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Very Low Calorie Diets

Everything you need to know about following a very low calorie diet (VLCD)

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Achieving a healthy weight is all about striking the right balance between the energy that you put into your body, and the energy that you use.

To lose weight, you have to use more energy than you consume in food and drinks throughout the day. You can do this by making healthy changes to your eating habits, and building more physical activity into your daily life. In many cases, this will be enough to achieve a healthy weight.

However, if you have made these changes already and the weight loss you’ve experienced has not resulted in a healthy weight, you may benefit from a very low calorie diet otherwise known as VLCD.

VLCD’s are also discussed not only by the NHS as a method for managing obesity but recent research has shown their potential in reversing the onset of type 2 diabetes.

What is a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD)?

A very low calorie diet or VLCD is any diet that involves eating 1000 calories a day or fewer. It should only be undertaken for 12 continuous weeks without a break, or intermittently – for example, every two or three days – along with a low calorie or normal diet.

The regular recommended daily calorie intake is 2000 for women, and 2500 for men. This means that VLCDs contain far fewer calories than most people need to be able to maintain a stable, healthy weight. For that reason, eating a very low calorie diet can cause more rapid weight loss than a conventional weight loss programme.

It’s important that VLCDs are only used by people who need them and that the diet is safe and followed properly.

During a typical VLCD the person undertaking the diet will stop eating all normal foods, and replace them with special drinks, soups, bars or porridge containing milk- , soy- or egg-based protein. The replacement foods are designed to contain all the nutrients that we need, while providing 1000 calories a day or fewer

Who should use a VLCD?

VLCDs are suitable for people who are very overweight (obese), and have remained very overweight despite making healthy changes to their diet and lifestyle. Most people who want to lose weight do not need to eat a very low calorie diet.

However, it may be right for you if all three of the following statements apply to you:

– You have already made healthy changes to your diet and level of physical activity.

– You are still very overweight (your BMI is 25 or over).

– You are no longer losing weight.

VLCDs are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, and they are not suitable for children. Find out more about healthy eating in pregnancy.

Recent studies have also shown very low calories diets be effective in reversing Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis. The research was conducted by Newcastle University in conjunction with Diabetes UK.

Benefits of a Very Low Calorie Diet

There are many positive aspects of being placed on a VLCD. Some of which are outlined below:

Improves Medical Conditions

There are a number of obesity related medical conditions that can cause fatigue and even lead to death. If a person is at high risk for serious medical illness or death, their doctor may place them on a VLCD to get the weight off as quickly as possible. If time is of the essence, a VLCD can reduce the chances of suffering from the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure and pulmonary hypertension
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Certain cancers, including breast and colon cancer
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Osteo-arthritis
  • Hypoxemia (a gradual decrease in the level of oxygen in your blood)

Emotional Benefits

A difficult aspect of obesity is the emotional toll it takes on people. Everyone tends to place an emphasis on physical appearance, and this includes weight. It can be hard on a person to start a weight loss venture if they have a lot of weight to lose.

By following a VLCD, a person will lose the weight quicker and will start feeling better about themselves and more confident even sooner than with a traditional diet.

A person who is obese can lose 3 to 5 pounds each week, for a total average of 44 pounds in a 3 month period. Other diets promote a weight loss of 1 or 2 pounds a week. For a person with a large amount of weight to lose, the rapid weight loss can be a great motivator and they may be more likely to stick to their weight loss efforts seeing the rapid weight loss.

Long Term Weight Loss

People who lose weight by following a VLCD that includes lifestyle changes (exercising, learning about portion control, etc.) typically lose about 15 to 25 percent of their initial weight during the first 3 to 6 months. If they continue to follow a healthy eating plan and exercise regularly, they may maintain a 5-percent weight loss after 4 years.

How to use a VLCD

If you think a VLCD may be right for you, the first step is to talk to your GP. They can provide advice on whether a VLCD will help: they may measure your BMI and talk to you about other steps you’ve taken to lose weight. VLCDs are not suitable for people with certain health conditions, such as eating disorders and epilepsy, and your GP can also talk to you about this.

