The Cambridge Diet is a highly structured, extreme weight loss plan that involves regularly consuming low-calorie soups, shakes and snacks.
The program is made up of four phases which include a preparation stage, a weight loss stage, a stabilisation stage and long-term weight management. The low-calorie foods are designed to fulfill all of a person’s daily nutritional needs, whilst meeting strict calorie guidelines. The diet achieves results more quickly than the average calorie-controlled diet and dieters tend to lose weight quickly (up to one stone in a month). The diets range in calorie content from 600 to 1500 plus calories per day.
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The diet works in a similar way to the ketogenic diet and forces the body to switch from carbohydrate metabolism to fat metabolism. Followers of the diet include anyone looking to lose weight, whether they are obese or simply wanting to shift an excess half stone. Dieters have ongoing access to one-to-one support from a consultant and a “weight plan wheel” is available as a guide for them to follow.
The concept was developed in 1970 by Alan Howard from Cambridge University. It was launched commercially in the US in 1980 and in the UK in 1984.
The advantages and disadvantages of following this diet are described below.
- Quick and dramatic weight loss.
- Achieving a slimmer figure by the end of the diet is almost guaranteed.
- Unlike some other diets, the shakes, soup and snacks are well balanced nutritionally, ensuring that dieters receive the necessary amount of minerals and vitamins.
- People who have tried the Cambridge Diet report that the strict nature of the diet means the need to cook and shop is eliminated, making it is easier to avoid temptation.
- Some clinicians believe sending the body into a state of ketosis is unhealthy and can lead to loss of muscle mass, as well as fat.
- Ketosis can lead to bad breath, fatigue, weakness, insomnia, nausea and diarrhea.
- The replacement meals can be expensive.
- Critics say the diet does not equip people for long-term weight loss and that replacing regular food with food substitutes can encourage eating disorders.
- Critics think that people who achieve weight loss through rapid dieting are more likely to regain the weight once back in the “real world.”
- Following extreme diets such as the Cambridge Diet can be demoralising, another reason they can be difficult to sustain in the long-term.