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One of the things I love about my job is that every day is different i’m never sure what’s going to happen next!!  Picture the scene it was about six weeks before xmas when Olivia called me in “How are you? Sit down ” she grinned I smiled back.  We’re running a feature in December as part of a healthy living guide.  How do you feel about taking part?” I gulped, looked down at the expanding waste band of my ever tightening jeans and took a deep breath.  “Probably a good idea” I agreed mentally counting up the weeks before xmas.  “Here you go so ” she said and that began my journey on the lighter life meal replacement programme. ……

I’d heard about meal replacement programmes before but I’d never been on one. So when I heard about the lighter life programme I was eager to give it a go. Lighter life was established over 25 years ago and have helped over 350,000 people change the way they think about food. Lighter life is available to men and women and there are a variety of plans available, after a consultation with Anne I was put on the Lighter life Total plan. On Lighter life total plan you have four meal packs a day as you are on a vlcd (very low calorie diet) weight loss is rapid. Unlike some diets which don’t give you all the essential nutrients you need for good health on lighter life total your four daily food packs are formulated to meet your daily nutritional requirements so you can lose weight quickly and safely.

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On a physical level weight management is down to energy balance, if you take in more energy than your body uses each day it will store the extra as fat. Take in less than you need and your body will switch to burning that stored fat so it can continue to fuel itself. As it does you lose weight. Lighter life is a very low calorie diet (vlcd) it’s low enough in carbohydrate and energy that it encourages your body to switch to burning its fat stores as its main source of energy. When this happens your body is said to be n ketosis. The other handy thing about ketosis is that it suppresses hunger pangs.

Successful weight management however means making long term changes. What really appealed to me about lighter life is the fact that they recognize that looking after your weight is not not just about what’s going into your mouth – the reason diets alone don’t work is because they fail to recognize the emotional triggers that drive people’s behaviour – they help you understand what’s going on in your head so that you can change your mind set, your relationship with food and ultimately your life!! The lighter life programme offers the opportunity to explore the emotional head hungers that can lead to overeating and learn new skills and techniques to develop strategies for dealing with them without needing to turn to food.

Anne and Louise in the Waterford office – situated in unit 17f, six cross roads Business Park clearly love what they do and both are brilliant ambassadors for the lighter life programme. “It’s a total joy helping people” Anne told me pointing out that while weight loss on the lighter life programme is rapid the underlying principal is to look at our relationship with food and examine why we eat – a lot of the time we are thirsty, a lot of the time we are satisfying an emotional need rather than a physical need. In Anne’s own words “the plan itself is a no-brainer. Once you stick to the meal plans you will lose weight” So what can I have? My days looked like this:

Four food packs: choose from a combination of soups, shakes, porridge, meals and bars. You won’t be stuck for choice as there’s a really varied menu to choose from: everything from shepherd’s pie to Mediterranean risotto. The idea is that each food pack replaces a meal so you have breakfast, lunch, tea and a treat (yes really!!) my favourite was the nut fudge.

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Drinks: 2l of water a day you can also have black coffee/tea from the leaf i.e. breakfast tea, green tea, peppermint tea. If you prefer flavoured water use lighter life drink mixes I can recommend pink grapefruit – gorgeous!!

Condiments: salt, pepper, red tabasco sauce and tablet sweeteners

And that’s it!! Everything else was off limits. In week one I was expecting a period of readjustment as my body got used to the change. Anne explained to me that the third day is usually the hardest, if like me you have a sweet tooth you may experience headaches as your body craves sugar. Support from the lighter life team is never far away particurly in the first week for new recruits, Anne or Louise were in touch each day to see how I was doing and offer advice. This coupled with the fact that I was prepared psychologically for the adjustment meant that my first week went off fine. Once I got the hang of the food packs and worked out my favourites it really was very easy and when I came back from my first weigh after one week having lost 5lbs I was delighted. The fact that it came off my stomach was even better as recent surveys have shown that excess fat around the abdomen has much more serious health consequences than excess fat on any other part of the body and can lead to heart attacks, strokes and type 2 diabetes. You can have the meal replacements at whatever time suits you although it’s advised to have them as close to your usual meal times as possible. Instead of having my bar as a treat in the evening I had it at 3pm to combat the mid- afternoon slump and it worked really well for me! Although there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to exercise lighter life recommend that you stay active. You don’t have to become a gym bunny find a physical activity that you like: walking, jogging, swimming and stick with it building it up gradually. There are weekly group meetings where you are weighed which support you as you move forward to maintaining your weight loss. I found the meal plan easy to follow the only time I encountered any difficulty was doing the weekly food shop – the smell of fresh bread from the bakery dept. made my mouth water!! However seeing the results so quickly meant that my resolve didn’t waver. I lost just under a stone in four weeks and I intend to keep to the plan as I was really delighted with the results. My bmi came down from 25 to 21.5 which I’m really pleased about. For me the meal replacements ensured quick results and then the re-introduction to food (where the hard work really begins) coupled with exercise ensures that the weight stays off.

Once you reach your target weight food is reintroduced in a structured eight stage plan. This helps you create a balanced life style including practical advice on mindful living.  In order for weight loss to be maintained its necessary to change old eating habits and this is easier said than done. This is the part of the programme that is the most challenging I was amazed at the amount of times that I had eaten from habit/boredom, “picking” at the kids plates when I was dishing up (sound familiar?) And this is where the weekly group sessions are invaluable as they support you as you move forward to maintaining your weight loss. In your food re-introduction plan the number of food packs you eat are reduced while building up the number of meals you’re having. And don’t worry about running out of ideas Louise had some lovely recipes, one I can recommend and has become a family favourite: cut a breast of chicken in half, add a dairy lea lighter slice (only 25 cals) slice a tomato, some spring onion and place over the cheese. Put in the oven and cook. Serve with vegetables delicious!!! Careful attention is paid to the levels of carbohydrates so that your body slowly comes out of ketosis. This helps keep the physical hunger at bay. Through-out your food reintroduction plan you’ll have weekly group meetings so you can carry on developing the skills you have learned to help you manage your life and weight successfully. It’s also necessary to keep active so stick with the exercise that you began at the start of your programme. I really enjoyed the lighter life total plan. If you want/need to lose weight I would recommend it particurly if you wanted a quick result i.e. for a wedding, to fit into “that” bikini this summer. Anne and Louise are brimming over with enthusiasm and have solutions for all the problems you may encounter on your journey to maintaining your weight loss. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the lighter life family. You can contact them on: 086/0280280 or 086/3275083.

 

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