If your GP agrees that a VLCD is a good idea, the next step is to find a good provider of a VLCD like Shake That Weight. The GP can talk you through the weight loss you can expect and the side effects that may occur while you are on the diet. Although these are usually minor, and can include fatigue, diarrhoea, constipation and nausea that only last for a short time whilst your body adjusts.

Typically, you should keep a record of your weight loss and any side effects, to discuss with your GP.

VLCD Tips and Tricks

Prepare properly

DON’T go for a massive carb-loaded blowout of booze and cake the night before – you will feel terrible as the withdrawal kicks in around day 3, and it will take longer to deplete your stored glycogen and when your body releases ketones, which is when the weight starts falling and the hunger starts easing.

Instead steadily reduce your carbs and calories and up your liquids over the week before you go on the full programme. This is counter intuitive, we all want to ‘mardi gras’ and be merry, and when you commit to a VLCD you want to get stuck in fast, but time conquers all.

Don’t tell everyone

Of course your nearest and dearest need to know, and should read about and understand your chosen programme, so they can support YOU. But don’t get into it with everyone you meet – however enthused you are about your progress, people can react very strangely and unhelpfully.

Sometimes people feel threatened by someone getting in control of a key aspect of their lives, especially if they themselves havent… If you are having to be around people eating socially, you can say you are doing this programme where you substitute this snack bar or shake for ‘some of your meals’ (this isnt a lie because you might substitute a soup for some of your other meals!) – make a joke of how you’re so bored with it/weight loss is so boring, you don’t want to talk about it – and change the subject.When they start to see the results you’re getting, they’ll ask YOU about your VLCD.

Find people you CAN talk about it with

Many VLCD programmes offer group or one to one support and supervision, some have forums like Shake That Weight where you can find common ground. Many people love the anonymity of this, but if the forum thing is a bit too general and non-specific, try and buddy up with someone at a similar stage and support each other one to one. Most have some kind of private messaging facility to help you with this.

If you don’t fancy a VLCD specific forum, find a general weight loss one such as minimins, or one about change in general.
For some people, it really helps to immerse yourself in it.

Read around your diet

Read the magazines, books, background, theory…. Don’t turn into a bore with your friends and family not on the same journey, that’s easy to do! But online friends are great for that and can point you in new directions as well to deepen your understanding and keep you focused.

There’s lots of research around about VLCDs and their effects and effectiveness, if it helps keep you on track then make it your hobby and obsess about it a bit (quietly!)

Plan your water intake.

Drinking enough water is critical – for hydration, dilution of foodpacks, proper bowel, kidney and liver function, and suppression of hunger – but if you are not used to drinking so much it’s hard, and it can be VERY dangerous to try and drink it all at once. If your plan says 3 litres a day, think of it as half a litre every 2 hours or so on – measure it out at intervals, set reminders on your desktop calendar, whatever it takes to steadily stagger your intake throughout the day.

Get advice from your diet plan/counsellor/supervisor re exact amounts but remember to factor in your current size, activity level, climate and temperature, and anything else that may affect your metabolism and need for water on your VLCD. You can read more about the importance of water on a diet here.

Find a really beautiful glass to drink water out of! I used to have a crystal cut one with blue gems in the base that refracted prisms on the office wall when the light was right… it helped me feel cleansed and light and gorgeous.

Water is a perfectly clear natural substance, if you can remind yourself how to find beauty in it, it might help you get more of it down you…

Make sure you’re prepared

For everyday meals away from home – eg if you go out to work, you need to take or keep not just your food packs but anything you need to make them up promptly and without fuss, like a shaker or blender, or your special cup for the microwave or whatever. Don’t be caught out without your kit as that’s when you’re likely to waver.

Be prepared for temptation and emergencies. Keep a spare ready-to-eat foodpack on hand at all times – I NEVER ate the spare crunchy bar in my hand bag the whole time because it was just my security blanket, that stood between me and the coffee shop / pub/ chip stall… I knew that if the hunger and desperation truly overcame me I could eat it without ruining everything!

