• Bill Gaylor

Very Low Calorie Diet

A very low-calorie diet (VLCD) is supposed to be a clinically supervised diet plan that involves eating about 800 calories a day or fewer for a maximum of 12 weeks. They are sometimes considered for obese and severely obese people who are managing diabetes, going to have surgery or preparing for fertility treatment. Even when medically supervised it normally involves replacing food with shakes, soups and bars. From the national health service "Very low-calorie diets are for adults who are obese and severely obese, defined as having a BMI over 30 and 40, and need to quickly lose weight. They are not the first option to manage obesity and should not be routinely used." So we've established that this a medical diet so what's the issue? Well, it's being "prescribed" by the wrong people. On the podcast, Tom goes in hard on those in question and finally gets to unleash on Herbalife. If you want to listen to all of that unfold then you can listen to the full episode via the player down below. In today's article, we're are going to cover a few key points.

Social Media Misinterpretation


This is where I first stumbled across VLCD and what prompted the podcast episode. I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw a huge headline " Doctor helps shift the Covid weight. Lose a stone in 21 days!" That looks incredible, doesn't it? Incredibly rapid weight loss. Once you click on the headline you're told about a new TV program where the host puts the volunteers on a VLCD. Now, VLCD obviously has a place as we've established however seeing headlines like this gives the wrong impression that it's a normal thing. Social media is full of impressionable people and this is the worry is that if they see these things without looking deeper and then ultimately try it they risk serious health implications.


Social media generally can be poisonous. Especially young girls that are expected to meet a certain "image" criteria they may think they need to essentially starve themselves to get to the body they think is "acceptable". This is where social media is dangerous with its exciting headlines and posts. This applies to those of all genders, of course, it's just normally "social media image expectations" normally involves young girls/women. This moves us onto Herbalife.




Herbalife 21 Day Challenge


Tom brought this to our attention and although it's not in every case the majority of these challenges involve a few shakes a day equating to around 800/1000 calories a day.(depending on with or without milk and type of milk) Do this for 21 days and yeah you'll lose a significant amount of weight. However, this comes at a cost. Herbalife reps are not medical professionals they are in no place to be giving out these VLCD so we immediately questioned the ethics of these reps. This is where it links back to social media. The reps will get you on this challenge and after they will be super excited to get yours before and after photos on their social media. Once it's there you'll be "dismissed" and they'll wait for the next to see the success stories and sign up. This is disgusting. Now, the NHS makes it absolutely clear that you need ongoing support after the diet has finished. You think Debbie the Herbalife rep has any idea about ongoing support after such a drastic diet. Absolutely not. Not only are you at risk during the diet (Low on energy, dry mouth, constipation or diarrhoea, headaches, dizziness, cramps, hair thinning and the general inability to do anything physical) but afterwards what have you actually learned? Nothing. So potentially you're going to go back to your old ways and put the weight back on leading to an endless cycle of rapid weight loss and gain. This is not a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Herbalife isn't the only culprit as there are many other companies trying to make a quick buck at the expense of your health. Weight loss is a journey and something that needs to be sustainable for the individual. It takes time. "Quick fixes" like these are designed for those at immediate health risk not you're everyday man and women.



Advice from the UK National Health Service


Very low-calorie diets are hard to follow


Very low-calorie diets are less likely to be nutritionally complete as they provide far fewer calories than needed to maintain a healthy weight. The recommended daily calories are 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women.

It is not an easy diet to follow. Side effects can include:

  • feeling hungry

  • feeling low on energy

  • a dry mouth

  • constipation or diarrhoea

  • headaches

  • dizziness

  • cramps

  • hair thinning

While very-low-calorie diets can lead to short term weight loss, it is likely that the weight will come back on after the diet ends.

Very low-calorie diets are not a long-term weight management strategy and should only be used as part of a wider plan.


Very low-calorie diets are not suitable for most people


See a GP if you think a very low-calorie diet may benefit you.

Very low-calorie diets are not suitable if you are:

  • under 18

  • pregnant

  • breastfeeding

  • have had an eating disorder

Read about eating a balanced diet

If a GP thinks a very low-calorie diet might benefit you they should make sure:

  • the diet is nutritionally complete

  • the diet is followed for a maximum of 12 weeks (continuously or intermittently)

  • you are given ongoing support after the diet

Very low-calorie diets are the most restrictive form of dieting, severely reducing calorie intake, so medical supervision is important.

You may also be interested in:

  • How to diet

  • The NHS weight loss plan

  • The Eatwell guide

There are some of you out there that know 6-800 calories a day are far too low, however, there are those out there who are lacking the crucial education needed to understand the serious health implications of partaking in such diets without proper medical supervision.


A short post today but an important one. It's hard to blame the individuals for trying these diets when there is so much material out there pushing them towards it whether that's social media influence or companies like Herbalife. Education is crucial and that's why we made the podcast and have released this post.

Final Point. I ask one thing of you after reading this and that is to share it far and wide to make sure that as many people as possible are educated on VLCD. The more information that is out there the better. If you need further advice or guidance then please get in touch and we will be happy to help and of course, if it's out of our scope of practice we will not hesitate to refer you to your GP. A sustainable healthy lifestyle is what we want for all not promises of quick fixes to put a quid in our pocket. Back next week with more health and fitness related information for you to get stuck into. Speak soon.

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