20 Top VLCD Survival Tips and Techniques

Whatever very low calorie diet or VLCD you are attempting, the following tips might help you to stick to your resolve and see it through to achieve your goals... There's 20 of them here so read carefully, there's got to be one or two that resonates with where you are right now... GOOD LUCK!!

prepare to VLCD

1. 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 get into ketosis, 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 counterintuitive, we all want to 'mardi gras' and be merry, and when you commit to a VLCD you want to get stuck in fast - but the author has tried it both ways and speaks from bitter experience!

2. 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... Or they come out with stuff about the person they knew who did one of those VLCD diets, and put it all back on again, or felt really ill, or yadda yadda whatever... You don't need this! 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.

3. Find people you CAN talk about it with. Many VLCD programmes offer group or one to one support and supervision, others have forums, or there are generic VLCD forums 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, or one about change in general.

4 For some people, it really helps to immerse yourself in it. As well as the forums, 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 focussed. 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!)

5. 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.

6. 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...

7. 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.

8. 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!

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Get a breath spray - nothing is better for your confidence than that delightful 'ketosis breath', right! 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!

12. 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.

13. 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!!

14. By all means weigh daily - but 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.

happy with weight loss

15. Chuck the first lot of fat clothes as soon as you can. They are history, belong 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!

16. 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!

17. Careful with the artificial sweeteners. A lot of people have problems digesting them, especially the aspartame based ones, and find the sweet 'bars' especially difficult. If you are affected by this, but still really want to eat them - there's usually an alternative - try cutting them up and eating spread throughout the day. It can be good to have a snack to nibble on. One major criticism of VLCDs is that they get you out of the habits of normal eating and the bars are certainly a help with this.

18. 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 dont 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

19. 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.

20. 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!

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