Welcome to episode four 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. Or we can eat nutritiously and get fit without hurting our wallet and our other life goals?
I explained the premise in the episode one recap and more about the presenters of series three (Dr Xand van Tulleken, Hala El-Shafie, and resident chef Stacie Stewart). I’m not a nutritionist or doctor, but I don’t think we should all need a PHD to eat well and stay fit, and I don’t think the latter need to be expensive either.
If you have a bear-sized savings goal like a saving for a house deposit, this can be done without sacrificing our health. In fact, it might even save money to eat more nutritiously, and there are definitely ways to exercise for free.
Here’s what I’ve covered below:
Crashers: The CSIRO Low-carb Diet And The Carb Lovers Diet
Lifechangers:The Blood Sugar Diet And The Dash Diet
Shapeshifters: The Wild Diet And Lose It! Diet App
Xand Investigates: Diet Gadgets And Gut Bacteria
As per the episode one recap I haven’t included any of the weight before and after’s from the show. This is because:
A) Not everyone loses the same amount on a diet, so I don’t think this should be dangled as a carrot, or used as a 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 which is not guaranteed on any diet. For all we know it was mostly water weight, or even muscle. Weight loss doesn’t automatically mean fat loss, and neither automatically means a person is healthy overall.
Want more help sorting diet fact from fiction?
Try these posts:
I’m not a doctor or personal trainer etc. I just enjoy writing about food, property and personal finance (sometimes all at once). 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 at the bottom of the page to keep up with it all and more posts like this in future.
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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: Lucy and Sue were sporty when they met, but a sports injury and overeating have compromised their fitness.
Target event: Spa break
Diet #1: CSIRO Low-carb Diet
Sample food: Tandoori chicken kebab with grilled veg salad. Stacie says she’d add lots of spice so the lack of carbs isn’t so noticeable.
Can: Eat low GI, high protein, wholegrains, and two indulgence foods weekly, and drink coffee/tea.
Can’t: Eat refined carbs or drink alcohol.
Early days: Lucy thinks the freshly made meals are tasty, but need time to prepare.
Diet #2: Carb Lovers Diet
Sample food: Freekah and puy lentils in curry sauce
Can: Eat resistant-starch carbs like lentils, brown rice and chickpeas, keep a food log, and snack once a day.
Can’t: Have liquid calories or more than 1200 calories a day.
Early days: Sue makes a cannellini houmous which she thinks looks like dog sick
Verdict: Sue and Lucy were pro the diets, in exchange for spending more time in the kitchen.
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.
Lifechanging Dieters: Bharat and Atul are racing to consume either as much salt or sugar as possible.
Target event: A dance routine in a Bollywood film in four months.
Diet #1: Blood Sugar Diet
Sample food: Baked aubergines with minced lamb and barley pilaf
Can: Eat Mediterranean, nuts, dairy and olive oil, and drink some alcohol and coffee/tea.
Can’t: Have sugar, fruit, or smoothies, or skip the exercise.
Early days: Bharat clears high calorie foods out the house.
Diet #2: Dash Diet
Sample food: Sauteed prawns with mushrooms and spinach salad
Can: Eat low fat dairy, drink alcohol and coffee/tea
Can’t: Have salt, large portions, ready-made sauces, full fat mayo, white bread, crisps, sausages…
Early days: Atul’s taste buds need to adjust to cooking without salt.
After 4 weeks: Bharat and Atul pause their diets for the first time to go for a curry at a friend’s party.
Verdict: Atul and Bharat planned to keep going, especially as Bharat was no longer borderline diabetic.
Shapeshifting Dieters: Fi starts a diet every Monday but quits by Thursday and also likes to underestimate how much she’s eating. Sarah feels the clock is ticking on her health.
Target event: Sarah’s birthday party
Diet #1: The Wild Diet
Sample food: No bake shepherd’s pie
Can: Eat organic meats, fish and veg, nuts and nut butters, and full fat dairy, and drink coffee/tea.
Can’t: Eat white carbs, added sugar or processed foods, and the portions must be restricted.
