Welcome to episode three of my finance-focused recap of Channel 4’s How to Lose Weight Well. The premise of the show is that six volunteers test different diets each 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 see if this has any value for money. Can we eat nutritiously and get fit without hurting our wallets and our other life goals?
I explained the premise in the episode one recap and more about the presenters Dr Xand van Tulleken, Hala El-Shafie, and resident chef Stacie Stewart.
I’m not a dietitian or similar myself, but I get a bit hangry whenever anyone says it’s expensive to eat well and stay fit. It also winds me up to see stories telling people it’s impossible to achieve any savings goals. Where there is a will, there is a way.
If you have a bear-sized savings goal like a house deposit, this is totally doable without sacrificing any health goals in exchange. There are lots of ways to exercise for free and I’d argue that it’s cheaper to eat more nutritiously, especially if it’s instead of takeaways and ready meals.
Here’s what I’ve covered below:
Crashers: The Prolon Fasting Mimicking Diet And The Souping Diet
Lifechangers: The Ice Cream Diet And The Cambridge Diet
Shapeshifters: The Karl Lagerfeld Diet And The Elle Macpherson Body Reboot
Xand Investigates: Electric Muscle Stimulation/What Exercise Does To Visceral Fat
As I said in the episode one recap I haven’t included any of the weight before and after’s from the show. This might seem counterintuitive(!), but:
A) Not everyone loses the same amount on a diet, so I don’t think this should be used as an advertisement or benchmark
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 (although it’s more common than you might think to put weight on during a diet). Focusing on weight loss also makes an assumption that this is synonymous always with better health and/or less body fat. We can lose weight by losing muscle. That’s not great for our health in the long term. We can also lose fat and put on muscle in which case our weight might go up, but we will be stronger than before…
Want more help sorting diet fact from fiction?
Try this series I recently recapped also:
Please remember I’m not a doctor or personal trainer etc. I just enjoy writing about food, property and personal finance (sometimes all at once). I try to avoid making independent health claims. 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 nudge me in the comments if it seems like something’s missing and please do add your own expertise. I hope this post helps you spend better while getting everything else you want out of life when it comes to food and fitness.
The episode below is from series three, and I’ll recap the series since. Join the mailing list to keep up with it all and more posts like this in future.
One more disclaimer because you can never have too much of a good thing: 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.
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Crashdieters: Alisha calls herself the Crumpet Queen and Rebecca does a happy dance when she eats (ditto. Is this a bad thing?)
Target event: Ibiza
Diet #1: ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet. Catchy.
Sample food: Kale crackers, olives, and soup powders
Can: Eat Prolon premade food and drinks, or drink decaff tea.
Can’t: Have alcohol or caffeine.
Early days: Rebecca thinks it’s expensive at over £200 and a single mum requires more energy than the diet gives.
Diet #2: Souping Diet. This is designed to be lower sugar than juicing diets, but it also includes a colonic.
Sample food: Beetroot soup for breakfast
Can: Eat five vegetarian soups daily.
Can’t: Have fruit or fruit juice, sugar, and alcohol.
Early days: Alisha thinks it’s rabbit food and has to sit it out at the trampoline park to avoid fainting…
Verdict: Rebecca concluded it was worth the price, but Alisha didn’t think souping was convenient for a busy mum.
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?
This was definitely one of the weeks that showed the impact a restricted diet can have on energy. (Quite a few crash diets actually specify that you can’t exercise during because the calorie intake is too low…This sounds a bit like borrowing from Peter to pay Paul).
There is real financial and nutritional value in buying raw ingredients rather than processed foods, so I will never see diets that sell premade foods as anything other than backwards. £200+ for five days is astronomical, and Prolon of course would like their customers to repeat the process 3-12 times a year!
Nutritionist Pixie Turner talks about how important fruit is in episode four of Diet Secrets and How to Lose Weight. While Sugarwise promote limiting fruit juice for the same reason that they promote limiting sugar full stop, excluding also fruit also seems completely topsy turvy. (Rhymes with scurvy…coincidence?)
Juicing might be high in sugar and counterproductive as a crash diet, but eating vegetarian soups should be low in sugar by comparison without the need to cut out fruit. Fruit is great value for money for the nutrition it provides.
Lifechanging Dieters: Elaine loves biscuits and Sue loves chocolate
Target event: Work reunion in four months
Diet #1: Ice Cream Diet. Stacie has first hand experience of this one and lost five stone because the ice cream gave her something fun to anticipate.
Sample food: Salted caramel ice cream!
Can: Have only 1250 calories, one scoop of ice cream daily up to 250 cals, alcohol, tea, and coffee.
Can’t: Go over 1250. That’s it!
Early days: Elaine tucks into a pizza which is perfectly “allowed”.
