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“I write this review from the point of view of a...”

Written on: 28/05/2009 by Economist4Justice (2 reviews written)

Good Points
Clear and scientifically sound mechanism to lose weight fast, backed up by experience.

Bad Points
Psychologically challenging, but with my workarounds, ought to be a fair bit easier.

General Comments
I write this review from the point of view of a behavioural-economist. It is my job to draw together insights from the cognitive sciences and economics to examine what makes people tick and why they do the things they do. My partner recently went on the lighterlife diet after her sister was diagnosed with diabetes, and in helping her get through the first fortnight, I have used insights from my work and applied them to this diet and its effects.

First of all, it is vital to break the rules. The basic mechanism of a VLCD is to force the body to metabolise fats, and this works just as well with 600 calories as it does with 530, the difference is marginal if pronounced at all. However, breaking rules a tiny bit makes it far, far easier to stay on the diet and here's why. Offer people the choice between a holiday in rome and a holiday in paris and they find it hard to choose. Offer people a holiday in rome, a holiday in paris including breakfast and a holiday in paris not including breakfast, and suddenly, the choice becomes easier. We can see the paris with breakfast is the better option, so it is overwhelmingly chosen. See Dan Ariely's talk at the TED conference for details. The decision to stay on the diet is clearly a marginal one. It's unpleasant, but it will get you a reward, the choice is hard. What's much easier is choosing between not going on the diet, going on the diet, or going on the diet with perks. The third option is easily preferable to the second, thus it's far easier to choose. The first 3 days of rigidly sticking to the diet made my partner want to quit. The next 3 days of sticking to the diet but having a ginger ale the first morning (37cal), an apple at lunch the day after (47cal) and a slice of brown bread with her soup the day after (70cal) were infinitely easier for her. The lesson is clear, little bits of naughtiness make the whole experience hugely easier.

Secondly, don't be put off by the cost. It's actually quite a good thing. By investing both financially and emotionally in the program, you will be more inclined to stick on it because by quitting you will lose that initial investment forever, whereas by sticking with it you can capitalise on it. Knowing this, I persuaded my partner to earmark enough money for the program up front, so she felt like she had invested the entire sum and would thus find it easier to choose to keep doing it.

Thirdly, know that the foodpacks are unpleasant before you start. Don't rush in expecting to be able to eat them easily or comfortably. The side effect of this is that you will, at least at first, dread mealtimes if you're not expecting it. This is a good thing. It is a steep learning curve for your mind to go from structuring your day around mealtimes and enjoying your food to essentially ignoring it, and having nasty food definitely helps this process. However, if you aren't aware of it, I can see how a passive-aggressive internal conflict about food could easily spring up, being prepared for the effects is crucial. We realised this quickly and I was able to explain to my partner what was happening to her appetite and why she felt both starving and sickened by food at the same time.

As her diet progresses, I hope to be able to share more insight, but at this time, anything more would be speculation. Good luck to anyone attempting it.

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