Early days: Sarah and Fi go for brunch and try to keep each other “in check”.
Diet #2: Lose It! diet app
Sample food: Scallops with rocket, avocado and grapefruit
Can: Eat anything so long as it’s tracked in the app and drink coffee/tea. Sounds almost banging.
Can’t: Go over the calorie allowance. Oh.
Early days: Sarah doesn’t usually use a lot of apps, so she keeps a handwritten diary to upload it all at the end of the day. The recipes are delish at least.
After 2 weeks: Sarah has champagne at the opera, but she can just put it in the app.
After 4 weeks: Fi has a four course lunch including afternoon cream tea, and continues in that vein until after week five.
Verdict: Sarah thought you have to be anal to use the app, but Fi saw no end to her tasty diet.
What About Value For Money?
How unusual! A crash diet that involves more cooking! Lucy and Sue’s plans were still classed as crash diets despite getting them into the kitchen. This is because the Low Carb Diet restricts an essential food group and the Carb Lovers Diet was very restricted in calories. As a rule though, the more often we eat at home and prepare food from scratch, the less we should spend on food. Our health may benefit depending on what this habit replaces.
Despite what I repeated about fruit in the earlier episodes, I’d point out that Bharat’s diet excluded fruit largely because he was borderline diabetic. Diabetics need to mind the simple sugars even though fruit has lots of other good stuff. Best to consult a doctor on that one.
Atul’s Dash Diet seemed to exclude far more foods including ready-made sauces. If you want to know how to make your own sauces see my recap of the second series finale of Save Money Good Food.
The Dash Diet also excludes salt. They already covered in episode one though the influence salt has on our weight. Considering some of the diets featured in other episodes cost £200+ for one week, consuming less salt is a very small price to pay to shed some (water) weight and has added benefits.
Xand suggested buying seasonal veg to keep the price of the organic ingredients of The Wild Diet down overall. The idea behind eating organic is to consume less pesticide residue rather than to lose weight though.
The Lose It! app is free, but then they sell the associated recipes for £2.50 monthly. These types of apps rely obviously on the user not only remembering what they’ve had, but also entering it accurately. In the next episode Xand used a calorie tracking exercise to demonstrate how easy it is to underestimate what we’re eating and then misreport it, so this approach has its flaws too. They also tested some fitness trackers to that end in the next part too (scroll down for the link).
- What are the best weight loss tools?
- Gut bacteria and weight loss
Can diet gadgets help weight loss?
This section contains affiliate links.
These have become big business. Professor Ivo Vlaev, a behavourial psychologist, talked Xand through the Pavlok and the kSafe.
The Pavlok trains you like Pavlov’s bell to associate certain foods with something bad. When Xand sees cake for example, he can press the button on his wrist to give himself an electric shock.
kSafe lets you put a timer on your biscuit box with the idea that the box can only be opened after the craving has gone. (By which point we should have lost interest anyway).
Xand got his dad to shock him with the Pavlok app while they had lunch out to see if it would stop him eating his Chinese meal. It was quite effective, but only after his dad shocked him repeatedly. It also left his hand in lasting pain…So it’s questionable whether someone would want to inflict enough of a shock on themselves for it to work. (Also: how to make an unhealthy relationship with food even less healthy by associating food with more punishment! Yay!)
Xand locks away his spicy peanuts in the kSafe next while he was working because he’d normally munch on them while typing. He couldn’t concentrate because he ended up thinking obsessively about not being able to eat the peanuts and after 45 minutes he dropped the kSafe to break it open! It broke instantly.
In fairness to kSafe, they suggest it can be used for lots of things like locking away credit cards, so long as you don’t Hulk smash, it might be more useful in other willpower areas.
Finally, Xand went out to eat Chinese with his Dad again under the threat he had to make a donation to a cause he doesn’t support if he overate. (Dr Christian Jessen used the same principle in another Channel 4 programme called Weighing Up The Enemy). The idea is that not wanting to donate to your enemies will motivate you to stop. Dad called time when Xand had his sixth dumpling, and he resolved to donate to a cause he liked instead.
