Worthing Fitness Trainer warns to beware of the weight loss shakes!

Unless you’ve been hibernating in a cold dark room, you’ll have noticed the annual short burst of March sunshine has hit us! Most of last week was glorious, with a great weekend, and according to the Met office, it’s going to continue up until Thursday.

Wohoo… Get out the factor 50.

Now, I was going to post up a workout to make the most of this sunshine… but then the planets aligned or whatever and like the ghosts of Christmas past, 3 events came to me urging me to write about weight loss shake diets and hopefully save a few people from getting burned.

And not just by the sun.

Event 1: Last week I was emailed by an instructor friend of mine who’s been drawn in by one of the companies who deal these shakes. What you probably don’t know is that these companies often use a Multi-Level Marketing model where you’ll become a “distributor” (salesperson) with a promise of making thousands (often tens of thousands) per month, and the guy above you who’s also a distributor gets a cut from your sales and every one of his personal army of salespeople’s sales too. And so on up the chain.

You don’t have to have any nutritional education or qualification, in fact one of their big sales pulls to get people to become distributors is how a guy who made a couple of quid a day or something like that cutting grass became a distributor and now makes tens of thousands per month. So if the advertising’s to be believed, you could be taking advice about your health and well being from a guy who’s only qualified to push a lawn mower.

To cut a long story short, this guy wanted me to advertise for him and become one of his salespeople. I obviously (politely) told him where to go.

Event 2: I was in town this weekend, and with the sun coming out, some of the big chemists and supermarkets have wasted no time in breaking out the posters and flyers, etc. for their own version of a shake diet. On the counters, in the windows… I even had to dodge cut-outs in the aisles.

Man, I only went in there for some chewing gum…

Event 3: Walking down the high street I’m handed a flyer. “Sir, would you be interested in…”

Er… I weigh 155lbs, have a BMI of less than 24 and a bodyfat percent you can count on your fingers… Let me think about that for a minute…

Now, I don’t believe in fate, astrology, or any of that nonsense, but 3 events in 6 days…

I can take a hint!

So here’s the skinny. Diets where you replace 1-2 of your meals with a “tasty, nutritious” shake aren’t new. In fact they date back as far as the 1930s. They became a massive multi-billion pound industry in the late 80s and through the 90s.

Admittedly there was a bit of a lull in the late 70s after 58 deaths were reported to the FDA as a result of following liquid diets.

See, you will lose weight. That’s a given. When you’re digesting less calories than would nourish a starving kitten, let alone an adult human being, it’ll fall off you faster than Jordan can get her clothes off for the paps.

But when you’ve lost the weight, then what do you do?

You’ve got 3 choices really.

1) Continue on the shakes moving onto a “maintenance” plan which your salesperson will no doubt be able to tell you all about. In short, you’re now dependant on them.

2) Start eating a healthy calorie controlled diet. But of course, you’re no wiser about how to do this than when you started on the shakes because the shakes replace your unhealthy, calorie laden meals rather than teaching you how to eat healthy calorie controlled meals. If you did know how to eat a healthy, calorie controlled diet, you’d never have needed the shakes in the first place!

In fact to get you on the shakes in the first place, one company goes as far as to convince you you’re addicted to food! Man, if that’s the case, bring on the liquidy goodness.

That’ll cure it…

3) The most common one… Go back to eating the way you were before hand and gain back the weight you lost, and in most cases a whole tonne more!

As a trainer I spend my life cleaning up after these shake diets for all three of these reasons. In fact one little known snipet of info about me is that before I was a trainer, I was a distributor for one of these companies. Seeing first hand how much it messed up people’s relationship with food is actually the reason I jacked it in.

It’s basically replacing one bad relationship with food with another one, only this one’s under the guise of being “healthy”.

It’s also one of the reasons I actually became a trainer in the first place. I can’t undo the damage I did by distributing the shakes, but I can at least now go some way to fixing the problems other people have been left with.

As you probably remember, I mentioned a little while ago in a previous blog post about a client who came to me after gaining a load of weight back, and more, after coming off the shakes.

How much did he gain?

About 8 stone.

Think about that for a minute! That’s like carrying around 3 or 4 toddlers!

8 stone doesn’t go on overnight. So why couldn’t he stop it? Because, as he put it, he hadn’t learned anything about eating well or maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

In fact in one survey of a group of people who lost up to 194lbs on a liquid diet, 77% said they’d developed a strong fear of food, and one of the guys who fell foul of the rebound weight gain actually gained over 20lbs in two weeks!

See, what happens is when you go on a diet that’s so low in calories (often as low as 800 calories per day!), although they might be nutritionally adequate (although when you look at the ingredients list on these shakes, that’s debatable), such a restriction in energy will make your body act as though it’s starving and prime itself to gain back the weight at the earliest opportunity.

It’s also commonly reported that due to the severe calorie restriction you’ll feel tired and cranky. You’re losing weight. Great! Who are you going to enjoy it with when no-one wants to be around you?

So please, for the love of your sanity, if you walk into a supermarket or chemist, or a guy on the street with a big smile and a badge that says “Lose weight now, ask me how”… keep walking. In fact you might want to increase your pace a little bit!

You may well have weight to lose, but it’s not worth the downsides and the rebound weight.

Despite what they tell you, it’s not a quick fix. Make the effort. Educate yourself about nutrition, food and exercise.

If you’re going to do a job, do it properly, eh?

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