Preparation or deprivation?

Lent has been hijacked. By dieters. It’s not surprising – forgoing food for 40 days is a guaranteed way to lose weight (although I’m not sure that was Jesus’s motivation).

Deprivation is at the heart of both Lent and dieting. Despite it also being about preparation and reflection, for those with a weight loss agenda, the focus is mainly on the deprivation aspect of Lent. You commit to ‘give up’ your usual vices like sugar in tea, biscuits and sweets (while secretly hoping you’ll be lighter by the end of it) and disregard preparation for the aftermath. Another job half done. But a least you’ll get to feel virtuous for a few weeks.

If you do observe Lent, with even a slight weight loss agenda, how about doing it differently this year by focusing more on the preparation and reflection side. Ditch the deprivation. Give up on giving up.

Instead of stopping doing something, try to start doing something that will complement your weight loss agenda. And you never know, it might stick…..

So here goes, 40 days, 40 suggestions. Choose only one, choose a different one every day….or give up sweets again! Your call.

What are you going to do for Lent?

  1. Every time you use an escalator, excuse yourself past people whose legs have temporarily stopped working and keep moving!
  2. If you feel bad or guilty after eating something, your head is trying to alert you to something important (for example, a ‘broken diet rule’). These thoughts and feelings are warning signs of an unhelpful relationship with food. Monitor your thoughts and feelings around food.
  3. Stop labelling food as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ if you know from experience that this can negatively affect your food decisions. Food is food is food.
  4. Referring to some foods as ‘treats’ elevates their importance. Crisps are crisps, chocolate is chocolate, and ideally should have no more significance than an apple. Try to be neutral with all food.
  5. Have a cup of tea or coffee…on it’s own. This is not about giving up biscuits, but about challenging habits.
  6. Pay attention to your hunger and fullness levels. If you recognise you are full before your plate is empty, practise leaving the rest.
  7. Observe how often you eat that has nothing to do with hunger. Start to think about what drives this eating (eg boredom, comfort, tiredness). This will give you clues about the areas to work on to help manage your weight.
  8. Eat with minimal distractions – move away from the computer, stop checking social media and turn off the TV over dinner. Pay attention to your food and you might find yourself enjoying it.
  9. If you know you have a habit of eating due to boredom, choose a non-food activity to pass the time.
  10. Choose food based on what you know you want and will enjoy, instead of eating what you feel you should eat (diet products….looking at you).
  11. Find a fun activity to do – trampolining, aerial yoga, table tennis. It doesn’t matter what, just do it and enjoy.
  12. Try a fruit, vegetable or other food you’ve never tasted before.
  13. Cook a vegetarian meal – plant based eating is all the rage these days.
  14. Think about the purpose scales serve in your life. Decide not to weigh yourself if they often make you feel bad about yourself. Make your food choices based on what you want to eat, guided by hunger and fullness, not based on a number on the scales.
  15. Question things that don’t make sense such as “You’re not losing weight because you’re not eating enough”. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t accept it as fact.
  16. For all the foods you eat today, but especially ‘diet’ foods or snack foods…slow down and TASTE… you really like them that much? Be fussy!
  17. Aim to eat food that satisfies. Satisfaction is more important than simply not being hungry. Being satisfied will help you to eat less.
  18. Tackle ‘comfort eating’. If you ‘comfort eat’, you’re definitely eating, but are you getting comfort? At best, you’re getting a temporary distraction from the real problem. Think of options that will deal with the problem.
  19. Sleep, sleep, sleep – lack of sleep is known to affect hormones involved in appetite regulation. If you notice that you eat more, or make different choices, when you are tired – get more sleep.
  20. Stop comparing yourself to others. You may see people around you eat more than you, but this observation does not help you in any way, and more likely makes you feel worse. DON’T. DO. IT.
  21. Start noticing how your food choices make you feel physically – neutral, energised, lethargic, sluggish, bloated. Choose to eat food that make you feel good.
  22. When you see food, do you see calories, ‘points’, ‘syns’, fat content, sugar content…..? This is the science end. But eating well is an art. Knowledge is only helpful if you are skilful at managing it. Practise art.
  23. Stop self blame. If you have dieted repeatedly…and ‘failed’…you most likely blame yourself but has the diet got something to answer for? Think about the foods you struggle with, get help to deal with those, and don’t repeat old dieting mistakes.
  24. Make a decision to eat for health not dieting. So avocados, nuts, cheese…back on the menu (if you like them), and enough of the diet yoghurts, rice cakes and low fat everything (unless you happen to really love them. Really?)
  25. Use your taste buds…if something looks good, but doesn’t taste great, don’t eat it.
  26. Exercise – choose something you enjoy and makes you feel good, and do it for those reasons. Keep weight loss out of it.
  27. Drink……enough to keep your pee pale.
  28. Sit less….or do some chair based exercises while you sit.
  29. Eat like you respect yourself.
  30. Tell people your boundaries. If you don’t want them to comment on your food choices or weight, tell them.
  31. Batch cook when you get the chance – cook once, eat more than once.
  32. Look at the ingredients lists of foods. If it reads like a science experiment or has multiple ingredients not immediately recognisable as food, do you want to eat it?
  33. Stop allowing packet size to dictate how much you eat. If you often eat until packets are empty, then you are not making independent food decisions – the food manufacturers are pulling the strings.
  34. Don’t get caught out having nothing to eat. Fill the freezer – frozen vegetables, fruit, fish, meats, oven chips – so you always have a back-up plan.
  35. Ditch the euphemisms. For example “I’m trying to be good”. If eating well is so hard you have to ‘try to be good’ then you are either eating foods you’re not really enjoying or denying yourself foods you really enjoy (or both). Does this sound like a helpful long term plan?
  36. Eat publicly. If you eat less when in company compared to when you are alone, then you are concerned about how others might judge your eating. But by eating privately, you are judging yourself.
  37. Stop choosing arbitrary days to start dieting (Monday seems to be popular!). You can respect your hunger, fullness and satisfaction NOW!
  38. Don’t let technology take over either your decision making or your common sense. For example, if you’re using an app to count calories, it might advise you to eat less or eat more. Your app does not know when you are hungry, satisfied or full. You do.
  39. Don’t let other people affect your food decision making. Be independent. Focus on what you want.
  40. Read self help material. Might as well start with Diet Dilemmas book!

