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April 11, 2008



As an avid reader of the latest interesting diet books etc, I usually read your articles with interest, but feel compelled to write in response to this one.

Although not the diet of my choice but knowing how many different diets she has tried and not been successful with, as the mother of a 42 year old who has had a constant battle with her weight since a teenager, I give her my full support with her latest attempt to lose weight using LighterLife.

Not only has she lost the weight, but she has a much more positive outlook on life, has gained confidence in what she says and does and I can only thank LighterLife for this.

As an initial sceptic, I read the literature she was given when she started and all the problems mentioned on the BBC programme are clearly brought to your attention in the initial stages of the VLCD.

She and the others in her group haven't lost any hair, or experienced any other problems - so I can only assume that the problems are experienced by the minority when I think of all the good this programme does (she no longer has a blood pressure problem, her cholesterol is no longer high, and she is physically able to participate in sports that she has not played since a child.)

I would recommend it to anybody who is looking to lose weight, and address the reasons why they picked it up in the first place. The counsellors have really opened a new world to her.

From a grateful mother.

Andrea Wren

Hi Alma,

Many thanks for your comment and for your continued interest in my blog. I think there a few points I'd like to make in response.

As my approach is anti-dieting and this site is all about giving up dieting and the damage that diets can do, it should come as no surprise that I would not support a programme like LighterLife, particularly in relation to the health problems that some people are suffering.

I appreciate there are some people who are so unhealthily obese that their health is in jeopardy, and for them quick weight loss in the short-term may well save them from getting even more ill (as with your daughter's blood pressure etc) - but my question still comes down to: what happens in the long-term?

There is no doubt that LighterLife helps people lose weight (and so does a gastric band or gastric by-pass, but I would not necessarily recommend these methods! However, I understand some people feel so disempowered they feel they have no other choice to resort to such options). The programme is most definitely successful at helping with quick weight-loss - but that is not the issue.

What is the issue is the fact that any quick and drastic weight loss in the short-term will frequently lead to putting weight back on and three-fold, in the long-term. So the end result is that people carry on thinking it is they who are the failure, not the diet.

While I hope that your daughter will continue to enjoy the new-found confidence she has gained, evidence says that most people who diet (two thirds) end up fatter than when they started - because they really haven't got to grips with why they gained weight in the first place.

What I find most galling is that people are continuing to be lulled into this idea that we need other 'experts' - the diet industry - to tell us how to eat and how to manage our diets, and they are spending huge amounts of money to have someone else tell them what to eat, as well as have their eating habits controlled in such an unnatural manner (with bars and shakes).

You mention LighterLife is your daughter's 'latest attempt' to lose weight - but why should this be so different from any of the others, in the long-term? I appreciate you say she hasn't been successful with other diets but has lost weight with this one - but it is such a drastic crash diet that, if sticking with it, you couldn't fail to lose weight (in the SHORT-TERM!).

The question really is, does your daughter now know why she has spent a lifetime 'battling with her weight'? If this isn't resolved, she will continue to 'battle'.

As I mentioned in my previous post, someone I know has now put back on at least 2 stone of the weight she paid such a large amount of money to lose with LighterLife, and is now ploughing funds into WeightWatchers! If it hasn't worked before, why should it work now?

Ultimately, it is only the diet industry that benefits from people buying into their diets. Some people do find long-term success with diets, but they are few and far between. LighterLife is not the new god to the obese.


Hi Andrea,

Sorry, I just had to comment too.

I know LighterLife sounds pretty drastic and scary, but just as you've got to take anything the 'diet industry experts' say with a pinch of salt, you have to treat stuff the MEDIA say in the same way.

The truth is, Lighterlife is essentially no different to the Cambridge Diet (which has been around for 30 years). EXCEPT Lighterlife has counselling, group support, and GP supervision (your GP has to give you a check-up and sign a form every 4 weeks, otherwise LL kick you off the plan).

Again, when it comes to the regain of weight, the media have simplified the diet to suit their own agenda. The likelihood of regain is no greater than any other diet.

However, when a Lighterlife client reaches their goal weight, they enter a (much cheaper) 12-week programme in which they're 'rehabilitated' back onto food. After those 12 weeks, the client enters a management period, which continues for as long as necessary. The regain statistics for Lighterlife are actually very low because of this aftercare plan.

Companies like Weight Watchers and Slimming World may charge less per week, but it is not in their interests for you to reach your goal weight and stay there. Lighterlife is honestly priced, because you only do the plan once.

Lighterlife has the same side-effects as any very low calorie diet. Incidently, nobody in my group has suffered hair-loss etc. If anything, we all have more energy and better skin! The man who drank too much water was not INSTRUCTED to by his counsellor.

