Calorie controlled / weight loss diets
In the UK, it is estimated that almost two-thirds of adults and one-third of children aged 11-15 years are overweight.
Excess weight, including obesity, is measured using a body mass index (BMI), a summary of an individual’s weight taking into account their height.
For someone with a BMI over 30, classified as obese, a very low calorie diet (VLCD) may be an option but only after other plans have been considered and you have discussed with your doctor.
A VLCD is followed under medical supervision, as it will be followed for up to 12 weeks and is usually based around a daily meal plan of 800 calories or less, compared to a daily recommendation of 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women. It can have a number of side effects and is not routinely recommended by the NHS.
One initiative to help families improve their diet is the Change4Life breakfast and drink swaps. This programme has suggestions to help people trade sugary foods for healthier options.
The healthiest way to lose weight is not by crash and faddy dieting, but by following a healthy calorie-controlled diet, making small dietary changes over a steady period of time, combined with regular exercise, e.g. walking, running, going to the gym, organised classes and swimming. Your local sports and leisure centre will be able to suggest a range of activities.
There are numerous diet plans available to choose from, and it is important to choose the one that is right for you. Before embarking on any dietary plan or exercise regime, it is advisable to talk to your GP or practice nurse.
If you do wish to go on a calorie-controlled diet, here are some of the most popular methods:
This is known as intermittent fasting, where you eat normally for five days and fast the for two each week.
For this to work, you need to maintain a healthy diet without overeating ahead of the fasting days, when skipping meals can make you sleepy, dizzy and irritable, sometimes resulting in headaches.
A low carb, high protein diet, there is no limit to the amount of food you can eat through its four phases, if you stick to the plan.
Each phase focuses on a different element to achieve gradual weight loss – in phase one it’s strictly lean protein, while phases two to four concentrating on fruit, vegetables and carbohydrates.
Paleo diet/caveman diet
Strictly focusing on the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, this diet does not allow processed foods and cereal grains, such as wheat, dairy and potatoes.
Seen as a more long-term low carb/high protein plan, there is no calorie counting but less processed food will help reduce consumption of higher calorie ready meals.
This method starves your body of carbohydrates, such as dairy, potatoes, grains and bread, which causes the body to burn fat for energy.
The first phase aims at achieving rapid weight loss, with the three following phases are a more gradual approach while encouraging some exercise.
South Beach diet
This diet was developed for heart patients and has no calorie counting, instead you are encouraged to follow a three meals/ two snacks plan along with some exercise to achieve gradual weight loss.
Combined diet and food ranges
Other diets are based around various meal plans using their own product ranges, such as the Cambridge Weight Plan, SlimFast and Weight Watchers.
Combined diet and exercise/support
Alternatives include Rosemary Conley, which combines diet with an exercise regime, and Slimming World or Lighter Life, both involving a monthly subscription of telephone support, plus weekly or local group meetings.
The British Dietetic Association have said that calorie restricted diet and exercise plans may offer a balanced approach to weight loss that teaches you about portion size, the importance of regular exercise and making healthier choices.
If you are planning to lose weight, it may be useful to discuss your personal circumstances, such as how much you want to lose and over what time period, with your GP, who can suggest the best plan for you.
Sources used in writing this article are available on request
Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.
Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 15 October 2018
Next review: 15 July 2022