40 days, 40 suggestions. Pitching preparation. Ditching deprivation.

You’ve survived Christmas. The pies are all eaten, and you’re not eating chocolate again (well, until Easter anyway). January…..a fresh start.  So here we are, over midway through the month – who’s still riding the New Year Motivation Wave?

I dislike the word ‘motivation’. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. Not very dependable really.  A lot of ‘inspirational’ quotes about motivation (in relation to food and exercise) are set on a back-drop photo of a very slender, toned and beautiful woman or in-your-dreams only ripped man. Now I don’t know if this fires you up. For me, these images will, at best, have no effect – I don’t relate to them – or, at worst, they will make me want to eat chocolate. Off to a very bad start.

It also bothers me that the word is loaded. All is good if you have it. But if you lack motivation, this can appear like a moral judgement or character weakness. Like something noble is missing. A motivation deficiency.

Having worked to help people manage their weight for many years, I have often been told “I just need motivation”. They want me to treat their motivation deficiency. They want me to do this by checking their weight regularly and hold them to account regarding their food choices. I don’t like holding sticks to people’s back. But more to the point, is this motivation?

Motivation has been defined as the drive to achieve or do ‘something’. That ‘something’ has to be both important to you, and you need to believe you can do it.

Lack of motivation becomes the great abyss between what we think we should do (eg diet), and what we actually do (eg. overeat). You think you should diet, but the very thought makes you want to overeat, and you berate yourself for having no motivation.

But what is the real problem here?  Your lack of motivation, or what you think you should be doing? (eg. dieting).

If your weight history tells a story of weight loss followed by weight regain, then it’s hardly surprising that you have little overall confidence that the outcome will be any different this time around. You will of course forget this in the early stages of your next diet. You will start off supremely motivated and confident. But as time passes, motivation can diminish, and eventually collapse. Back to square one. Your motivation deficiency causing problems again.
But if motivation is so key to achieving our health goals, we’re going to have to start making it work for us, not against us.

The long game

You want to lose weight before a holiday. You panic about how you’re going to look in your swimwear… you diet, lose weight, and go on holiday. What’s your real motivation here? It’s looking good on the beach. Job done, diet over. Short term goal, short term outcome, short term motivation.

But health and lifestyle are a long game. We cannot expect the same short, sharp bursts of effort to be maintained. The challenge becomes less about motivation, and more about focusing your efforts in the right direction.

Do I need motivation for all things?

Do you need motivation to:

  • Watch the TV
  • Read a book on your favourite subject
  • Sit down and put your feet up
  • Eat food you enjoy
  • Have a lie-in?

