A chapter from my book ‘My Big Fat Fat’ (2018)
A humorous and touching account for those losing or coping with excess weight. With her laugh-out-loud humor, Samantha Dee covers all subjects from beauticians to socks in this easy to read A to Z guide on weight loss, maintenance, and ways to nourish your self-esteem.
L is for… Lighter Life (Review/Interview)
Lighter Life is a meal replacement diet. Three drinks a day, milkshakes or soup, and a granola-type bar, all of which are provided for a fixed weekly fee.
Whilst I’ve been on this briefly, (14 pounds lost), I thought I’d feature my best friend here, as she had a terrifying experience after reaching her goal on this diet. So, I interviewed her, and here’s what she told me.
How much did you lose on Lighter Life?
‘Ten stone and two pounds, altogether, over eight and a half months’ [64.4kg, 142lbs]
Why did you decide on Lighter Life as an option?
‘Well, it was my old boss who made me do it; she was sick of hearing me moan about losing weight. She was overweight herself and had read about it, so she took me along to a Lighter Life class meeting and said, ‘I think you should try this.’ – I’d never considered it before. She wasn’t being mean, she was trying to help. I remember feeling it was a good idea.’
What were your first couple of days like?
‘I signed up straight away, and there was a group starting the following week. Honestly, I just fell straight into it. I remember on the first day, I was cutting up grapes for the girls’ lunch boxes and I went to eat one, and thought, Oooh, no, can’t do that anymore. To me, doing it was the easy part.’
Did you have ‘bad’ days or weeks?
‘I signed up for a hundred days to start with, and I remember looking at my calendar and thinking only ninety-nine more days left. Although, I knew it would take longer than that. I never had bad days at all; I never deviated once. Anyone who knows me knows that I am crap when it comes to things like that. I almost felt like I’d been…drugged! Who was I? and what have they done with the real me?
I tell you what it was, it was the fact that you literally cannot eat anything, other than what was on the plan. I never remember feeling hungry; I mean, I went through Christmas day without food! Had my soup. Black coffee with sweetener and diet coke were my best friends. It was a control thing I think. On normal diets, you still have to eat, and you still have to choose. And the consistent four or five pounds loss every week – that was a big ‘pull’…’
So that was what kept you going? The big weight loss?
‘Well, yeah. I just wanted to get to the end.’
Was there a time when you wondered what you were going to do when it finished [the plan]?
‘Oh yeah, that frightened me. Eating [normal food] for the first time frightened me. At the end, you do ‘maintenance’ for about three months. During this time, you gradually re-introduce food. It was scary.’
So, how was your weight when you were on maintenance?
‘My weight was stable, I mean, I was not gaining weight at all. I probably maintained for about three or four months afterwards.’
While you were on the plan, did you worry at all about your health?
‘No, I went to the Doctor every twenty-eight days for my blood pressure to be checked. I think psychologically, that ‘ticked’ the box for me.
How soon afterwards did you become ill?
‘I started having ‘tummy’ problems, quite soon after I started eating again. I’d get these chronic pains in my upper abdomen. There was no rhyme or reason to it—no particular food that set off the pain.
The Doctors did blood tests and whatnot, and at first, nothing. They couldn’t find anything wrong. Looking back, I think it was my body not being able to cope with fat again, which is why I have gall stones.
I’d been in a constant state of ketosis for so long, over eight months. So, there was all this bile in my gall bladder that had solidified, which is where the stones come from.
At first, no one actually said that it was because of the diet I’d been on. Then, I was going to visit my Husband in Germany, but I had a bad stomach again, so I submitted to more blood tests before I left.
When I got home, I had a note on my doorstep from the Doctor’s office, saying that I had to contact them, urgently.
When I got there my Doctor said, ‘I haven’t got very good news, but you’re very seriously ill and we don’t know what it is.’
Up to then I thought I had stomach problems, but it was all to do with my liver. I knew things were bad then because while I was there my doctor called the consultant surgeon at the hospital and got me an appointment that very afternoon.
When I got there, the Consultant told me that my liver function was showing a score of something like 1,970 and a normal person should be about 60.
He went on to say that he suspected some kind of Hepatitis. But again, they never found anything decisive.
Finally, he concluded that it was to do with the diet I’d been on. He said he couldn’t prove it scientifically, but that he could categorically say that those very low calorie meal replacements screw your body up.’
What would your advice be to others considering a meal-replacement diet?
‘Just don’t do it. You’ll put the weight back on, you won’t learn anything, and it messes with your insides. You know, you need a balanced diet, not just ‘calories’. Christ, you’d have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to know how a good diet can help you lose weight.
I think very low calories diets have their place, for people who have some control. But most of the people who are getting to this point are not in control. I do think the industry preys on people like me. The industry is improving, though. Weightwatchers, for instance, is moving towards the whole ‘wellbeing’ thing, and it’s a good way to go.’