Welcome to episode five and the final part 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 these 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 Goop Detox And Slimfast 3.2.1 Plan
Lifechangers: I Can Make You Thin By Paul McKenna And The NHS Weight Loss Plan
Shapeshifters: The F2 Diet And The Macrobiotic Diet
Xand Investigates: Why Alcohol Stops Calorie Burn And Fitness Trackers
As per the episode one recap I haven’t included any 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).
This episode is the series three finale. More recaps are on the way.
Want more help sorting diet fact from fiction?
Try this series:
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 health claims. If I repeat anything said by an expert and reviewed by science, I always try and link.
I spend a lot of time on these posts, but I will make the occasional booboo, so please comment if it seems like something’s missing. I hope this post helps you spend better on food and fitness while getting everything else you want out of life.
One more disclaimer because you can never have too many: 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: John drives coaches for a living and Mark eats all the buffets as a child’s party entertainer, plus he can wipe out six litres of Pepsi in a day. His stomach must be as clean as an AK47 after a weapons inspection with all that acid.
Target event: Family summer holiday
Diet #1: Goop Detox. Including a colonic…
Sample food: Courgette tacos with mango melon salsa
Can: Erm…go to an infrared sauna?
Can’t: Have caffeine, alcohol, sugar, gluten, or diary.
Early days: John goes green with a smoothie and resists temptation when the rest of the fam have fast food for their dinner.
Diet #2: SlimfastTM 3.2.1 Plan
Sample food: Shakes, shakes and more shakes
Can: Replace two meals with a shake or a snack, have three Slimfast snacks otherwise, and one meal of your choice up to 800 cals.
Can’t: Snack on anything else, even fruit.
Early days: Mark pours away his fizzy drinks and they both endure the infrared sauna.
Verdict: They both liked their diets, but Mark did feel like he had moved into his kitchen permanently.
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: Jacinta and Angela do everything together including eating and training for charity runs, (although preferably not at the same time. That’s indigestion right there).
Target event: Charity run
Diet #1: I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna
Sample food: Vietnamese-style rare beef salad
Can: Eat anything so long as you are hungry, mindful, and stop when full.
Can’t: Eat in front of the TV as you have to eat mindfully, or eat what you think you should. Reverse psychology?
Early days: Jacinta is clearly more mindful as she forgets about her bike while talking to camera until it falls over. (I’m joking, I know this isn’t what Paul means).
Diet #2: NHS Weight Loss Plan
Sample food: Kedgeree with brown rice and kale
Can: Cook from scratch, and eat or drink anything up to 1400 calories daily.
Can’t: Exercise for less than 2.5 hours weekly.
Early days: Angela finds making a vegetarian Jalfrezi odd because Nigerian cooking relies heavily on meat.
After 2 weeks: Angela and Jacinta hit a buffet then a BBQ, then fields and roads as they try to burn it all off.
Angela falls ill and isn’t able to continue with the diet, or compete in the race. (Hope you’re better now, Angela!)
Verdict: Jacinta changed her outlook (and ran the race).
Shapeshifting Dieters: Kanan and Parul overeat together and Parul loves Indian sweets.
Target event: Kanan’s son’s wedding
Diet #1: F2 Diet
Sample food: Veggie puttanesca
Can: Eat fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses, and drink one probiotic drink daily.
Can’t: Eat sugar, fast food, or other fatty foods.
Early days: Kanan gets bendy at yoga.
Diet #2: Macrobiotic Diet
Sample food: Kinpira – with crunchy lotus root to encourage all that chewing
Can: Eat high fibre and low fat, have soup and 1-2 meals daily.
Can’t: Chew less than 20 times at first, then 50 times as the diet continues; eat any meal without wholegrains, or eat meat, eggs, dairy, or
Early days: Parul makes soup…Not ideal for chewing.
Verdict: Kanan thought her diet required a lot of self control, while Parul liked her diet just fine if you’re willing to do all the chewing.
What About Value For Money?
Xand explored in a later series whether infrared saunas like the one suggested in the Goop Detox are supported by science. I’ll get that recapped too, so subscribe if you want to read that when it’s ready.
Otherwise I established in episode two that detoxes are very dubious according to many health experts.
SlimFast don’t let you snack on fruit, but guess what? You can pay over the top to eat three of their processed snacks instead! If we had fruit as well, I suspect it would exceed the calorie limit.
The NHS Weight Loss Plan emphasises exercise and teaches general principles rather than focusing on exclusion, so it’s probably the only diet on the planet that I condone as an unqualified bystander! Probably because it looks a lot like a healthy lifestyle, and the part that makes it a diet is that they restrict calories a bit, but not as much as crash diets. Unlike Slimfast et al, it shouldn’t cost more than your usual grocery spend. Hear that? It’s angels singing.
True to finding a lifestyle rather than a temporary fix, I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna is about mindset rather than recipes. Given how many dieters fail, if you’re going to spend anything extra, it probably is better to spend on something that will actually change your attitude long-term (without developing an unhealthy relationship with food. Cutting out carbs might be a change in attitude, but it doesn’t have the health gains of learning to eat mindfully). The only hurdle there then is the title with a mindset around wanting to be “thin”. No one told Paul strong is the new skinny…
The probiotic of the K2 Diet works on a similar principle to Xand’s bit about gut bacteria in the previous episode. You could also just eat a bigger variety of fruit and vegetables as they said.