These tasks are enjoyable on the whole, and your motivation, or drive to do these things is simply that – enjoyment. And the pleasure is almost immediate. Do it, get something nice. Positive motivation.

But what about more difficult things, like going to the gym, like weight loss, like dieting? For the most part, these are more difficult tasks, and the pleasure is…….often absent. Hardly a wonder your drive can nose-dive.

On top of that, for these more difficult tasks, motivation often stems from a negative place. This is especially true for weight loss.

For example:

  • I need to lose weight to reduce my risk of getting diabetes
  • I must ‘stick’ to my diet so I’m not embarrassed at the weekly weigh-in

Do it, avoid something bad. Negative motivation.

Weight loss is loaded with negative motivation. And this may ensure you ‘stick to your diet’ for a while, but….you know how this ends.

So worry less about how much or how little motivation you have right now. Spend more time considering what it is you really want and motivation will be easier to harness.

Keeping your eye on the prize

If you are unhappy with your weight, you may think that achieving your dream weight is a fabulous prize, all you could ever want. But the prize is often less important than the price – how low does your weight need to be to justify diet mentalities like food pre-occupation, feelings of deprivation or denial, or guilt if you eat something you think you shouldn’t have? For some, the price of dieting just gets too high.

First decide what it is you really want (the prize):

  • Weight loss, whatever the (short-term) sacrifice, or
  • Food liberation and peace with food (long-term)

These are two very different prizes, so your motivation to achieve them is likely to differ dependent on which path you choose.

Weight loss – whatever the sacrifice

If you are motivated by an outcome – such as, I will diet until I’m size X or Y stone – this is detached and removed from you as a person. You learn only that dieting makes you lose weight (for a while). You may remain motivated while you see the weight coming off, but inevitably, once your weight outcome has been achieved (or possibly before), motivation grinds to a halt. In this instance, motivation is like a coat – something you put on and take off as you feel you need it.

Food liberation and peace with food

True weight management focuses less on weight and more on food problems. This is a process. You will learn a lot about what influences your eating, and you will use this to your advantage.

If you can start to be motivated by the process and what you are learning about yourself as you progress, you’ll always have some degree of motivation. This is because you are attached to the process and that can’t be shaken off, disregarded or ignored. In this case, motivation is more like your skin – you’re always in it. It may not always be perfect, but it’s always there.

Treating a motivation deficiency

You may sometimes overeat because you don’t care about your weight in that moment. You can decide to care tomorrow, on Monday….or some other arbitrary time. If you rely only on weight focused motivation to achieve your weight loss goals, fluctuating motivation levels may drag your weight up and down.

Since you eat several times a day, it’s much harder to ignore how your food decisions make you feel (either physically or psychologically). So use food focused motivation as your guide.

You may have backed the wrong motivation horse in the past (that is, been motivated by weight versus motivated by improving your use of food) but you don’t have a motivation deficiency.

Harness what you’ve got by:

  • Paying more attention to your food than to your weight
  • Making decisions about what and how to eat for you and only you (no more bowing to pressure because someone is checking your weight)
  • Dump negative motivation (less of “I don’t want to be overweight”; more of “I want to feel better about how I eat”)
  • Remember the long game – and remind yourself how useful (useless) yoyo dieting has been in the past
  • Be realistic – some days you’ll feel more fired up than others. This is completely normal. All you can ever do is the best you can on a given day.

You’re not deficient. You have all the resources you need to start improving your health. Look at pictures of tightly honed abs if that’s your thing. I’ll pass – it makes me want to eat chocolate.

If you wish to further explore the topics covered in Diet Dilemmas blog, see Diet Dilemmas book.

The Last Supper….at Christmas?

Some reports estimate that the food consumed on Christmas Day contains an average of 7,000 calories. To put this into perspective, the ‘average’ adult needs 2,000 calories a day. These figures are not precise or accurate for an individual (we’re working with estimates and averages here), but aside from that, I have 2 further issues with this statistic.

  • Firstly, who’s counting?
  • Secondly, most people will eat more than their normal quantities over the Christmas holiday period.

Food has a long history of use in celebrations, and Christmas is no different. The real question is “Is it a problem?”

For some, no, some (over)indulgence will not be a problem – normal eating resumes quickly with no lasting repercussions.

Having said that though, it would take a concerted effort to consume around 7,000 calories and not feel some ill effects. So if this estimate holds any truth, I suspect people are eating to uncomfortable bursting point. But why?