I'm not a counsellor, I'm a client, and I'm sorry, but I think people need to give dieters like me a bit more credit. I'm 25 and me and my partner had actually started saving for obesity surgery. When you have 10 stone to lose, a loss of 1 or 2lbs a week is completeley impractical. I gave Lighterlife a go, and I like it. It works well for me. It's not unpleasant or difficult. I don't have to weigh cottage cheese in ounces or worry about what's for lunch. At the end of the day, I'm a seasoned dieter and I know what's best for me - more so than any 'experts' on either side! Remember, if the diet was so awful then people wouldn't stick to it, and Lighterlife wouldn't be as successful as they are.

Sally Roberts

I've been away for a few days and therefore didn't see the programme but have just read with interest the article on the BBC website.
I'm a very satisfied client of Lighter Life. I lost 6 stone with the help of my counsellor who is one of the best known and most enthusiastic, sympathetic and knowledgeable in the organisation - and she has "been there" herself so shares all our experiences fully. I am so grateful for all the help Atlanta (my counsellor) has given me and continues to give. Yes there ARE side effects as has been stated although I was lucky - I had no hair loss, nor did I have problems with my periods (over and above going through menopause which is a different ball game entirely!) Atlanta took pains always to advise about side effects and in fact recommended a remedy shampoo which people could use to help with any hair problem. She also emphasised the importance of drinking sufficient water (at least 4 litres a day whilst on foodpacks) and in fact I still drink at least 3 litres a day now!
The main thing which LL addressed was the emotional problems I had around food and it has been a big help. I would say to anyone who wants to give it a go - you have nothing to lose except a lot of weight!!!!!

Paula Balfour

Andrea, What a damaging individual you are,

You have no idea what you are talking about. That ridiculous Inside Out programme also do not know what they are talking about.

Lighterlife deal with food and food addictions, over sixty thousand people have lost weight and kept the weight off with huge success with the help and knowledge of GOOD, PROFESSIONAL Counsellors of which there are many around the country.

Who are you to mock and try to take away those achievements of the people involved. Actually as a lighterlife client for well over six months i have been nothing but impressed at my counsellors abilities , genuine interest and wealth of knowledge about my own eating behaviours and the way we think about and use food. I would love you to meet her, you may well consider yourself educated. In my group alone there are five people who have been referred to my counsellor from their GP's and two of those see the National obesity clinic in London regularly. Others in my group are there specifically because the counsellors reputation is impeccable.

For your information, as you obviously don't seem to have the knowledge yourself, anyone losing weight can have a disrupted menstrual cycle. Two ladies in my group suffer with PSOS and hadn't had periods for a few years, they now have a regular cycle. You have allowed posts of other people here but responded on a point by point matter completely discounting what has been said to you.... Heads up..... you are a persecutor that's your personality. You are not interested in balanced views, which is of no surprise. I have been dealing with negative people like you all my life. People like you who can not simply listen but just have to give your two pennies worth because it's your opinion that matters, are part of the reason i have been using food as a coping mechanism.

You can lose weight on any diet and most of us do, then we put the weight back on again. With Lighterlife, you learn how and why you use food so that you can stop the yo - yo effect. Hang on... isn't that what you advocate?

The cost of this programme is just £2.35 a meal. The food is all you pay for, everything else is free. Any weightloss system costs money. It has to because you are changing the way you eat. But again, i don't hear you fuss about that.

Please learn a little more before you start judging things you really do not know about. You are not qualified to cast aspersions when you don't understand the subject matter fully.

Do you really believe everything you see on television???


Bring all these success stories back to me in 5 years time and let's see how successful LL has been then...


Good luck to anyone wanting to feel happier in their own skin and be healthier.
I am not a fan of lighter life as I think it is very sad to spend your life afraid of your hunger and to be constantly vigilant around food. There is no joy in that prospect for me and that is why I could never do this diet.
I know someone who has done LL and has put a good amount of the weight back on. I am not surprised as if the reasons that we turn to food in the first place are not grappled with then of course the weight will return.
I am learning to eat intuitively with the help of books and the wonderful Beyond Chocolate community. Now, there IS joy in this approach and amazing self discovery and I would highly recommend it to anyone whose eating is chaotic.

Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed.

Although it is laudatory that programs are created to help people lose weight, we must always evaluate them according to two criteria: Do they promote: 1) long-term weight loss and maintenance and 2) good health. In my book, few, if any diets, meet these criteria, whereas "normal" or intuitive eating meet both. Learn more about "normal" eating at my website.


There is a reason people on LighterLife experience hair loss and amenorrhea: they're both side effects of starvation. I also experienced the same things when I struggled with anorexia.

There was a time during my bout with anorexia that I would not eat more than 500 calories a day. I was considered clinically and mentally ill, so I find it difficult to reconcile the fact that any "diet" promoting much of the same would be considered safe or healthy.