Diet #2: Cambridge Diet
Sample food: Baked egg one pan brunch eventually
Can: Eat their premade shakes and snacks and then add in homecooked foods after week seven. Yes, week seven. That’s seven weeks. Dear lord.
Can’t: drink less than 2.25 litres of fluid daily, or exercise for the first 2 weeks because of the calorie restriction. The 2.25 litres can’t come from alcohol…
Early days: Sue thinks their milkshakes taste like McDonalds’. I’m not sure if this is good or not??
After 4 weeks: Sue takes the diet food on holiday with her and gets her exercise shovelling horseschiz.
After 8 weeks: Elaine has a cheeky Baileys while in Mexico, but also asks restaurants to weigh her meals for her so she can calculate calories as well as possible.
Verdict: They both felt uplifted by their diets.
What about value for money?
Like Prolon, the Cambridge Diet requires buying their pricey processed foods. They reckon the average meal costs £2.61; I think this is high. (They might be accurate if we’re talking about national averages, but this is one time in life where we get more from aiming lower).
Drinking over two litres of water a day on the Cambridge Diet or not will likely have an influence on feeling full anyway, so you could just drink tap water and save a boatload…
The Ice Cream Diet works more on the principle of eating whatever you like, so the same page above applies for buying the cupboard staples. However, it’s so calorie restricted that you would either have to eat less of anything you like or choose lower calorie options in the first place.
If you’re eating 250 calories just in a scoop of ice cream then the other 1000 calories needs choosing very carefully to get maximum nutrition from so few calories. (You mean if we ate a bit less we might lose weight and save money simply because we’re not overeating? What a concept!)
It’s possible to eat less WITHOUT a crash diet though as 1250 calories is way off the NHS’s recommended daily calories depending on our activity levels and other factors.
Shapeshifting Dieters: Partners Connor and Gary eat together because they’re happy together. Gary will rather drink two fizzy drinks instead of choosing one. Connor has enjoyed a custard cream biscuit dinner before, so anything goes.
Target event: Gary’s PHD graduation
Diet #1: Karl Lagerfeld Diet
Sample food: Pouisson flambe with creamed carrots
Can: Eat low carb, low fat, and high protein up to 1200 cals.
Can’t: Cook with oil or drink alcohol.
Early days: Connor’s first meal is rabbit with tomatoes. Off with their heads.
Diet #2: Elle MacPherson Body Reboot. Her nutritionist came up with this alkalizing diet.
Sample food: Roast turkey with watercress salad and superfood “elixir”
Can: Drink Super ElixirTM and two litres of water daily, as well as alcohol, coffee and tea, and eat up to 1900 cals.
Can’t: Do less than 45 minutes exercise daily, or eat sugar, dairy or starchy carbs.
Early days: Gary’s not sure he’ll have time to cook what’s required each night. They argue for the first time – a consequence of hanger perhaps?? So they head off to yoga.
Verdict: Both found their diets effective, although Gary was still skeptical of certain parts.
What about value for money?
Regards Gary’s two fizzy drink choice, I work on the opposite principle which is if I can’t make a decision between items, I choose nothing. We’re confronted with too much choice these days. Decision paralysis feels like a total waste of mental energy, especially when a lot of our consumer choices are fairly meaningless anyway. It definitely saves me money on everything else besides food and I’m quite happy walking out of a shop with nothing if I don’t feel the choices available are adequate. Try it.
Otherwise when it comes to food and drink, tomorrow is another day…Just because most of us can’t fit in the buffet today doesn’t mean we’ll starve tomorrow.
The Karl Lagerfeld Diet is designed for a Chanel budget unless you killed the rabbit yourself. ‘Nuff said.
ITV’s Tonight did a special on diet and exercise in 2018 called New Year, New You? The British Diet Association said the Alkaline Diet is pseudoscience because it claims to change our body PH. They said the PH of our blood stays within a narrow range and if it didn’t, you’d be dead, so it’s impossible for a diet to change the body’s PH (safely, anyway). (In 2019 Alkaline Water as a diet fad also appeared on their Top 5 Celeb Diets to Avoid).
It seems Gary was right to be skeptical of parts of his “alkalizing” diet therefore. While this is not the Alkaline Diet, to suggest that we need to alkalize our body is problematic. The Super Elixir is close to £100 for a 300 day supply otherwise. I don’t have an affiliate link for it therefore as I can’t recommend it in good faith.
- Do EMS devices work?
- What does exercise do to visceral fat?
EMS devices review
Electrical Muscle Stimulation was originally used to repair damaged muscles, but is now used in gadgets to supposedly give us abs. The electrical impulses make the muscle contract and move.
Xand said a waist belt feels like leaning on an electric fence. At its strongest he could see his muscles contracting and thought it might be more painful than childbirth.