There are a number of possibilities.


You may have no concerns about your health or weight, no food issues, confidence in your ability to manage food on the whole and so enjoy occasional over-eating.

You might like the post meal dozy slump, the food coma, as you associate this with festivity, holidays, indulgence, comfort and a complete switch off from ‘normal’ life.

You go back to normal eating naturally once Christmas is over.


Christmas is one of the few times of the year when eating much too much has almost become expected.

If you struggle with food control, and maybe don’t usually allow yourself to overeat in company, Christmas presents an occasion to overeat with impunity. After all, it has become completely socially acceptable.

There may even be an element of competitive eating – a ‘sport’ in which competitors compete against each other to consume large quantities of food in a short period of time. You may even take pride in your ability to eat so much!

You are of course entitled to eat what you want – just don’t lose sight of the fact that eating isn’t supposed to hurt!

You may be engaging in Last Supper eating

Last Supper eating represents a possibly familiar pattern of purposely overeating before the self-imposed New Year diet.

It is a conscious decision to over eat, drink and be merry, because come the New Year, the diet starts.

You feel duty bound to eat all the ‘rubbish’ out of the house so it’s not there to tempt you when your diet starts. You are probably not thinking about whether you actually want or are enjoying the food you are eating. You are only focused on eating it now, before you no longer allow yourself to have it.

‘Last supper’ eating is common among people who diet frequently. It’s not unique to the Christmas period and can happen at any time of the year – think about how you might eat in the weekend before the start of the Monday diet!

Since losing weight is consistently on top of New Year resolutions lists, it is probable that ‘last supper’ Christmas feasting, before the pain of diet deprivation, is equally common.

It is completely appropriate to enjoy food and festivities. However, if you are bothered by your weight, the problem occurs when the boundary between appropriate food enjoyment, and damaging overeating, gets crossed.

Last Supper eating is supported by the notion that certain foods are ‘allowed’ while others are ‘not allowed’. So, for example, if chocolate is ‘not allowed’ when you start dieting, Last Supper thinking almost encourages chocolate intake before it’s off limits.

So, in effect, the decision to start a New Year diet can have a direct impact on your eating decisions over the Christmas period.

It is therefore plausible that if you were able to move away from the notion of foods being ‘allowed’ or ‘not allowed’ then you would have no particular incentive to overeat them in the first place.

This requires a major shift away from dieting mentalities (on a diet, off a diet, on a diet…..), a re-focus on the clichéd ‘relationship’ with food, and finding a way of eating that works for you long-term versus the often short-lived dieting restrictions.

Don’t wait until the New Year (or some random Monday) to start improving how you use food. This does not mean cutting out your favourite foods. But it does mean eating those foods in a managed way, not in a ‘last supper’ way.

Eating something because you tell yourself you’ll not be allowed it come January is wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong.

So what can you do?

In no particular order:

  • Dump the dieting mentality – fluctuating between weight loss on a diet with weight gain when off your diet is a highway to nowhere, and a reflection of how ill-fitted your diet was to addressing your food problems. Don’t repeat old mistakes.
  • Ditch diet rules, but respect the boundaries – that is, eat what you know you want and will enjoy, but stop eating when satisfied or full.
  • Respect your food – you’re lucky to have it in abundance. Take time to enjoy it, instead of indulging to the point of discomfort.
  • Respect your body – it has more wisdom than a box of mince pies. Listen to it – if it tells you you’re full and unlikely to fully enjoy more food right now, stop eating. The food will still be there later.
  • Challenge the thoughts encouraging you to eat. Stop labelling food as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘allowed’ or ‘not allowed’. Labels like this influence your thoughts, which will affect your food decisions, but usually in a negative way.

For example:

Thought: I’ll not allow myself to eat (insert food) when I start my diet.
Behaviour: Overeat while you have the chance

Consider the following thought shift:

Thought: I can eat (insert food) at any time of the year. I’ll have some now, but I don’t need to sicken myself.
Behaviour: Include the foods you enjoy, on your terms, while respecting your fullness and satisfaction levels.

Change the thought, change the behaviour.

So eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy your food, but no need to overdo it today.

Because tomorrow, you’ll get a chance to eat all over again.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

If you wish to further explore the topics covered in Diet Dilemmas blog posts, see Diet Dilemmas book.

Hyperbolic Discounting – What the…?

