteer Bethany similarly thinks they have a relationship with food instead of a dude.
Target event: Speed dating
Diet #1: The Egg Diet
Sample food: Boiled eggs with satsumas for breakfast or lunch
Can: Eat two eggs daily with greens, plain chicken, fruit, and drink unsweetened coffee/tea.
Can’t: Have alcohol, or sugar.
Early days: AK is not a fan, but notices the difference as the days go by.
Diet #2: The Strawberry Diet. The diet’s theory relies on strawberries having a lot of nutrients while only being four cals per berry.
Sample food: Jacket potato with strawberry dressing. Mmm…And by that I mean, mmmm, no.
Can: Have only 1400 cals a day for women and 1900 for men, and strawberries with every meal whether it’s sweet or savoury.
Can’t: Have alcohol or full fat products.
Early days: Bethany goes strawberry picking and makes pancakes. (Xand has a recipe for pancakes in both versions of his companion book to the show, but here’s an affiliate link for the updated edition. His rely on sweet potato and oats, but will go with berries nonetheless. No crash dieting required).
Verdict: AK and Bethany recommended their diets for their results…But I have to point out again that different diets “work” for different people. Strawberry picking and making pancakes sounds idyllic though!
Disclaimer: Every week Xand has to point out that crash dieting…
…won’t give you lasting results
…can be dangerous
…is “generally frowned upon” by health professionals
…so you should only do it after consulting a doctor first
What about value for money?
I’m not sure there’s every any value in crash dieting, especially when they have to come with a health disclaimer. What can we take from this instead though?
If we want to add more fruit especially berries to our lifestyle, then the best value option is frozen berries from the discounters. In the superfoods episode of my Diet Secrets and How to Lose Weight recap, the experts mostly agreed that there’s no such thing as a “superfood”. They also voiced berries as a good source of vitamins for their price though compared to expensive and trendy so-called superfoods like goji berries.
Lifechanging Dieters: Couple Simon and Si are happy together, but say they’re happy eating more than they like together too.
Target event: Pride
Diet #1: The Dude Diet. This was invented for men by Serena Wolf, a culinary school grad who thought her boyfriend would eat healthier if she made diet versions of tacos and steak.
Sample food: Meatballs in marinara
Can: Have one cheat day a week
Can’t: Have white carbs or overeat dairy
Early days: Si throws away his cheese. Sob.
Stacie has her own recipe for Herby meatballs in marinara in her companion book to the show (aff link).
Diet #2: The Skinny Bastard Diet. The flipside of the Skinny Bitch Diet. Charming.
Sample food: Soba noodles and stir fried tofu
Can: Eat vegan and have black coffee or tea
Can’t: Eat a cow obv
Early days: Simon makes vegan chilli with soy mince and adds extra garlic as flavour insurance.
After 4 weeks: Simon initially declares vegan food lacking in textures, but finds his groove…Then he starts eating meat again before the diet ends.
Verdict: True to the name of this segment, they found their lives changed.
One of reasons there is an updated edition (aff link) of Xand’s book from the show is because they added some vegan recipes (without needing the word “skinny”).
What about value for money?
Not sure “skinny” will be of much use in old age when your muscles are wasting, but hey ho…One big fallback of the nature of these trials is that when the dieters live together, they are still on separate eating regimes. This immediately rings the alarm that it might not be sustainable in future.
While plenty of us complain that our food habits are down to our company, there are also big savings to be had by sharing mealtimes. This is only if we’re investing in the best value ingredients in the first place (and not using shared mealtimes as an excuse to cook for ten people instead of two).
They featured a vegan plan in the first episode also. Going vegan can represent huge financial gains if we fill our plates with more veg. Buying processed alternatives to meat like soy mince are rarely cost effective though. That’s when ideas on how to make raw veg more tasty come in handy. Some of Xand’s recipes include Roast squash with chilli and coriander, Aubergine and courgette gratin, and Corn fritters (see the link above to his book on Amazon).
Shapeshifting Dieters: Gemma and Charlotte bake together with plenty of testing for quality control purposes.
Target event: School reunion
Diet #1: Ayurvedic Diet. An Ayurvedic practitioner works out your body type and assigns you certain flavours to eat.