The expert said if you are prevented from exercising, it’s a substitute. However, if you can exercise, your muscles are capable of more than the activity the EMS produces, so you would get more results from doing sit ups etc.
Personal trainer Giovanni uses the X Body to stimulate clients muscles while they exercise at the same time. Xand tried it out and felt like he’d been tasered. They measured that he’d burned 185 calories in 20 minutes. Not too shabby and more than he’d burn jogging or swimming for 20 minutes. But you know, tasered…Perhaps he’s just got a low pain threshold.
Dr Louis Crowe has invented a pair of shorts that he wanted to mimic the physical activity of shivering. Xand had a good shiver while sat on his bum and burned 100 calories in 17 minutes.
As Xand said: “If you don’t mind spasming inside a sweaty garment, this may be for you.” Now you know the main reason I watch this show is because of the puns and innuendo Xand manages to say with a straight face…
How long does it take to lose visceral fat with exercise?
They spoke to Professor Jimmy Bell from the University of Westminster. He said we worry about the fat we can see, but it’s visceral fat that we can’t see that is associated with health risks. A healthy person should have less than two litres of visceral adbominal fat in theory. A TOFI in medical-speak is “thin outside, fat inside”.
Xand had a full body MRI and discovered he’s classed as a TOFI, with 4.5 litres of abdominal fat. To the gym he went! But after eight weeks, Dr Xand found himself working 12 hour days for two weeks straight, so the gym was out.
He still reduced his visceral fat to 3.3 litres, so some exercise is better than none. He concluded that if we fall out of the habit for a few weeks, we should restart as soon as we can.
If you want to do some super quick exercise no matter how busy you are, personal trainer Zanna van Dijk has an eight minute intermediate HIIT workout that can be done at home.(She’s big on evidence for her health claims too, and big on living sustainably if you’re curious). Her workout videos are generally never longer than 20 minutes.
If that sounds too strenuous, try Joe Wicks Ultimate Beginners home workout.
Watch out for injuries/talk to your doctor if unsure about anything/I’m not a medical professional yadda yadda…
How To Lose Weight Well Episode 3×3
That’s a (salad?) wrap!
- Diets that come with premade foods are ALWAYS more expensive, and these providers also encourage customers to repeat the diets endlessly to sell more of their premade foods…
- Even if a diet is not marketed as a crash diet, if it excludes entire food groups then it’s still contrary to NHS advice on eating a balance of nutrients
- EMS devices might burn more than exercise by itself
- EMS might be even more painful than going to the gym though!
- Stop worrying about subcutaenous fat (the fat we can see), and speak to a doctor if you’re concerned about visceral fat on the inside
- Exercise should reduce visceral fat even if it’s not a failproof habit
So what do you think? Have you paid for something like Prolon or The Cambridge Diet? Do you own an EMS device? Did you get any value out of them, or do you wish you’d earned interest on the money instead? What are you doing lately to meet your savings goals? Share any tips in the comments. No pseudoscience please.
Want to know more about How to Lose Weight Well?
Shout in the comments too if you have Xand and/or Stacie’s books and found them useful.
Xand’s updated edition of “How to Lose Weight Well: Keep weight off forever, the healthy, simple way” is sometimes cheaper than the first edition on Amazon which is a bit of a novelty.
Stacie’s book is How to Lose Weight Well: The Complete Diet Plans: All the best recipes from the TV series, plus simple diet plans for healthy weight loss.
That is a mouthful.
The books are meant to be sensible, sustainable alternatives to the fads featured on the show. The links above and below are affiliate links. (Don’t buy these books if you’re in debt. Seek advice using the links at the top of this post instead).
How Can I Read For Free And Eat For Less?
Subscribers can read my free ebook via the form at the bottom of this page. That PDF is about the quickest routes to managing your money and I also talk about how every goal is a financial goal including our health aims.
You probably wanted to read the books from the show though, right? 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 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 on How to Lose Weight Well…
In episode four they trialled The CSIRO Low Carb Diet, The Carb Lovers Diet, The Blood Sugar Diet, The Dash Diet, The Wild Diet and the Lose It! diet app.
Also Xand investigated diet gadgets and gut bacteria.
Subscribers get a weekly roundup of what’s new on the blog plus extra savings tips, so get thee on the mailing list rickety tick if you want a reminder when the rest of the series is available. During How to Lose Weight Well 2020, they were looking for participants for yet another series, so I’ll keep the recaps going.
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.
In episode two they trialled The Egg Diet, The Strawberry Diet, The Dude Diet, The Skinny Bastard Diet, The Ayurvedic Diet and The New Nordic Diet. Xand investigated fat dissolving injections and fluid retention.