I love a supermarket coupon. You know the type….buy ‘this’ ítem and get 100 bonus points. ONE HUNDRED. I can never resist.

But I’m being taken advantage of. Businesses know about the psychological phenomenon called hyperbolic discounting. You may never have heard of this, but it’s very relevant to how you make decisions about several things, including what to eat.

Hyperbolic discounting relates to the tendency to want something NOW, the joy of instant gratification. Without really thinking through if this is the best option.

So back to the coupon for a moment. The item in question was £2.99. The actual ‘value’ of 100 points was 50p. If the coupon had said “If you give me £2.99 for something you don’t need and never intended to buy, I’ll give you 50p” then the rational part of my brain would hopefully have realised that this was not a great deal for me. But the coupon didn’t say that. It said 100 BONUS POINTS. And I had to have them. Now. Instant gratification. While the rational part of my brain had a snooze.

Apart from the coupons, hyperbolic discounting is at work in many other areas of our lives:

  • Credit cards…buy now, pay later.
  • Pensions… this year, save next year.
  • Sales…only one day left. Last chance to buy!

Put simply, we prefer immediate reward, or instant gratification, over future benefit. How far into the future you may see the benefit will also have a huge effect on our decision making. For example, if offered £50 today or £100 tomorrow, most people are likely to wait one day for £100. However if offered £50 today or £100 in 2 years’ time, you are more likely to take £50 today. In this case, two years is simply too long to wait, even though the reward is greater.

So what’s it got to do with how I eat?

Health and eating behaviours are subject to the same psychology. We all succumb to instant gratification at least occasionally.

  • Just one more drink…I’ll be fine tomorrow morning
  • Early to bed…..but I really want to see the end of that film
  • Exercise…I should go for a walk, but the sofa is so comfy
  • Another biscuit…I’ll be super strict tomorrow.

Pleasure and comfort now, worry about the consequences later.

On the other hand, you may have decided to forgo immediate food pleasure for the future benefit of weight loss. With that in mind, which of these options would you be most likely to go for:

  • “Lose 10lbs in 7 days” (a headline guaranteed to sell thousands of magazines) or,
  • “Lose 1 stone in 6 months”

You are more likely to be drawn to 7lbs weight loss in 10 days. Six months is just not soon enough for our immediate world. What happens after the 10 days is another story. The rational part of your brain knows this claim to be a short-lived fix, but the lure of rapid weight loss is strong.

So if your psychology is going to try to work against you, what can you do about it?

Scenario 1: I must eat it NOW!!!

Imagine the thought: “There’s chocolate in the fridge. I’m supposed to be on a diet, but I WANT THAT CHOCOLATE. NOW.”

You are at risk of choosing immediate food pleasure over longer term benefit. But it’s not a done deal. You have options.

You could go right ahead and eat, letting hyperbolic discounting guide your decision, or you could hold hyperbolic discounting at arm’s length until you try to understand why the chocolate has a grip on you. Pause for thought and consider the following:

Why do you want it now?

If you genuinely know you want it and will savour every second of it, that you will eat only to the point of satisfaction and then stop, without any overeating and with pure enjoyment and no guilt, then that is appropriate eating.

It’s completely fine to decide you want the instant gratification of food. But if you always eat on these occasions, that may be a sign of unconscious, habit driven behaviours or deep rooted dieting mentalities.

For example, if you ‘want’ it mainly because you think you are not ‘allowed’ it on your current diet, or for reasons such as boredom, then you have identified a food problem that needs to be resolved.

Is there a ‘bigger picture’?

It may be helpful to consider the ‘bigger picture’. When you eat something you don’t really want for momentary pleasure, it has a ripple effect – when the enjoyment has passed, there may be an on-going effect on, for example:

  • your confidence in your ability to control yourself around food
  • how you feel physically after eating, such as bloating or nausea
  • restricted eating the following day to ‘make up for’ previous eating
  • ongoing inappropriate eating caused by guilt.

If you can open your eyes to the bigger picture, it becomes possible to see the victories in deciding not to eat spontaneously all the time.

Scenario 2: I must lose 5lbs by next week!!

Some people may use the tactic of ‘I’ll not eat that because I want to have lost xlbs this week” – tread carefully if you relate to this. Food decisions based only on weight have a nasty habit of driving yo-yo diet patterns. Going on an unrealistic, unsustainable restrictive diet to achieve a weight target is a hollow and short-lived victory. Weight loss is not a goal. Improved food behaviours is a goal. So don’t focus on weight loss (see blog post Scales – friend or foe?)