If you fall off the wagon, you havent ruined everything

Pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and get right back on it. DON’T feel you have to write off the day or worse, longer (‘well, I might as well start it again on Monday now…). Don’t waste your highly-focussed emotional energy beating yourself up, what you’re doing is challenging enough without that, and remember the actual goal.

Keep a journal

WITH PHOTOS. Try to get a pic in a similar location, posture and if you can outfit, when you start off and then at intervals of either weight loss or time (eg every 10 lb or every month). If you are a wordy person write about how you feel, what is being hard for you, what you miss, and why you’re doing this – what you hope to gain from it. You can turn to this when you’re feeling cold or fed up or even the H-word. Let your goals be your guide, and you’ll be amazed to look back on it when you can’t remember how fat used to look and feel in years to come. Shake That Weight offer a free photo journal in your account when you join.

Get a breath spray

As the diet can encourage the release of ketones, some people may experience a sweet smelling bad breath. Midday teeth cleaning helps a bit, but it’s not coming from your mouth but deep inside and cannot be helped merely masked. Water drinking may help… but remember, it’s a positive sign that your body is doing its thing and burning up those fat cells, the ketones you’re exhaling are the chemical by-product of that process!

Get some sugar free mints or those little tongue strips. They help with the breath, and are also great to keep on hand if you have to sit with people eating ‘normal’ meals (or even worse cook for them!) A really strong mint will mask the smell of the food and confuse the idea of the taste – same as food often tastes horrible after toothpaste or mouthwash.

Get a good pair of weighing scales

Those ones that show body fat percentage are useful too, and if you feel a bit geeky you can make a chart and plot both curves down. The pay-offs on a VLCD are FAST weight loss so celebrate it. So print off a spreadsheet, or nick the kids graph paper, and watch it drop away! Yeah!!

Its not ideal to weigh daily – but if you do don’t get hung up about it. Accept that you’ll plateau some times, even when you are doing the programme 100% it happens – you might retaining fluids premenstrually, you might be building new muscle which weighs more than fat so your shape is changing not your weight – or your bathroom scales on the wonky mat might not be a militarily precise instrument. Whatever, you know if you are doing it, so sigh, keep grafting, and weigh again tomorrow – eventually you will see the results on the scales, and on your chart.

Chuck the first lot of fat clothes as soon as you can.

They are history, belonging to the old you – what kind of message are you sending to your subconscious if you pack them all away in the loft? You do a VLCD properly and you do it once in your life, you don’t EVER need to go through this again and you will never need them. EBay any good bits, the rest straight to the charity shop!

Whilst you’re down at the charity shop, (or browsing eBay), treat yourself to some intermediate-sized clothes that actually fit. It’s easy to deny yourself as you know your target size isn’t reached yet, but it’s GREAT to have a pair of jeans that really fit you even if its for a few weeks, and second hand needn’t cost much – or buy to sell on – just make sure you have something in a size down from last month that looks fantastic and everyone will compliment you on / notice your weight loss. It’s too easy to hide away in your old ‘fat clothes’ long after they actually fit you, and it’s whilst you’re still plugging away at your VLCD and those darned foodpacks you could do with some interim congratulations!

Plan exercise realistically.

If you are subsisting on a true VLCD your blood pressure and blood sugar levels won’t be up to much, whatever you do don’t START exercising hard if you weren’t doing so before. If you were active previously you can adapt your training to your current energy levels – listen to you body at all times.

If part of the reason you need to do the diet is that you haven’t exercised for years, don’t start triathalon training now – but DO accelerate your metabolism and well-being by building in some daily walking, swimming or yoga as you progress through your diet. It will help tone up loose skin and muscle, and make you feel really good. If you’re self-conscious about your body shape and exercising in public this will soon change, and if you can’t face the swimming baths yet just get more walking in as you get going on your VLCD.

You can still lose the weight without exercising but we do recommend you try and be as mobile as possible e.g walking more and even house work etc can help.

