Cabbage soup, lettuce leaves, low-carb, no-carb and food combining – we leave no stone unturned in our never-ending quest to shift unwanted pounds.
Last year, Britons spent an unbelievable £10 billion on diet books, magazines, foods and supplements. But does dieting really work?
The BBC asked 240 clinically obese men and women to put four of Britain’s most popular diets to the test.
Six months later, they emerged a colossal 211st lighter, and this week the winning diet is finally revealed.
Charlotte Humby, 24, is a staff nurse and lives in Bristol with her fiancè Ed, 33, a supermarket manager. She replaced two meals a day with SlimFast products, including milkshakes, soups and pasta.
Height: 5ft 7in Original weight: 13st 6lb Final weight: 12st 2lb Total weight loss: 1st 4lb
I’ve always been big, but could never understand why I wasn’t a perfect size 10 like my sister Kirsty. We ate the same meals and were both in the school synchronised swimming team, training for two hours each day. It didn’t seem fair.
The first diet I tried was Weight-Watchers. I was 17 and weighed 14st. I managed to stick to it for 18 months and dropped down to 11st. For the first time ever, I felt confident about my body.
But when I left home to go to university, I put all the weight back on, eating fattening ready-made meals and snacks. I soon weighed 14st and felt just as bad as before.
My fiancè, Ed, has seen me at my slimmest and my biggest – and he says he loves me both ways. But I don’t want to waddle down the aisle in a size 20 dress, and have resolved to get my weight back down to 11st.
I saw the programme about Diet Trials and decided to give it a try. I thought the prospect of being on the television might provide the extra motivation I needed to stick to the diet.
I was pleased to get given the SlimFast plan because I’d never tried it before. I had to replace two meals a day with SlimFast products – such as soup, pasta, cereal bars or milkshakes – and then eat one main meal of 600 calories. I was also allowed two 100-calorie snacks of any food per day.
I didn’t have to attend a meeting, but was expected to film a daily video diary charting my progress for the TV show.
I was determined to lose the weight, but found the plan difficult. Although I didn’t need to prepare anything apart from my evening meal, I hated the SlimFast products.
The pasta and soups tasted powdery, and I couldn’t eat the cereal bars because they were coated in chocolate, which I gave up years ago to stop me bingeing. The milkshakes weren’t too bad, but after drinking two a day for six months, I couldn’t bear to look at another one.
For me, the biggest drawback was that eating a meal substitute removed all the enjoyment from food. Eating should be about tastes, smells and textures – not plastic-tasting snacks.
I don’t think SlimFast is a very healthy diet, because although you’re still getting all the correct nutrients, it doesn’t teach you how to limit portion sizes or achieve a healthy balance of food groups. You also don’t learn to enjoy food without over-indulging.
Although I lost more than a stone, I’d recommend SlimFast only as a way to drop a couple of pounds in a hurry. It’s also extremely expensive, with a sixmonth supply of snacks, soups and pastas costing £400.
The trial results showed that most people agreed with me. People complained that they missed solid food and found it hard to follow at weekends. It suited both women and men equally, but was especially popular with busy people who need a simple solution.
I’m now back on the WeightWatchers diet, which I think is healthier and more effective. I’ve been doing it for a month and now weigh 11st 10lb. Ed says I look great.
My wedding is next April, and by then I hope to have lost the rest of the weight and be able to wear a beautiful dress to enhance my curvy size 14 figure.
ROSEMARY CONLEY’S EAT YOURSELF SLIM
Lisa Osborne, 27, a maternity nurse, is single and lives with her mother Yvonne, 53, in Nottingham. With the Rosemary Conley diet and fitness plan, Lisa’s daily calorie allowance was based on her weight and height.
Height: 5ft 4in Original weight:14st Final weight: 12st 3lb Total weight loss: 1st 11lb
I realised I desperately needed to lose weight when I had to squeeze myself into a size 20 bridesmaid’s dress for my brother Jason’s wedding last July. I spent the whole day feeling fat and unattractive. The other two bridesmaids were size 10 and looked stunning, but I was huge and everyone kept calling me ‘Big Bird’.
My size has been a problem since childhood, but the weight really piled on when I went backpacking in Australia last year. For three months I lived on snacks and junk food, and when I got back, just before the wedding, Jason hardly recognised me.
I was so horrified by my size that I’d decided to have liposuction on my hips, thighs and bottom.
It was pure luck that the week before my appointment with the consultant, I saw the Watchdog programme asking for volunteers for Diet Trials. I was accepted and put on Rosemary Conley’s diet, which was one that I’d never tried before.
I was given a daily calorie allowance of 1,800, which dropped to 1,665 after I lost the first stone. Everyone has a different allowance, which depends on their weight, height, and how much they want to lose.
You’re allowed to eat anything as long as it doesn’t contain more than 4g of fat per 100g – which rules out foods such as butter and cheese. They advise you to eat regular meals and not to skip breakfast. In addition, each day you’re allowed one 150-calorie treat as a snack.
I found it difficult to adapt to at first, and the worst part was cutting out cheese, which I love. However, as the weight wtarted to come off and I saw the diet was working, I no longer minded filling my baked potatoes with low-fat cottage cheese and substituting lasagne with fresh fish or pasta and a non-creamy sauce.
But it was the weekly weigh-ins which really helped keep me motivated, mainly because of the 45-minute aerobic exercise class we also had to do. It was a revelation to discover I actually enjoyed jumping around, and this, combined with the diet, really helped shift the weight. Now I’ve even hired my own personal trainer who I see once a week.
I lost 4lb in the first week and 1lb-2lb a week after that. As the weight came off, my confidence returned and I now feel fitter than ever.
Diet Trials showed that the format, with its groups and exercise classes, was better suited to women than men. Although people found it time-consuming to check food labels, the majority found the diet enjoyable, with plenty of choice.
Whether or not it emerges as the most effective diet overal, it has certainly worked for me. my family – and particularly my brother – now think I look fantastic. I’ve contued with the plan and am now down to 12st but I’m going to deep going until I can fit into a size 12 dress.