If you have a history of making food decisions mainly based on whether you are trying to lose weight or not, you probably overlook the value of the intangible stuff. Confidence in yourself, trust in your food decisions, reducing the power food has over you, feeling in control of your food decisions, the ability to take it or leave it…..these things are extremely important. Make these your immediate gratifications (at least occasionally).


Your psychology may predispose you to unhelpful behaviours, and make you feel that you are either powerless against food and must eat now, or have no choice but to go on a diet that promises maximum weight loss in minimum time. This is a destructive cycle and there is little benefit in it for you.

So back to the coupons….I fell for the coupon trick every time. Now I know what’s going on, I am going to be stronger against those coupons. I’m going to engage the rational part of my brain and not be tricked into purchasing something I don’t want or need… least until I get my next coupon.

If you wish to further explore the information in the Diet Dilemmas blog, see Diet Dilemmas book

I used to be a sucker for anti-wrinkle creams (bear with me, I’ll get around to the weight loss tablets). Anything that claimed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles captured my attention immediately. And if they were ‘clinically proven’ to ‘work’, I was sold.

They maybe did make a difference to my wrinkles, but I think the difference was only visible under a microscope. Bottom line, the products appealed to a ‘flaw’ and I bought them, with what I now know to be unrealistic expectations.

So now to the pills…Taking a pill to help with weight loss is a very attractive idea. Weight loss tablets make bold claims about what they can help you achieve, but I haven’t seen any that are upfront in telling you just how much weight you can expect to lose. In the absence of this information, we purchase in blind hope and probable unrealistic expectations.

This article will look at the following substances with alleged weight loss benefits:

  • caffeine
  • carbohydrate blockers
  • conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
  • fat binders
  • garcinia cambogia
  • glucomannan
  • green coffee bean extract
  • green tea extract
  • guarana
  • raspberry ketones

Each of the above will be examined under the following headings:

  • What is the active ingredient?
  • How is it meant to help me lose weight?
  • How much weight might I lose?
  • What are the potential side effects?
  • Product examples
  • Price range
  • Verdict

It’s a long article, so feel free to go straight to the sections that are of most interest to you and bypass the rest. Here goes…


What is the active ingredient?


How is it meant to help me lose weight?

Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase metabolism (the amount of calories ‘burnt’), and release fat from fat stores to be available for energy.

How much weight might I lose?

Caffeine has been shown to improve athletic performance – having fat stores available for energy is a good thing if you’re an athlete. But I’m guessing you’re not an athlete.

With regard to weight loss, there is no evidence that caffeine can help with weight loss in the long term. Long term use leads to caffeine tolerance when any additional boost to metabolism or effect on weight stops.

What are the potential side effects?

Insomnia, nervous, restless, irritated, stomach upsets, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.

Product examples (some are in combination with other ingredients)

Grenade Thermo Detonator | Holland and Barrett Xtralean Capsules | JST Jodie Marsh Semtex Capsules | PHD Woman Body Sculpt | Slim Zest T5 Rapid Burner

Price range

£15 – £45 for 1 month’s supply


If you’re serious about your athletic performance, maybe. If you’re not being active, any fat released from fat stores will be sent back to fat stores if the energy is not being used, so its effect on reducing body fat will be minimal.


Carbohydrate blockers

What is the active ingredient?

This is usually a substance from beans such as white kidney bean extract.

How is it meant to help me lose weight?

These products slow down the action enzymes that digest carbohydrate. If less carbohydrate is digested, less is absorbed, and you may ‘lose’ up to 200 calories worth of calories per day.

How much weight might I lose?

Studies show mixed results, ranging from 1lb weight loss after 4 weeks of use, to 8lbs after 12 weeks of use.
These products usually only affect the breakdown of complex carbohydrates (which are broadly those found in cereals, breads, pasta, potatoes or rice for example). They will have less effect on the absorption of simple sugars, such as table sugar, confectionery, bakery products or sweetened drinks for example.

What are the potential side effects?

Diarrhoea, bloating, wind, cramps. Avoid these products if you have IBS, and use with caution if you are using diabetes medications.

Product examples (some are in combination with other ingredients)

Boots Carb Control | Holland and Barrett Carb Minders | Innopure Metacarb | XLS Max Strength Powder

Price range

£25 – £90 for 1 month’s supply.


