The Rosemary Conley approach is a low GI, low fat diet, but unlike its competitors it offers a 45-minute aerobic workout along with the weekly weigh-in which is common to the big three. So it is really a fitness club in addition to a dieting club--this will be welcome addition for some, but not so for others. We think exercise is certainly good, but one 45-minute session per week is hardly enough to see significant benefit (though better than nothing), and on the other hand, many dieters, especially if they have many pounds to lose, may not be keen on getting their gym kit on in a public setting. Members are asked to bring an exercise matt or towel for floor work, a pair of trainers, and to wear loose, non-restricting clothes.
The diet has its basis in Rosemary Conley's Hip and Thigh Diet developed in 1988, which was a UK bestseller for many years. The diet has been updated somewhat to adds some elements of a GI diet to the otherwise low fat focused regime in a 2008 release called Rosemary Conley's GI Hip and Thigh Diet.
Each weekly session is an hour and a half in total--you are discreetly weighed by your instructor (not a public event as in other clubs--this can be both a plus and minus) and given your personal calorie allowance. After weigh-ins, there is a five-minute motivational and instructions presentation, after which there are rewards for the Slimmer of the Week and such. The 45-minute exercise session to music which follows is optional, but really is a main part of the programme, and you're certainly paying for it, so it doesn't make much sense to sign up with this company only to skip it. If you're not comfortable with the exercise aspect you may prefer to try the Weight Watchers or Slimming World instead.
The main diet says it is targeted at loss for the hips and thighs (two areas particularly difficult for women to trim), but scientific research shows that spot fat losses like this are virtually impossible, so we're skeptical. There is simply no medically documented way to spot reduce like this, and on a low calorie diet you will lose across your body--for instance, we've read blog comments that some women on this particular diet complain of losing fat from areas such as the breasts when trying to trim their hips, stomachs and thighs.
Rosemary Conley herself is a businesswomen (born 1946) and broadcaster on exercise and health. Along with Weight Watchers and Slimming World, her organisation is considered one of the "big three" weight loss organisations, though it is the smallest.
Menu: There are no Rosemary Conley branded products in the shops--you get the ingredients together and cook them up, or buy certain ready meals which match the diet's specifications. Typical ingredients are meats, poultry, veggies, legumes, and smallish portions of starchy foods. Eliminated foods include nuts, seeds, oils, lard, dairy, butter, and margarine, which is unnecessarily strict in our opinion. We have some concerns that given the calorie levels, dieters may feel hungry on this plan, and also will need to watch out for the very low fat levels, as getting adequate levels of omega-3 and omega-6s and fat-soluble vitamins in your diet remain important even when trying to lose weight.
There are four diets to choose from on the programme:
1. GI Hip and Thigh Diet: Their newest diet, reflecting the latest GI (Glycemic Index-based) diet. It's very low fat, and also focuses on slow digesting carbs. All your meals are planned for the first four weeks, along with a daily physical challenge to get you used to exercise. The first phase is the "Fat Attack Fortnight," designed for some quick weight loss to get your morale up, and then phase 2 is the GI Hip and Thigh Diet enabling you to continue losing weight while offering treats, puddings and a bit of alcohol. In general, you'll be having menu options which are under a 1200 calorie daily limit.
2. GI Hip and Thigh Diet for Vegetarians: This is the same diet as above, simply without the meat.
3. Lifestyle Change Plan: This isn't a strict diet as such, more a programme for a general, healthier lifestyle. You make multiple small changes which added together equal better health and weight loss.
4. Solo Slim Diet: This is a diet designed for one, perfect if you're single so you don't end up cooking, and 'accidentally' eating double portions or having leftovers quietly rot away at the back of the fridge.
Prices: Membership costs £10, and then weekly meeting costs vary by region, but are typically £5.50.
There is also a Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness magazine, available for £19.99 for a 9-issue subscription.
Or, you can simply buy her updated 2008 book and try the diet on your own, for a mere £5.24 on Amazon.