Anyone know what the going rate is for lotus root? I found it hard to judge therefore what The Macrobiotic Diet might cost. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever had this!
- Why does alcohol stops us burning calories?
- What are the best fitness trackers?
Why is alcohol linked to weight gain?
We don’t have a way to store alcohol. Because it’s a toxin it goes to the liver to be cleared instead. The reason alcohol is associated with weight gain is because it gets burned first in your body ahead of sugar. Fat gets burned AFTER sugar. So if we have a meal high in fat, carbs, and with several tipples on the side, the alcohol is metabolised as a priority and the fat and the sugar is likely to be stored as fat.
To show this in action, they got three female volunteers to drink three pints at a football match and eat three different meals each.
One meal was high protein (chicken burger), the second high fat (beef burger), and the third high carb (pizza). They had their blood tested regularly before, during and after.
The pizza and beef burger both drastically raised the fats and sugar in their bloodstream.
The high protein meal had no effect on the fats in the blood, and sugar was raised less than the other two women.
This implies that if we are going to eat and drink alcohol at the same time then high protein will have less of a negative impact on the fat and sugar in our blood.
Which are the most accurate fitness trackers?
Xand tested the iOS Health App, Fitbit Surge 2, and Samsung Gear Fit2. The waterproof and Spotify-friendly Samsung Gear FIT 2 Pro has superseded the latter, but has a price tag to match therefore (aff links).
Professor Andy Lane said the nation needs to move more as inactivity definitely reverses our health. Trackers can remind us to move, count our steps, monitor sleep, and estimate calories burned depending on how much movement it detects.
In an accuracy test on a running machine, the Samsung Gear Fit2 missed 13% of the steps, the i0S Health app recorded 95 out of 100 and the Fitbit measured 102 steps.
They repeated this doing step ups on a block and the trackers recorded 41-42 steps when Xand did 40. The Professor concluded they’re not perfect, but they still achieve their general purpose of getting you moving.
All of these trackers have to be linked to an app. Xand wanted to know how accurate calorie trackers are. The researcher said you also need to be accurate about what you enter e.g. a small apple to one person is a large apple to someone else. Also we might forget to input something.
Xand was given a bucket for a day instead; every time he ate something, he had to put an identical item in the bucket. The three trackers disagreed on how many calories Xand had by 400 calories.
The Samsung measured around 1500 and the Fitbit around 1900. The third app was My Fitness Pal which measured closer to 1800. Xand ate over 2600 calories according to the lab after they analysed his bucket. This is most likely because Xand entered too small portions to represent what he was really eating. (I mentioned this as a pitfall in episode four when they trialled Lose It!)
The trackers seemed to be more useful on the movement side of things therefore. As Andy said, they generally indicate that you’re achieving your goals rather than allowing you to obsess over every last step. On the food front, perhaps it’s better to focus on maximum nutrition and portion sizes rather than counting individual calories. This approach can result in consuming less calories by default.
Here’s the Amazon affiliate link again for the Fitbit if you’re not in debt, and fitness is a spending priority for you:
And the Samsung Gear Fit 2 and Gear Fit 2 Pro:
How To Lose Weight Well 3×5
So where does this leave us?
- There are ways to lose weight or gain health without buying into a plan that sells extras like colonics(!), obscure ingredients, or their premade foods
- The NHS Weight Loss Plan lasts twelve weeks, but encourages a healthy lifestyle rather than a quick fix
- Fitness trackers vary in accuracy, but might still be useful to guage how (in)active we are
- If calorie tracking hasn’t worked for you in the past, you might have been underestimating what you’d eaten
- Eating high protein rather than high fat/sugar before metabolising alcohol might mean we can end up carrying less of the alcohol around with us afterwards…
I’m hungry…for your thoughts! Comment, comment, and comment some more if you liked this series or have any wisdom to add. Do you own a fitness tracker and was it a good investment?
Read More About How To Lose Weight Well
Have you read Xand and/or Stacie’s books? These are supposed to be long term alternatives to some of the wonky fads on the show, and I’ve included affiliate links for all of them:
The first edition usually isn’t cheaper unless going for the e-book maybe. I also don’t think it covers veganism at all. In terms of value, the updated edition has broader appeal therefore and should represent Xand’s latest advice.
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. They tried to come up with a longer title, but it wasn’t possible.
Please remember 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 read what you can for free. 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?
You can read my bonus ebook via the form at the bottom of this page. That’s possibly not what you had in mind, but I’d read my PDF about the quickest routes to managing your money anyway as I also talk in that about how every goal is a financial goal including our health aims.
Otherwise, 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.
Previously on How to Lose Weight Well…
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).
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.
I’ve got another post to come in a similar vein but recapping a chef’s efforts instead. Then I’m going to write about saving in some other areas like holidays, so subscribe if you want to keep up with all the posts and more ways to spend better. I’ll return to this again though because they’re making at least one more series after How to Lose Weight Well 2020, so I’ll recap all the episodes until I’m all recapped out.