This is a low calorie or extremely low calorie diet plan. It’s made up of branded shakes, bars, soups and porridge.

The products can be used on their own for fast weight loss or they can be used in tandem with normal meals for a more gradual weight loss.

The programme range from 415 calories a day to more than 1500.

You can’t buy any of the products in a shop or online. If you want to try the diet you can only do so by getting in touch with a Cambridge Weight Plan consultant, who will visit you, weigh and measure you and decide which programme best suits your needs.

It used to be called the Cambridge diet and was the brainchild of Dr Alan Howard at Cambridge University as a method of rapidly shedding weight.

Since its launch in 1984 more than 25 million people have used the weight plan globally.

The Cambridge Weight Plan: What you can eat

What you can eat depends on how much weight you want to lose. The backbone of the diet though is the branded products. They contain carbohydrate, protein fat and fibre as well as more than thirty other nutrients.

The shakes, soups and porridge come in a sachet, which you mix with water.

The shake flavours include, strawberry and banana.

Soup flavours include chicken and mushroom, oriental chilli, spicy tomato, vegetable, mushroom, leek and potato.

The porridge comes in original, maple and pecan or apple and cinnamon.

There are chewy or crunch bars. The chewy includes caramel, toffee, chocolate and chocolate orange. If you prefer crunchy, these include cranberry, chocolate mint or peanut.

If you are on a later step of the programme you can also eat calorie controlled meals. You get the recipes and ideas from your Cambridge consultant.

The options

There are six steps or options to the plan and you and your consultant decide which step you should start from.

1. Sole Source – three or four Cambridge diet products are eaten or drunk a day.

Sole source Plus – you have three branded products as well as a normal meal of 200 calories. Or you can have four branded products and 200 ml of skimmed milk.

According to the guidance this stage should be followed for between 1 week minimum to 12 weeks maximum. The calories in this stage vary from 415 to 615 daily.

2. Next stage, three weight plan products plus protein rich foods, skimmed milk and some vegetables. This gives you 810 calories a day and should be followed for a week minimum.

3. This stage gives you 1000 calories a day. It consists of two diet products, milk allowance, breakfast and salads for lunch and dinner. It’s recommended this is followed for two weeks.

4. Two diet products, skimmed milk and calorie controlled lunch and dinner.  This basically starts to add more conventional food to your daily menu. It can be followed for as long as you like.

5. You are allowed 1500 on this stage, which consists of one diet product, breakfast, dinner, lunch and a snack. Your Cambridge Weight Plan consultant will be able to give you ideas and recipes for what to cook and eat for your meals. There are no restrictions on how long this should be followed.

6. The last step is the maintenance phase. Once your weight has been stabilised the plan recommends planning ahead and eating a healthy, balanced diet. It suggests continuing to visit your Cambridge consultant and having a diet product a day.

The Cambridge Weight Plan: How it works

Basically, it’s a very low calorie diet with nutritional supplementation. The balance of nutrients is designed to produce a state of mild ketosis to help speed up weight loss. Ketosis means that our bodies are using fat for energy.

It’s a low carbohydrate diet so once the body has used its own stores of carbohydrate it’s forced to use its other source of energy, unwanted fat.

The Cambridge Weight Plan: What the experts say

Lucy Jones is a specialist obesity dietician and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.

She says: “We use the Cambridge Plan clinically before cases of obesity surgery where the patient is too heavy to risk a general anaesthetic.”

She says it’s medically safe but shouldn’t be used light heartedly. “With any diet like this there will be rebound weight gain.  After following the plan some people return to their previous lifestyle and the weight will come back on.” She says it’s better in the long run to change your behaviour tactics around food.

She says nevertheless: “The products have a role to play in weight loss for the obese, that is people with a BMI of more than 30.”

Spokesperson for the British Nutrition Foundation, Áine O’Connor says: “’Some products and diets can help kick start a diet and provide motivation but unfortunately there are no real quick fixes. To lose weight in the long term you need to makes changes to your diet and lifestyle that you can stick to.”

She goes on to say: “Ultimately overall lifestyle changes involving a healthy balanced diet and plenty of physical activity are needed, rather than relying on a short-term radical change to your diet.”

The Cambridge Weight Plant: Food for thought

Latest figures show nearly a quarter of adults in England are obese and it’s predicted by 2025 that nearly half of men and more than a third of women will be obese.

We all know that the best way to lose weight is to do it steadily by eating healthy food, taking exercise and changing our eating habits but it’s not always as simple as that.

Diets like the Cambridge Weight Plan may not fit that brief, but they have been proven to work and may have a role to play if you are obese and can’t lose weight in other ways.

The hardest part of the plan is sticking to it. Giving up normal meals and swopping them for a snack bar or a soup may be pretty soul-destroying in the long term.

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