Sample food: Roast squash wih flaxseed pesto
Can: Drink unsweetened coffee and tea, and meditate…
Can’t: Eat after 10pm or eat packaged foods.
Early days: Charlotte is not a happy bunny as the diet begins with a juice “detox”.
Diet #2: The New Nordic Diet. Eat like a Viking basically.
Sample food: Fish soup
Can: Eat fish, meat and wholegrains, and local produce
Can’t: Fry, grill, or have alcohol, butter, or cakes. I guess the Vikings didn’t bake. (They drank alcohol though, no?)
Early days: Gemma is a bit stumped about where she should go foraging and also has bigger portions than dictated.
After 2 weeks: Gemma takes a masterclass in foraging. Don’t try and DIY this. Charlotte doesn’t find her diet sustainable at all because it’s boring and mostly liquid.
Verdict: Charlotte’s weight loss didn’t change her opinion; Gemma thought the New Nordic was “more manageable”.
What about value for money?
See here for why most experts agree detoxes are a waste of money and completely unnecessary if you are a) alive and b) have a working liver. You’ll often find “b” influences “a”…
Any plan involving a detox should really come with the same kind of warning as the crash diets. Aside from that, curbing eating sooner before bedtime and buying ingredients instead of packaged foods can achieve excellent value for money. Try this episode of Save Money Good Food if you want to use less jars and packet foods. They achieved a similar end without pursuing an Ayurvedic diet, so no need to rush out and buy a blender or juicer just yet.
I’ve watched most of Vikings on Amazon (reknowned for its historical accuracy like every great TV show of course). As far as I can see no one lives very long around those parts, so The New Nordic Diet is a bit of a funny gimmick…!
Joking aside, I have seen foraging suggested before as a way to save on food. However, picking wild plants and mushrooms can have fatal consequences if you don’t know what you’re doing. The most I’ve ever had the confidence to pick was blackberries above waist height. (Do you walk your dog? Then you’ll know why you want to aim above the waist! I don’t think I would have survived long as a viking, but at least I would have been in the majority then).
Best case scenario: you eat the wrong mushrooms, jump out of a low window and bite the end of your tongue off (lesson learned, Harry Styles).
Worst case scenario: Have you read Into the Wild? (aff link) You’ll wish you’d bit the end of your tongue off instead.
There is another way Vikings can help you move more at least, and that’s if you combine the show with The Not Drinking Game. On that page I’ve listed a bunch of shows you can turn into a free game to move more, save money, or really have any kind of reward or penalty you want!
If you don’t have access to any of the shows on the list currently, then you can watch Buffy, Supernatural, Vikings and others at the moment as part of a free trial of Amazon Prime (aff link). They’re all available on Prime Video for I don’t know how long, plus you get to try the other Prime features like free one-day delivery. I’d rather that then fish soup anyway…
Funnily enough Into the Wild is available on Prime Video too, so you can watch that as a primer (geddit??) before going foraging whether it’s for The New Nordic Diet, or otherwise…
If you’re studying, you can get a SIX month free trial and then monthly Prime Student (aff link) is 50% less than the standard monthly cost.
- The truth about fat dissolving injections
- How to reduce fluid retention and weight fluctuations
How do fat dissolving injections work?
These are used to target certain areas, for example under the chin. Xand asked the Revere Clinic how they work. The injection lets water into the fat cells until they burst, and then the body gets rid of the dead fat cells.
A treatment is a one-off and costs £1400-3000.
Xand asked an expert in molecular biology what’s in the injection really. The ingredient that makes the fat cells explode is essentially the same as stomach acid and referred to as a detergent. They demonstrated it working in a test tube, but there is a caveat: you still have to burn the fat off.
Plastic surgeon Dan Marsh said the double chin could return and side effects can include bleeding and bruising. He also said it doesn’t necessarily work evenly either, so the patient could end up a bit lopsided. The customer they followed was happy with the results though, so Xand concluded whether it’s worth it is up to the individual.
Wonder what else £3000 gets you in life? I spent around £3000 on doors and windows after finally getting my hands on a discounted fixer upper for my first house. Money well spent.