These can be expensive products for the weight loss outcome. 200 calories is roughly equivalent to 2 slices of bread. May be more economical to save £25 – £90 a month and reduce carbohydrate intake by 200 calories / day.


Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

What is the active ingredient?


How is it meant to help me lose weight?

CLA is reported to reduce appetite, boost metabolism, and block an enzyme that promotes the absorption and storage of dietary fat, thereby reducing body fat.

How much weight might I lose?

Some studies show a ‘small’ amount of body fat loss in the region of 0.05 – 0.09kg per week (1/5 lb!), up to a maximum of 2.5kg (5.5 lbs) fat loss after 2 years. Other studies show no effect.

What are the potential side effects?

Bowel alteration, stomach pain, nausea, increased inflammation and potential increased insulin resistance.

Product examples (some are in combination with other ingredients)

Forza CLA 1000mg | Iron Ore Health Energising CLA | Lean Nutrition CLA 1000mg | PHD Women CLA | USN Phedra Cut Lipo XT Fat Burner

Price range

£12 – £45 for a months supply


5lbs weight loss for a spend of £290 – £1,120 over 2 years? I think not.


Fat Binders

What is the active ingredient?

This varies from Orlistat, Captoglicolipid, or fibres such as Chitosan.

How is it meant to help me lose weight?

These ingredients block either the breakdown or absorption of dietary fats.

How much weight might I lose?

A 12 week study showed an additional weight loss of 2.5kg / 5lbs when using a fat binding product.

What are the potential side effects?

Bowel alterations, from oily discharge to diarrhoea.

Product examples (some are in combination with other ingredients)

Alli Hard Capsules | Boots Pharmaceutical Fat Control | Fat Blaster Fat Magnet | XLS-Medical Fat Binder | XLS-Medical Fat Binder Direct Sachets

Price range

£20 – £60 for 1 month’s supply


These tablets trump card is in their deterrant effect. People are often able to ‘stick’ to a low fat diet to avoid side effects. But then, if you follow a low fat diet, you may lose some weight anyway without the tablets.


Garcinia Cambogia

What is the active ingredient?

Hydroxycitric acid

How is it meant to help me lose weight?

Hydroxycitric acid is reported to suppress the appetite, but how it is supposed to do this is unknown. It is also thought to influence enzymes which have a role in fat breakdown and production of new fat cells.

How much weight might I lose?

Some studies show that garcinia cambogia can cause weight loss of around an additional 2lbs. Other studies show no additional weight loss.

What are the potential side effects?

Digestive problems, headaches. May increase serotonin levels so it could interact with some anti-depressant medication.

Product examples (some are in combination with other ingredients)

Forza Garcinia Cambogia | G-Biotics Garcinia Cambogia Complex | Health Spark Garcinia Cambogia Complex | Holland and Barrett Garcinia Cambogia and Guarana | Holland and Barrett Garcinia Cambogia and Green Coffee Bean | Nutrivita Garcinia Cambogia

Price range

£10 – £40 for 1 month’s supply


Given potential side effects and small weight loss, this is not worth it.



What is the active ingredient?

Glucomannan (from the Konjac plant) is a soluble fibre.

How is it meant to help me lose weight?

Glucomannan absorbs a lot of water (up to 50 times its weight). This fills the stomach and slows down stomach emptying which keeps you feeling full for longer.

How much weight might I lose?

Studies show that adding glucomannan to your diet gives an additional 0.4 – 0.8kg (0.8 – 1.8lbs) of weight loss per week.

What are the potential side effects?

Generally safe when used as directed. Do not use if you have IBS.

Product examples (some are in combination with other ingredients)

Forza Hydratrim Weight Loss Capsules | Health Spark Konjac Fibre | Holland and Barrett Glucomannan 500mg | Holland and Barrett Glucomannan and Chromium | Holland and Barrett Glucomannan Complex | Holland and Barrett Glucomannan and Garcinia | Lifeplan 5:2 Diet Support Capsules | Slim Sip | Swisse Ultiplus Weight Control | XLS Medical Appetite Reducer

Price range

£11 – £55 for 1 month’s supply


Glucomannan is the only supplement approved by European Food and Safety Authority as a weight loss aid. If you struggle with frequent hunger, or find it hard to reduce portions, then glucomannan products may help.


Green Coffee Bean Extract

What is the active ingredient?

Chlorogenic acid

How is it meant to help me lose weight?

Chlorogenic acid reduces the breakdown and absorption of carbohydrate and some report it suppresses appetite and boosts metabolism.

