Do Meal Replacement Diets Work?

Meal replacement diets are very effective at helping people lose weight.  The program is usually a meal replacement item–drink, bar, shake, soup, or cookie–five or six times per day, plus a “sensible meal” consisting of a lean protein and plenty of vegetables.  The meal replacement ideally has between 100 and 250 calories, plenty of added vitamins, protein, minerals, and fiber, and a decent enough taste so that you look forward to eating it.

Since people who are overweight may easily be consuming between 2000 and 4000 calories per day, this new diet plan providing less than 1000 calories (plus whatever food the dieter eats in addition) can promote a very pleasing result of between two and six pounds per week!  There are many different brands and styles.  They range from a canned shake that can be purchased in grocery stores and an “on your own” plan, to an entire program which includes pre-prepared meals and regular meetings with a counselor to help motivate and guide you.

There are several reasons these diet plans work:

1) The calories in a meal replacement are far fewer than the dieter is used to eating at a meal, providing generally between 100 and 250 calories.

2) The plan takes away the decision-making  process that frustrated most dieters: There’s no need to figure out what to eat, get confused or tempted, and finally throw up your hands and head for the buffet line. The plan is always simple: “this is what you eat/drink; just open or unwrap and consume.”

3) It’s a way of planning ahead, which is very important when on a weight loss program. You know you will have a particular item for breakfast, lunch, evening, and some snacks, and you’ll plan a simple meal for dinner–maybe it’s 6 ounces of fish and a cup of spinach–there are explicit directions that come with the meal replacement diet on what your meal should consist of.

4) It’s convenient, prepackaged, and there’s no measuring or weighing to think about.

Even though some people may not always have their hunger satisfied on these programs, there’s no argument that they are easy to follow.

Always be sure to follow the exact directions provided with any any diet plan: contact your physician to be sure this is a good idea for you; drink as much water as the plan advises; and definitely eat all the food/meal replacements included in the plan. Some people mistakenly believe that by eating less they will lose faster, but these programs are specifically designed and tested for optimal results … eating less will more than likely have negative consequences, such as slowing your metabolism or leading to a nutrient deficiency.

And finally, you may view this diet as a temporary means of weight loss if you don’t think it’s something you can live with long term. In this case, you will need to consider what you will do about eating when you are ready to come off the diet… how will you control your calorie intake, enjoy eating in restaurants, and maintain the weight you’ve already lost? Maybe a diet coach is your answer to learning new eating habits you can live with and keep the weight off so you don’t have to go on another diet next year!

Image credit: bethography

Laurie Beebe

Laurie Beebe is a registered dietitian with over 25 years of experience. She assists people from all walks of life in changing their diet for better health. Certified in Adult Weight Management, Laurie has transitioned into life coaching to better implement changes in people’s environments. No matter how much people know about what they ‘should’ be doing differently, they don’t alter their habits without making adjustments in their surroundings and their awareness. Coaching helps lead people to permanent changes by helping them set their own goals and design their own action plans. Please visit Laurie’s website for more free nutrition tips, a free monthly newsletter, or more information on coaching, at www.mycoachlaurie.com.

Leave a Reply