Schedule some great non-food rewards

At interim points on your weight loss path. Try to do something really indulgent and just for you – a beauty treatment for example, or a gorgeous gift… I used to get a lot of detoxy sinus headaches and for every 10 pounds lost, treated myself to an Indian Head Massage which felt fantastic. Or why not get a pedicure, now you are beginning to consider showing off your legs for the first time in years..? Its your body you are loving back to life on your VLCD.

Save up the time, money and promises

And treat yourself to some retail therapy at the end of your weight loss journey. Most large department stores will offer a free personal shopper service which feels very special but even more important REALLY helps you to make the right decisions and try new looks, because if your body shape has changed substantially it’s very hard to know what will look and feel right. An honest, understanding and stylish friend is a good substitute! Because if you have spent years living with being seriously overweight then every fashion decision has been coloured by that factor and it’s hard to find the courage to try new things, even going into a changing room can be difficult. But you DESERVE it… when you’ve survived your VLCD, achieved your goal weight, motivate yourself to keep it off by getting at least one new outfit to show exactly how fantastic you look!

Give meal planning a go

Taking the time to learn about healthy alternatives to your usual diet and educating yourself on calories, carbs, protein and portion control will help prepare you for coming off the plan.

Shake That Weight offer the “with meal” plan for this reason, you can switch between this and the regular Man/Woman Plans as often as you like. That way you can try preparing healthy meals for yourself and the family. They also offer great recipes here and advice on healthy eating in your customer brochure. There is also a maintenance plan for when you complete the VLCD which helps you transition back to regular eating.

Most negativity around very low calorie diets is because people come off the plan and return to their old eating habits and as a result put the weight back on. Be prepared and don’t fall in to that trap.


Choosing a Diet Plan

All Shake That Weight diet plans are designed around the Very Low Calorie diet principle. You have a choice which one you follow and it depends on whether you wish to consume only the Shake that Weight range of delicious meal replacements per day or combine them with healthy regular food.

The first is called the Woman Plan or Man Plan depending on your gender, and can be known as our Total Food Replacement plan.

If you wish to have regular healthy food alongside the plan you should look for our Woman with Meal or Man with Meal plans.

After you have reached your goals you can use the Shake That Weight maintenance plan to ensure safe transition back to a regular diet.

You can see these plans below:

Our top diet plans

Woman with Meal

(Very Low Calorie Diet)
Suitable BMI


Products per day

3 + 400kcal meal


800 per day

Exercise Allowed

Light to Moderate

A rapid weight loss plan suitable for most people. This flexible plan allows you to still consume nutritious food alongside the plan.

Learn more

Choose your meals

How many weeks do you want?

1 2 4 6

Remember: The more you buy the more you save!

Woman Plan

(Total Food Replacement Diet)
Suitable BMI


Products per day




Exercise Allowed

Light only

For those wanting a stricter plan with no evening meal. Only Shake that Weight products each day to keep carbs and calories low.

Learn more

Choose your meals

How many weeks do you want?

1 2 4 6

Remember: The more you buy the more you save!

Man with Meal

(Very Low Calorie Diet)
Suitable BMI


Products per day

3 + 600kcal meal


1000 per day

Exercise Allowed

Light to Moderate

A rapid weight loss plan suitable for most people. This flexible plan allows you to still consume nutritious food alongside the plan.

Learn more

Choose your meals

How many weeks do you want?

1 2 4 6

Remember: The more you buy the more you save!

Man Plan

(Total Food Replacement Diet)
Suitable BMI


Products per day




Exercise Allowed

Light only

For those wanting a stricter plan with no evening meal. Only Shake that Weight products each day to keep carbs and calories low.

Learn more

Choose your meals

How many weeks do you want?

1 2 4 6

Remember: The more you buy the more you save!

Still not sure which plan to choose?

Use our diet plan finder to choose the right plan for you and your lifestyle

Find a Diet Plan for Me

What makes Shake That Weight so good?

We only settle for the best. We employ nutritional experts to develop our products using only the best ingredients and methods available. So they not only support throughout your diet plan but taste better than other diet products available.

