Today’s Very Low-Calorie Diet (VLCD) looks very different than the one the general public usually thinks about. In fact, chances are that if you tell someone you’re on a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD), you’ll get the look, and a barrage of reasons why you should find another way to lose weight.
Truth is, there is excellent research on a VLCD, but it’s disguised; you have to look up Calorie Restriction (CR), Intermittent Fasting (IF), or the Macro Diet to find the great, scientific research behind this way of eating. They all advocate the same thing: getting maximum nutrition on minimum calories. Just don’t call it a VLCD.
Before we go any further, let’s clarify terms: by definition, a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) is defined as a diet that consists of 800 calories or fewer each day, as compared to a regular Low-Calorie Diet (LCD) that consists of 800-1200 calories per day.
For over 20 years I followed a low-carb-high-fat/Keto/Paleo diet to a “T”, but once I hit my mid-30’s, I hit a plateau that I could not break. I was consistent with exercise and watched for hidden carbs, but it didn’t matter. I was absolutely stuck. As I started packing on the weight, 40 pounds to be exact, I reached a point where I had to do something differently, so I switched to a VLCD and dropped 40 lbs in a year. It was the best decision I could have made for my health. I’ve been eating this way, while also keeping carbs as low as possible, since 2012, and my medical checkups are textbook perfect. I still eat under 800 calories a day and have more energy than I ever had when I ate the old way.
The problem with the low-carb-high-fat/Keto/Paleo approaches is that the food is dense and the calorie load is tremendous. If you’re not burning off all those calories, they’ll get stored as fat. Plain and simple.
The Old VLCD
The VLCD got a bad name, and deservedly so, in the 1970’s, when the SlimFast meal replacement shakes came out. The problem with the old SlimFast shakes was that the only nutrition they contained was protein, nothing else, so when people consumed these shakes, and nothing else, many people got horribly sick, and many people even died. There were no electrolytes, vitamins, or minerals in the old formula. (Thankfully, SlimFast now has a nutritionally balanced formula.)
Today’s VLCD has three primary differences:
1. It can be shakes-based, and today there are dozens of good meal replacement shakes to choose from. Many of the members in our Facebook groups are under their doctor’s care while they follow this approach. Today’s shakes-based VLCD usually also includes protein bars and at least one balanced, smart meal per day.
2. It can be based on VLC food. Real food. The food choices are based on the macronutrients we need for good health, that is, the protein, fat, and carb requirements that people actually need, and not a prescribed number of calories. The thing that makes this approach so realistic and sustainable is that it doesn’t have you eating one way for weight loss and another way for maintenance. Plus, this way of eating makes you change, your taste buds change, and your cravings change. We hear this feedback over and over again in our VLCD Facebook network, that this way of eating real food breaks a food addiction.
3. It can include other tools in the weight loss plan such as Intermittent Fasting (IF), One Meal a Day (OMAD), plant-based diets, vegetarian and vegan foods, and more.
4. It doesn’t get boring. There are many delicious foods you can have on a VLCD. You do learn how to eat differently, just as you do on any diet, but once you do you enjoy your food. For example, you can make your own ice cream with almond milk; have bacon omelettes with real eggs but just half the yolks, and real bacon bits instead of whole slices of bacon; instead of putting regular peanut butter on celery, use PBFit with a little water added. Once you get used to making simple changes like these, you won’t miss the old food nearly as bad as you might think you would.
Today’s VLCD looks very different, and it better. Now it’s nutritionally balanced with vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, and best of all, it’s sustainable, so you can become and continue to be the best version of yourself. It’s making dreams come true.