Does gut bacteria influence our weight?
What if dieting isn’t about burning more than what we eat after all? Xand visited Guy’s Hospital to meet Professor Tim Spector. He said healthy guts control lots of things in our body like a working immune system, but research also suggests our microbes influence our weight too. The more diverse the gut biome, the more he’d expect that person to be lean.
Map My Gut can count a person’s gut bacteria, but only if they send them some poop! Xand volunteered of course. He only had 84 types of bacteria in his gut whereas other people have 100s or 1000s. The company recommended he eats more variety and lots of fibre.
Their definition of variety was 50 different vegetables and fruit weekly. Erm…(Dr Ranj Singh tried to eat 10 a day on Save Money Good Health and it is possible, but I think a large freezer helps).
Some dude tried to give himself a gut transplant of healthy bacteria by making himself poo pills from people with more diverse guts than him. But he also lost 5-6kg in one month which is too rapid. (Also, poo pills??)
The process is similar to what’s done under lab conditions to treat some severe stomach infections, but these aren’t DIY and the people the transplants come from are tested for pathogens. You know, just in case any of you fancied trying this at home. Maybe just eat some more veggies instead…
Tim used his research as the basis for his book The Diet Myth. This and the image below are affiliate links, as is this link to a free trial of Audible. Last time I checked The Diet Myth was available through Amazon’s Audible as a free audiobook.
How To Lose Weight Well Episode 3×4
That’s a wrap (but I’m not really hungry now anyway)…
So what did we learn on this week’s whirlygig of fun?
Lucy lost weight cutting out carbs and Sue lost weight eating carb-focused, so the world is going to hell in a handbag and we should probably just eat a bit less and move a bit more rather than going on a crash diet.
Bharat benefited from eating less sugar and Atul benefited from eating less salt. These are more sustainable changes, plus the savings are inbuilt.
The Wild Diet comes with an inflated price tag because it revolves around organic food, but seasonal organic veg is cheaper than out of season.
A free tracking app is only as reliable as the user.
Pavlok and kSafe still require motivation, and as Xand proved, donating to the enemy isn’t necessarily a deterrent either. (And since he donated to a cause he liked instead, that was probably positive reinforcement…)
Professor Tim would have us increase our gut diversity instead, as much as its within our control. Nom, fibre, nom nom nom…
So what do you think? Have you ever bought a diet gadget? Do you feel like you spend on the “wrong” things when it comes to food and fitness? Or do you find it easy to save while following your health goals? Share any tips in the comments.
Want to know more about How to Lose Weight Well?
Do you want to write a comment if you have Xand and/or Stacie’s books and found them useful?
Xand’s has two versions out of “How to Lose Weight Well: Keep weight off forever, the healthy, simple way”. If you’re still spending on books while saving for a house or another big goal, then heads up that the updated edition is sometimes cheaper than the first edition. I’d expect it to be the other way round usually (aff links above and below).
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.
These books are intended as sustainable lifestyle plans rather than the crash diets tested on the show. (If you are in debt, use the links to debt advice at the top of the post instead please. Any book can wait, no matter how much it might save you in the long term).
How Can I Read For Free And Eat For Less?
My ebook is free to subscribers and available via the form at the bottom of this page. That bonus PDF is about the quickest routes to managing your money, and as I also talk in that about how every goal is a financial goal including our health aims.
To read HTLWW for free, 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 except for The Diet Myth 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 five they trialled The Goop Detox, The SlimFastTM 321 Plan, I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna, the NHS Weight Loss Plan, The F2 Diet and The Macrobiotic Diet. Also Xand investigated why alcohol stops calorie burn and fitness trackers.
Subscribers get a weekly roundup of what’s new on the blog and I’m also sending extra savings tips for a while.
I’ll recap all the series so far up to How to Lose Weight Well 2020 and there’s another series planned, so the mailing list is the best place to find out when it’s all ready to read.
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.
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).