How do we stop fluid retention causing weight gain?
Xand wanted an explanation for weight fluctuations. Sports nutritionist Dr Mike Nowell said our weight fluctuates daily due to fluid retention and fluid loss. About 20% of our fluids come from food, so what we eat has an influence.
One of the causes of fluid retention is salt as it moves more water into our bloodstream. If we weigh more than yesterday, we didn’t gain fat overnight!
With this in mind, Xand wanted to know about water cutting. In theory this is what actors and fitness models use to make their muscles look as defined as possible. (I think you’ll find a lot of the super sculpted bods on Instagram are photos taken after they’ve cut. The dehydration makes their skin cling to the muscles underneath. They save up the photos to post all year round because it’s impossible to water cut and look that muscular 365 days a year. Henry Cavill mentioned it on The Graham Norton Show for his role in The Witcher, but didn’t emphasise how dangerous it is).
Why trying to look like Henry Cavill could kill you
Dr Mike Loosemore from UCL Hospital explained this involves hydrating very well, and then stopping water intake. Bodybuilders have been known to use it for competitions and MMA fighters use it to make their weight category. Then they rehydrate so that they can fight heavier, but Mike said there have been deaths from this.
Water cutting is so dangerous because you continue needing to pee, and when you pee you lose electrolytes like salt and potassium. Without these your heart can go into arrhythmia which is potentially fatal.
Xand tested it out for 12 hours under the supervision of both the doctors. They also punished him with intense exercise in a sweat suit.
After eight hours, Mike #2 stopped the experiment because Xand was losing so much water. He lost six litres of water… His body fat percentage didn’t change though and his weight bounced back the same day as soon as he replenished fluids. So don’t attempt it for funsies!
I’ve included this to highlight that when we see famous people or someone on social media who look very athletic, they might be up to something like this under medical supervision. It’s not realistic to try and replicate someone else’s body shape, especially if they are endangering their life to look that way. (And you’re not getting paid for the risk either!)
Eating less salt on the other hand has other health benefits!
Henry Cavill generally seems to not have the greatest regard for his health despite external appearances. Or else he just thinks what he earns or his dedication to his art is worth any price… I’ve covered why the freaky Halloween-style contact lenses he wears for The Witcher are also a potential disaster in this post:
How To Lose Weight Well Episode 3×2
That’s a (sweat suit) wrap!
What did we learn from this latest round of food-obsessed madness?
Strawberries have a lot of nutrients for their calorie count, but a diet revolving around strawberries is a crash diet. Why not include more berries in our lifestyle for the vitamins rather than going on a restricted diet?
The Egg Diet is also a restricted crash diet. It excludes alcohol and sugar, but also by default it will exclude eating a variety of nutrients if we were only to have eggs twice a day with greens, chicken or fruit.
The Dude Diet is restricted also as it excludes white carbs. While white bread might not be the best value for the nutrition it provides, white potatoes have various nutrients and don’t need to be demonised.
The Skinny Bastard Diet is an expensive way to eat vegan if we just replace meat with processed meat-free alternatives.
Detoxing is probably a crock.
The New Nordic Diet lets you sort of live like a Viking without the swordfights and bear attacks. But it also not only excludes certain foods, but also doesn’t let you grill anything. The latter approach sounds counterproductive; grilling peppers adds a lot of flavour and might be the difference between getting some vitamin C and not eating any peppers at all. Grilled veggies could be the gamechanger that makes us embrace our 5 A Day. (Try it!)
Fat dissolving injections are an expensive way to maybe possibly get rid of fat in a certain body part, but you still have to burn off the dissolved fat. It could be burned off for free in the first place (with effort).
Water cutting is dangerous. Fluid retention and day to day weight fluctuations are natural. Live it up.
So what do you think? Would you spend money to eat this way? Have you paid for any weight loss treatments? Have you found novel ways to save for a house without hurting your health? Let me know in the comments.
Want to know more about How to Lose Weight Well?
