The Cambridge Diet is one of the most extreme diets out there, developed in the 1960s for the extremely obese, and it works very well if you can follow it to the letter. Most people will lose 10+ pounds in the first week alone--in many ways it is the perfect diet for swift weight loss, but it can have unpleasant side effects.
You must sign up through an accredited Cambridge Diet counsellor who offers advice, monitors progress, and encourages you to maintain your new weight. There are over 1,000 counselors in the UK, so chances are one is close to you. In fact, these are the only authorised means of getting the Cambridge Diet materials--we'd steer clear of any materials illicitly sold on the internet (always overpriced and sometimes out of date). If you plan to go on the most extreme Sole Source portion of the diet, you should also notify your GP, and no one is allowed on the diet unless they have at least one stone to lose before reaching normal weight (BMI 25).
The diet stems from the 1960s, when Dr. Alan Howard, then a research scientist at Cambridge University, began investigating methods of weight loss. It was used for years exclusively in obesity clinics, and launched commercially in the UK in 1984, as well as much of the rest of the world.
Again, this is a serious diet, and the side effects should not be underestimated--you may experience headaches, weakness, mood swings and perhaps nausea, though these should pass if you drink plenty of water and as your body gets used to the new calorie intake level and concentrated nutrients. Some people may experience a noticeable, temporary hair loss, as the body diverts limited energy to other, more essential uses. Your hands and feet may feel cold and your skin can get dry for the same reason. Women may also notice disruptions to their menstrual cycles, though this is reportedly temporary, and losing excess weight may in the longterm promote menstrual regularity and fertility in future. Very rapid weight loss also has a chance of leaving you with loose, saggy skin because your skin doesn't have time to adjust to your new body shape.
Within a few days you'll go into a state of ketosis (when the liver starts converting fats into ketone bodies which can be burned for fuel), which should reduce hunger pangs from a physiological standpoint, but a lot of "hunger" is emotional and a habit, so you'll need the willpower to resist these psychological tendencies. A useful monitor for the diet is to purchase a set of ketone sticks (£4.55 on Amazon), so you can check your urine for ketone bodies to verify you're in ketosis. The Cambridge Diet is also difficult to stick with because food is so integral to many social situations--temptations especially abound when you're out. And even at home you can face major temptations if your spouse or children are eating normally
Menu: The Cambridge Diet is a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD), with the initial Sole Source menu at some 411 calories for the typical woman per day, some 762 for men. All programmes are based around a nutritionally complete food forumla which offers 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.
The main component of the Cambridge Diet is a meal shake--just mix the powder in the sachet with water to make a soup or shake (a hand blender is essential for this in our experience). They come in an array of flavors like chocolate, vanilla, eggnog, strawberry, cappuccino, banana cream and many more. There are also soups including Broccoli & Cheese, Chicken & Mushroom,
Vegetable. They also have ready-mixed Tetra-Brick shakes (mainly useful for when you're out), as well as chocolate-covered meal bars for the later in the diet, including Caramel
and Peanut. Each meal represents about 137 calories. There are extras like various water flavoring, packets to turn a shake into a mousse, and fibre supplements to avoid constipation.
The Cambridge Diet offers four different stages to lose weight successfully; Preparation, weight loss, stabilization, and maintenance. All four play an important role in losing weight.
- Preparation: In the first phase, you meet with your counsellor and establish when the right time to begin is, what your goals are, and the type of diet you'll need to accomplish them. They recommend gradually reducing food intake--especially sugars and carbs--and increasing water intake on the run-up to your starting the diet.
- Losing Weight: The meat of the diet--you generally start with two weeks of Sole Source (only liquid meal replacements--415-554 calories total), eight glasses of water per day (including black tea or coffee, and no other food. You will feel hungry during the first three days in particular, but after that it generally becomes easier. Your body becomes used to the new, no solid food reality, but if you do cheat on the diet, hunger will return with a vengeance. Naturally, this stage requires great determination not to veer off the diet. If you don't think you can handle this, try an easier, slower diet like Weight Watchers. Unlike Lighter Life, which stays on sole source for 14 weeks, the Cambridge Diet gives you a limited solid food week (where one meal a day will be chicken and vegetables or white fish and vegetables, for example) for every 4 weeks on the diet, which gives people something to look forward to.
- Stablisation: As you approach your goal weight, you switch to a higher level Cambridge Diet level, from 810-1500 calories. This allows some continued weight loss, and more importantly prevents a quick weight gain after a crash coming off the diet. This stage should be one to two weeks.
- Weight Maintenance: This is an essential stage, as the most common criticism of the Cambridge Diet is that it does not change eating habits, so the pounds often come back swiftly. You must watch your weight, and perhaps substitute the occasional Cambridge meal to bring down total calories.
Prices: For an average woman on sole source, it will cost perhaps £34-39 per week (slightly more for a man), and this includes the services of a counsellor, so it's really quite reasonable if you consider what you would have spent at the supermarket and eating out. It's also a bargain if you compare it to the similar liquid Lighter Life diet which costs nearly twice as much, though that Programme has more emphasis on counselling and group meetings.To reiterate, we would only consider a VLCD like the Cambridge Diet as a last resort only for those with continuing weight lose issues.