A lot of marketing dollars get spent promoting the benefits of various weight loss shakes that can be found in supermarkets, pharmacies or via various pyramid selling schemes. They promise a lot and appear to be very attractive options for people who desperately want to lose weight. So are they the answer to losing weight, and keeping that weight off for good?
Weight Loss shakes aren’t any form of miracle. They are simply another form of calorie restriction, presented to you in a jar or box. They work on the concept of consuming less calories than you burn to create an energy deficit, thus causing weight loss. Low calorie diets are nothing new, but I find the concept of manufactured weight loss shakes to be particularly troubling because they are contrary to a number of basic nutrition principles which in turn compromises health and I believe ultimately, do not promote long term weight loss or weight maintenance. They offer a quick fix, that is just as quickly reversed again, except the hang-over effects of following the shake protocol can be long-lasting and damaging.
Nutrition 101: Eat Real Food
We are unashamed proponents of eating real food. The health and wellbeing of the general population could be significantly improved just by adhering to this principle. Our supermarkets these days are full of “food-like” substances with savvy marketers capitalizing on various forms of psychological tricks to dupe us into buying their products. Our bodies are designed to recognise and deal with real food. Not “food-like” substances. Real food goes from paddock to plate with very little involvement of factories or processing in between. If the “food” you are buying has an ingredient list, already it is suspect. If we consider the focus of this article, weight loss shakes, the ingredient lists can be staggering and peppered with artificial chemicals that really have no place in the human body. Weight loss shakes fall squarely into the realm of “food-like” substances. Heavily processed and fortified with laboratory created ingredients – regardless of how cleverly they might like to state they are “all-natural” and “healthy”.
Say Hello to a Chronically Depressed Resting Metabolic Rate
The problem with very low calorie diets such as that which occurs when following a shake protocol is that they can cause a long-term drop in your resting metabolic rate. Resting Metabolic Rate is the amount of energy that your body requires to sustain vital functions at rest – your internal fire if you like. Essentially, after a period of time following a very low calorie diet your body goes into starvation mode, and in response lowers your resting metabolic rate. This means your body is now burning even less calories at rest than you were before you started the diet. This lowered resting metabolic rate can persist for months and even years after you have finished your diet, even if you put weight back on and even when you have returned to normal eating. The implication of this is that now you have to eat even less food than what you were before you started dieting in order to just maintain your body weight, let alone lose weight again. If you have bounced around between various very low calorie diets for years it is probably little wonder that you struggle to maintain your bodyweight when you come off each diet again.
It’s not so much about what you eat but how you eat it.
Weight loss shakes are an artificially enforced means of calorie restriction. They do nothing for you in terms of teaching you how much food you should be eating, learning your hunger and satiety signals, learning what a healthy meal might look like and how to cope with other triggers that occur in life that lead to overeating or making poor food choices. Thus the inevitable consequence is that once the shakes stop, the weight piles back on. This is good news of course for the companies that manufacture them. If they can turn you into a life-long customer then it is very good for their bottom line.
But Eating Real Food is So Expensive
A common complaint I hear from people is that eating a healthy diet based on real food is expensive. And yet people do not blink an eye at forking out hundreds of dollars for pseudo-food and their associated supplements. Eating a healthy diet based on real food is not expensive. For a start once you learn how much you actually need to eat you might find yourself buying less food. And if you rid yourself of the Masterchef phenomenon of having to prepare gourmet meals at every opportunity you will also find that buying larger quantities of the things you like and that are easy to prepare really don’t cost all that much.
Ultimately I think weight loss shakes and the companies that manufacture them prey on the human propensity for avoiding effort. Human beings are pre-programmed to seek the easy option and to look for the quick fix. We have no problem slowly putting weight on over months and years and yet when it comes to taking it off, we want it to happen overnight and we seem to have little regard for the long-term implications of that on our overall health and wellbeing. For sure it sounds great to get rid of those pesky 5kgs fast. But do you really want to be struggling to eat real food again for the rest of your life?
There are several things to consider when weighing up the merits of shakes for weight loss and for me it is very clear that the risks outweigh the rewards. Not to mention that there is a very good likelihood that unless you want to keep consuming these shakes for the rest of your life, you will be right back where you started (or worse) once you finish with them.