How much weight might I lose?

Studies show weight loss benefit ranging from 0.3kg / 0.7lbs after 1 month to approximately 3.7kg / 8lbs after 3 months of use.

What are the potential side effects?

Green Coffee Bean Extract appears to have a good general safety profile.

Product examples (some are in combination with other ingredients)

G-Biotics Green Coffee Bean Extract | Holland and Barrett Green Coffee Bean Extract 400mg | Nature’s Way Green Coffee Bean Extract

Price range

£15 – £25 for 1 month’s supply.


I’d be pretty cross if I spent £25 to lose an extra 0.7lbs in a month.


Green Tea Extract

What are the active ingredients?

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), catechins, caffeine

How is it meant to help me lose weight?

Green Tea Extract is alleged to influence hormones that help to burn fat and control hunger.

How much weight might I lose?

Studies show about a 1kg / 2lbs weight loss after 12 weeks of use.

What are the potential side effects?

Abdominal discomfort, constipation, nausea, and risk of raised blood pressure.

Product examples (some are in combination with other ingredients)

Boots Triple Action Slim Aid | Holland and Barrett African Mango with Green Tea Capsules | Holland and Barrett Matcha Tea Capsules | Holland and Barrett Super Tea 600mg | Holland and Barrett Super Green Tea Diet Tablets | New Nordic Chilli Burn | Nutritional Headquarters Fat Metaboliser Tablets | Super Green Tea Diet Tablets | Xellerate Nutrition T5 Platinum Fat Burner

Price range

£2 – £25 for 1 month’s supply


2lbs weight loss after 12 weeks? Not worth it.



What is the active ingredient?

Caffeine (guarana contains twice as much caffeine as a coffee bean)

How is it meant to help me lose weight?

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulus, which increases metabolism and increases adrenalin, which results in release of fat from fat stores to be available for energy.

How much weight might I lose?

A study about Zotrim (contains guarana, yerba mate and damiana) showed weight loss of 4.5kg after 45 days, but no further weight was lost despite ongoing use for 1 year.

What are the potential side effects?

Insomnia, nervous, restless, irritated, stomach upsets, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.

Product examples (some are in combination with other ingredients)

Holland and Barrett Super Guarana 1200mg | Met-Rx Xtreme Thermo Crush | Zotrim Herbal Weight Loss Aid

Price Range

£12 – £25 for 1 month’s supply


A weight loss of 4.5kg / 10lbs is reasonably impressive. Bear in mind though that the study participants were also on a diet programme. And what would happen if the tablet was stopped after 45 days – would the weight be regained? If the tablet needs to be continued indefinitely to maintain the weight loss, the yearly cost would be in the region of £300 per year.


Raspberry Ketones

What is the active ingredient?

Synthetically produced Raspberry Ketones

How is it meant to help me lose weight?

Raspberry ketones increase the breakdown of fat and regulate metabolism…in rats. Its action on humans is hypothetical.

How much weight might lose?

There are no good human studies using raspberry ketones, so this is anybody’s guess.

What are the potential side effects?

Raspberry ketones are approved as a food additive so it is generally safe.  However, this will be at much lower levels than that found in supplements.  Given the lack of studies, the safety profile of raspberry ketones at doses used in supplements is unclear.

Product examples (some are in combination with other ingredients)

Boom Supplements Raspberry Plus | Forza Raspberry K2 Capsules | Health Spark Raspberry Ketones and Garcinia Complex | Innopure Raspberry Ketones | Nutravita Raspberry Ketones | Urban Fuel Raspberry Ketone Blast

Price range

£5 – £35 for 1 month’s supply


If you’re an overweight rat, go for it.

To sum it all up….

If you only have a few stubborn pounds to lose, you will probably achieve that with any of the above supplements combined with healthy eating and exercise.

My guess is that the majority of weight loss supplements are purchased by people who want to lose significantly more than a few pounds. Unfortunately, weight loss supplements are highly unlikely to help you achieve this.

Like diets, weight loss achieved while using a tablet does not mean that the weight will stay off when the tablet is stopped. You are unlikely to be willing to buy any product forever, just to keep off a few pounds.

If you struggle with your weight, the problem is likely to a combination of food choices, unhelpful food behaviours, maybe yo-yo dieting, and possibly some underlying problem with hormones that affect weight. No pill will address these problems.

There’s no doubt you could spend a lot of £’s, but don’t get your hopes up about losing the same amount of lbs.