Sure, a starvation diet based primarily on liquids and air will help you lose weight. But is that weight loss sustaining? I'd like to see the company's long-term weight loss statistics - oh, wait, they don't make those available. Hardly any diet company does. If the companies are so confident of the effectiveness of their products, why don't they release these results and crow about them. Maybe it's because they have something to hide.

Andrea Wren

Denise - how it feels to no longer be constantly vigilant around food? I love it! I also know people who are putting the weight back on after LighterLife.

Karen - thanks for responding. I agree with you - weight loss programmes do need to exist for some people, but the questions do remain as you pose, that they need to promote a long-term loss and good health. Crash diets and starvation, no matter how much counselling is included, generally do neither.

Rachel - yes, I really would be interested to see the long-term results also, because anyone on 600 calories a day in the short-term can lose weight. Do you think we're likely to be shown them? I don't think so. Diet companies only ever tell us how many people lost weight, not how many people keep it off for more than, say, 5 years.

Andrea Wren

Paula, I shall respond to your rather personal attack in a separate post.


Lighterlife is awful. I have done it twice now - the first time I lost nearly five stone, but I didn't learn how to eat normally so it just went straight back on. The post-diet programme is impossible - eating boiled chicken on its own?

The second time around I stuck to it for 12 weeks, long enough to lose two stone. First time around the counselling was pathetic - the leader had no idea about group dynamics and I barely got a word in edgeways because of one woman who talked, literally, all the time. She had some real personal problems, but in a group the sharing should be part of the work and if one person is allowed to monopolise it becomes pointless.

The second time around the counselling was a bit better, still only about half an hour a week though, with a group of 12 - £66 a week is really expensive for what you get. But what really annoyed me, both times, was if the counsellor had any personal illness or problem, you still had to pay up even if the session didn't happen. You were weighed by someone else you'd never met - a male in some cases - and asked personal questions by strangers. I fully appreciate that counsellors can fall ill, but there is such a massive profit margin here that they could afford to offer either full backup or a reduced price if all you get is some milkshakes. £66 a week is a rip-off.

And both times I had hair loss (quite severe and noticeable) and both times I had menstrual disruption - which I wasn't warned about. I also had real digestive problems. Both times I've put back on the weight I lost. It's lovely when the weight falls off, but it rockets back on incredibly fast, even if you don't eat that much.

I know I've got serious eating issues, but then so do most very overweight people. Blaming me for not being able to stick to this totally unrealistic plan is silly - it simply doesn't work for a lot of people. And it's incredibly expensive!

What we really need is some sensitive counselling, directed towards individuals, not just a group programme. Small groups would be OK, but a group of 12 is too big. I'm seeing a counsellor individually now, and I'm working on the Beyond Chocolate approach, and I think I'm finally turning a corner and stop using food for other purposes. Lighterlife didn't go anywhere near these deep issues. I wish I'd never been near them. They just made me feel bad about myself, for example calling someone 'naughty' if they've 'cheated' I think is really bad practice - it just infantilises the person. Mind you, if much more of my hair falls out I'll look like a baby.


This is a fascinating discussion, but I'm disturbed to see a contributor making personal attacks. Surely that doesn't promote free and constructive debate. How can Andrea be a "damaging individual" for expressing an opinion?

I haven't done Lighter Life, but I've tried VLCDs in the past, been thoroughly miserable and have put on all the weight lost, and more, afterwards. I can see that they are sometimes appropriate in extreme, life-threatening cases. I can also see that we all need to find our own way through our eating and body issues. I have to say, with a big smile on my face, that I'm done with dieting. It's the IE way for me!


Why can't Andrea make comments about LL without being unfairly attacked?
(I'm referring to PB's comment above)

I know that dieting and weight loss bring out strong feelings in people, but this is ridiculous! As a former Slimming Club Leader I KNOW that diets don't (usually) work having seen my members do 'the rounds' of all the weight loss organisations, and finally return to the club I ran, heavier than they started!
The diet, binge, diet mentality can only be encouraged by such a restricted method, and that is apart from all the other side effects. By bringing attention to the fact that there are other alternatives, Andrea is doing nothing but good, in my opinion! Beyong Chocolate, Geneen Roth, Karen Koenig and others, offer a much kinder, and healthier alternative, for the mind and the body.


I have to agree with those that question a forced diet. Why not just offer the counselling? That is where the true value of the program lies. Teaching people how they can live in the world with regular food and not overeat would be very empowering. Quick weight loss is usually very hard on your body, especially if you are obese. Slower weight loss is much easier on the heart.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • I'm Andrea, and am obsessed with creating fabulous food. After I managed to ditch dieting, the reason Chocolate and Beyond was born, it seemed natural to evolve my site into a foodie blog. More so since I also ditched animal produce to be vegan. Now, I love showing how inventive cruelty-free cooking can be. And sometimes I like to rant, too. I wouldn't be myself otherwise :) x

    PS. This blog LOVES your comments! Especially about the food!

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