How it works

Only High Quality Protein

We only use high biological value protein; Calcium caseine-Whey protein isolate with all essential amino acids.

Great Flavour and Reduced Hunger Pangs

Our protein is chosen for its great taste and slow digestion rate, whilst our flavours are specifically made for our manufacturers who use products from 5 leading companies in their mix.

40 Years Manufacturing Experience

All our products come from a nutritional supplier with over forty years of experience in the market.

Success Stories

* Weight loss results are different for each individual and yours may vary.

Join a community of fellow shakers

Shake That Weight have a very active community of dieters who love to share advice and tips

FREE online weight tracker

Access your free weight tracker and body measurement tool within your account after you place your order.

Free guide booklet

Don’t worry, once you order you will get a booklet that explains everything you need to do. FREE with every order.


Looking to achieve ketosis?

Woman Keto Diet Man Keto Diet

Unsure what ketosis is? Don’t worry, simply choose our easier to follow regular plans as you will achieve the same great weight loss.

You will see similar rapid weight loss on all our plans. There are only minor differences in the plans, so choose the correct one for your lifestyle.

Whenever you would like! As long as you are consuming all your products and meals evenly spaced out throughout the day it does not matter if you have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Find what suits you best.

Weight loss is a very individual thing and is based on your metabolism, starting weight and lifestyle etc. This said very low calorie diets such as this do encourage more rapid weight loss than traditional diets. If you read the reviews and success stories, customers have lost anywhere between 1 and 10 stone.

If you feel the need for a meal one day then simply follow the guidelines for the “with meal” plans. Also if you do not have the time for your meal on the “with meal” plans then simply replace it with another Shake That Weight product. This should not affect you weight loss.

This plan will result in the similar amounts of weight loss as our others. All Shake That Weight diet plans can result in ketosis/release of ketones and offer similar amounts of weight loss to this plan. The difference between this and our other plans is this is less about calorie counting, and more about limiting the total number of carbs you consume a day. It also has more limitations on which meal products you can have and things you can drink than the other plans.


At Shake That Weight we take customer satisfaction very seriously. Believe it or not, we do actually read all your reviews and make sure that we are doing everything we can to give you the best experience possible. To ensure all the reviews we show you are genuine, we employ independent feedback companies who manage the review process and email all customers after a confirmed order.

Collected by independent review company
4.58 Average 3544 Reviews

Very happy with the products i really like the bars. I've lost 22lb in 3weeks *


This review is not about losing or gaining weight but more about my satisfaction with this company's products and delivery. Firstly this an genuine response and no mucking about. I am into my third - I think order - and that in itself should tell you something. I suffer from digestive problems but the meals I have had so far have been excellent with no upsets whatsoever and that does include a good cross section of their menu. To say that I am delighted with the meals and delivery is putting it mildly and as I a disabled it makes for an far easier life. Take note those who may be sceptical, try them, I doubt you'll be disappointed after all my last order was £93.00. Believe me you don't spend that if you are not satisfied!!!!! *


I’m doing the women’s keto diet and I have just completed week 1. I have lost 8lbs which is amazing but it has taken a lot of suffering! The main issue I’ve found is that I’m constantly starving, like to the point I’m having trouble sleeping. I can’t understand where in all of the reviews I’ve read, that these products fill you up?! I must be super unlucky! The taste of every product is really tasty and It does feel like a treat drinking a shake or eating a bar which is great. I also bought the fibre powder which I have 3 times a day and at least two litres of water. I did suffer ‘Keto Flu’ during the first week, but that seemed to disappear on day seven thankfully as it was pretty awful. So in summary (my personal opinion) The plan works, the food and shakes are very tasty but they do not fill you up! I personally could not work full time on this diet as I’d keel over or eat someone 🙊 and I especially could not manage the first week being at work on this diet or driving a car as the brain fog is bad lol *


I have only been on it a few days but very impressed with the flavour of the shakes and bars. I am only doing the diet for a short time as I don't have that much to lose, but want to get rid of the summer pounds and back in control *


Everything I have tried has been delicious *

* Weight loss results are different for each individual and yours may vary.