The phrase ‘I am on a low calorie diet’ is bounced around quite freely isn’t it, occasionally some people will even suggest they are on a VERY low calorie diet in order to lose some weight or body fat. I am yet to meet anyone who uses the term ‘very low calorie diet’ properly, in the true sense of the meaning.

Did you know that a Very Low Calorie Diet or a VLCD is an actual thing? A set amount of calories that must be followed under medical supervision i.e. a Dietitian (NOT a Nutritionist, PT or Nutritional Therapist…no offence). A VLCD is a diet that is generally used in the NHS for obese people who need to lose weight as a matter of urgency for health reasons.

A VLCD is NOT something to be followed on a hope and a whim! By definition a VLCD allows the patient to consume just 800kcal a day, that’s a mere 3rd of a typical males calorie requirements for the day (2500kcal). Sustained intake of just 800kcal opens a patient up to various nutritional deficiencies if not closely supervised and structured.

It is very challenging to get your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein, carbs, fat, fibre and vitamins and minerals from just 800kcal. So, this isn’t a diet to be taken on lightly…if at all!

As mentioned, the only time this is ever considered is when an obese patient needs to lose weight to either qualify for major bariatric surgery or to reduce their risk of premature death secondary to obesity related co-morbidities.

So why do I mention the VLCD?

To advise against it, basically. 800kcal has no place in your diet and weight loss goals, at least not yet. Significant weight loss can be achieved through far far more modest calorie deficits, plus they will be sustainable, enjoyable and lasting! This VLCD not so much…trust me, I tried it as a student as part of my Dietetic training (this and Gluten free, Lactose Free, modified texture, colour, blind taste tests you name it).

I am speaking from experience. I have prospective clients ask me about sub 1000kcal diets quite often, they have no idea that they are flirting with a ‘clinically prescribed diet’ for the morbidly obese. NOT what they are looking for.


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