Just a reminder too if you read the first part of this recap and decide that Xand and/or Stacie’s books fit in with your spending priorities then be aware that Xand’s book has an updated edition (aff link). Unexpectedly, this is sometimes priced lower than the first edition (aff link). Amazon of course sells this as a bundle with chef Stacie’s book The Complete Diet Plans (aff link) also, if you don’t consider it an either/or scenario. (I know what it’s like to love books and cook all the things).
Let me know your thoughts if you invest in any of them (aff links):
Stacie’s book has a third subtitle: “All the best recipes from the TV series, plus simple diet plans for healthy weight loss.” You can have too much salt in life, but you can never have too many subtitles…
Just a reminder that while a good book can put us on the road to spending and eating the way we want, if you are in debt, please visit the resources at the top of the post instead and try to do your reading for free meanwhile. The book will still be there when you get out of debt if you decide it’s a priority when the time comes.
How Can I Read For Free And Eat For Less?
My free ebook is available via the form at the bottom of this page. Oh, you mean how can you read How To Lose Weight Well for free? Alright then, your choice… My book is about the quickest way to learn money management and then combine that with a side hustle now or in the future, so fair dos, it won’t help you lose weight unless you print it off, throw it in the air, and then try and catch all the pages I guess… I still recommend it though as I also talk in that short PDF about how every goal is a financial goal including our health aims.
You could see if Stacie and Xand’s first book are included in the Kindle Unlimited free trial (aff link). (The updated edition doesn’t have a Kindle version yet. Let me know in the comments if you notice this has changed and I’ll update this post!) You don’t need a Kindle to take part, as Amazon provides an app for your device, and then you have unlimited access to over 1 million ebooks. You can also read magazines or listen to thousands of audible narrations during the 30 days.
I heard a rumour that there’s these things called libraries, but their selection is often too limited for me, and they do inconvenient things like close during pandemics. The audacity. (My lack of wit is also free).
To save you the effort, the last time I checked, none of the books were available on Audible (this will come as a shock to you, but there is also a free trial for Audible *aff link*. It works a bit differently though because you get to choose a book when you sign up, and then you get one audiobook monthly if you decide it’s within your spending priorities to keep Audible, plus you can obviously buy as many audiobooks as you like anyway). I don’t know if Xand and Stacie’s titles will ever be available on Audible, so in case audiobooks are the only way that you can consume books anyway, I will investigate some trustworthy alternatives and update this post in future ideally.
If you’re looking for free entertainment generally, don’t forget you can get a 30-day free trial of Prime Video too, but students will want the six month trial of Prime Student instead (aff links). All the better to play The Not Drinking Game with… Scroll up if you missed that.
If you are already a member of Amazon Prime, then you might save on your food shopping with Amazon Fresh. True to form, a 30 day free trial (aff link) lets you test run the weekly deliveries. This is for you if you insist on buying brands, don’t have a discounter near you, and easily spend £40 on your essentials.
It’s also for you if you rely on deliveries usually anyway, and have used all the delivery coupon sign up offers for the major supermarkets.
They have a wider range than most supermarkets, but you can also add produce from independents for hard to find items if you don’t have that choice locally, or the travel costs are prohibitive. Their products from Morrisons are sometimes cheaper than going into Morrisons if that’s your supermarket of choice ordinarily. The deliveries are cheaper than paying annually at Tesco etc., on the basis that deliveries are same day and you can choose a one hour slot.
Next time on How to Lose Weight Well…
In episode three they trialled The Prolon Fasting Mimicking Diet, The Souping Diet,The Ice Cream Diet, The Cambridge Diet, The Karl Lagerfeld Diet and the Elle Macpherson Body Reboot. Also Xand investigated electric muscle stimulation and what exercise does to our visceral fat (the fat around our organs).
If you want to go back to episode one they trialled The Special K Challenge, The Copenhagen Diet, The Banting Diet, Davina’s Sugar Free in a Hurry, The Bonus Years Diet and the Nutritarian Diet. Also Xand investigated raspberry ketones and Radio Frequency Fat Removal treatments.
They were casting for another series in How to Lose Weight Well 2020, so I’ll keep the recaps going while Xand and co are still at work! Subscribe if you want to know when the rest of the posts are ready to read and for extra tips on all kinds of savings.