The Blood Sugar Diet Review
The Blood Sugar Diet is a book by Dr Michael Moseley. It promises to shed 10% to 15% of your body weight in just 8 weeks! Essentially, it's a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD), with one huge difference: it uses real food.
VLCD systems usually require you to replace some or all of your meals with diet shakes or bars, which have one big drawback: they don't help you learn new eating habits. Once the diet is over, you go back to cooking the same meals you did before, with ingredients and/or portion sizes that are unhealthy, so you'll put the weight right back on.
The Blood Sugar Diet is not only much tastier (because food always tastes better than synthetic shakes!), it also teaches you about healthy eating, so you'll know how to maintain your weight once you've reached your goal.
Having spent hours Googling on the diet and finding forums full of people who have achieved and maintained the promised weight loss, I was convinced. However, I also discovered that you have to be organized and methodical to succeed, and I know that's not me! So I decided to sign up for an online version, which promised lots of help and support to get through it.
The group I joined was the Blood Sugar Diet Online (BSD Online). This is my detailed review.
Is BSD Online Value for Money?
It's obvious that the 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet is value for money - all you have to do is buy the book! But what about the online program?
The first difference that strikes you about the online program is that it's 12 weeks, whereas the diet in the book is only 8 weeks.
When I did the program the fee was about $130 (99 pounds sterling), and I hesitated about the cost - but the longer duration made me feel I was getting better value. It works out at about $11 a week for 12 weeks, whereas it would be $16 a week for 8 weeks. Bargain!
You can imagine how I felt, then, when I got my welcome email and discovered that "Week One" isn't week one at all! It's "orientation" week. In practice that meant a couple of handouts about weight loss and health, and advice to clear out my pantry. That's what I call an "introduction" and not enough to justify calling it a full week of the program, in my book.
I also discovered there are two weeks in the middle where they don't give you a shopping list or recipes - you're on your own. Then the final week is just a wrap-up, again with no recipes or shopping list.
So in all, the online program is just 8 weeks of actual menus and shopping lists. The extra four weeks don't offer much, if anything, of value. I felt somewhat deceived by that - although to be fair, I subsequently discovered that the book for the diet has only four weeks of menus, and you repeat those in the second four weeks.
Shopping Lists, Menus and Meals
My main reason for joining the online program was the fact that every week's meals would be planned out for me, and at the start of each week I could download a shopping list to take to the supermarket.
That turned out to be true (albeit for eight weeks rather than twelve). However, I was surprised at the length of the shopping list! Not only did my trip to the store take much longer than usual, but the total cost was over a third more than it normally is.
Disappointingly, the shopping list is just a printed list, not an interactive system. Like most people, there are some foods I don't like, and that meant I substituted a couple of meals and had to scribble all over my shopping list to make the adjustments. I had expected to be able to adjust the menu plan and have a shopping list made specially for me. There are websites which can do that, so it's technically possible.
When I started preparing the meals, I discovered why there was so much food. The meals seemed to be chosen for variety above all else, and there was a lot of wastage.
As an example, I needed half a cup of almond milk for a breakfast porridge on Tuesday. That meant buying a whole carton of almond milk, which was then not used in any of the other recipes that week - so the rest got poured down the sink.
I assumed that when the Program spoke about "menu planning", they would have some regard to our budget - so if almond milk was on the shopping list, for instance, they'd include two or three recipes using it over the course of the week, not just one, so it wouldn't be wasted.
You may think that you could use up the leftovers in other ways - but there is very little room for manoeuvre on this program. Just an extra half a cup of almond milk or an extra ounce or two of salmon could blow your diet, so you simply can't yield to the temptation to eat the excess!
On this Program, I spent significantly longer in the kitchen than I normally would. There were more vegetables to chop, ingredients to be measured and weighed carefully, and lots of different spices and seasonings to be added. I didn't find that a hardship because, fortunately, I have the time to spare. In fact, it reminded me of how much I used to enjoy cooking in my twenties, before I got promoted to a high-powered job! It was fun rediscovering the joys of cookery, but I wonder how a busy working mum would cope with it.
The meals themselves were delicious and although the servings were small, I didn't feel deprived of food.
What I did feel deprived of was a social life. The participants in the original scientific study of this diet found the same thing. The food is fine and hunger isn't an issue - boredom is!
Like I said, there's no room for flexibility in this diet. If you want to go out for a meal, it's highly unlikely there's anything on the menu that's low enough in calories. If you're going to a social event, your only option is to make something and take it with you. Also, although they say you can drink alcohol if you cut out something else, you'd have to cut out an entire meal to compensate, and you're already eating a bare minimum every day. So it's not really an option - you have to drink water.
The net result was that if I wanted to go out and enjoy myself, I had to regard that as a Blew My Diet day. I was reluctant to have too many of those, so I resigned myself to being pretty much a hermit for the duration.
What is the Support Like?
Support on the program is provided in a forum. It's a basic forum, where you can't easily keep track when new topics or replies have been posted. There's no facility to create a profile and there's no way to see who else is on the program unless they create a forum post to say hello. Because it's just text on a page, it doesn't feel like a community. Its only benefit is that there are experts to answer your questions.
Eventually, I discovered a Facebook page for the 8-week book and joined that. I found it much more lively.
I think the 8-week Blood Sugar Diet is an excellent concept.
However I didn't feel the 12-week online program was value for money, because I'd been hoping it would be designed to make the diet easy to follow, and that I'd be motivated by the support in the forum.
In reality, I found that the online program didn't add any value to the basic diet because:
- It didn't remove the need to count calories. We were advised not to trust the calorie counts in the menu plans (because of differences between products), but to track our own calories using MyFitnessPal.com
- It only partially removed the need to make a shopping list. The list they provide is a simple Word document - if you make changes to your menu plan, you have to make your own changes manually.
- The forum was primitive, like a forum from ten years ago. It was too hard to follow and because it was just text, it didn't engage me. I didn't find the experts much help.
As for the 8-week diet itself, I had only one problem with it - the huge restrictions it placed on my social life. But I have found a solution - the 5:2 diet. No, not the one that's famous, where you diet for two days and eat normally for five! I'm dieting for five days and eating normally for two. I'm using the principles of the Blood Sugar Diet, with each of my diet days around 800 calories, and I'm using some of their quicker, easier recipes. I'm not being super-pedantic - I'm trusting the calorie counts on the recipes. I'm creating my shopping lists using PlanToEat.com, which isn't free, but it's a lot cheaper than the 12-week program!
I'm losing weight more slowly, which is disappointing because I'd hoped for a short, sharp solution, but I could maintain this lifestyle for a long time if necessary.
If I'm really strapped for time, I'll buy a VLCD product for one or two meals (either a shake or a diet bar). At one time, I would have felt bad about that, but I now know that the original idea for the BSD came from a Newcastle University study that did use such products very successfully.
Health Claims - Will It Reverse Diabetes?
The Blood Sugar Diet's biggest claim to fame is that it can reverse diabetes, and there is certainly scientific evidence to indicate that it could. The diet has gained fame thanks to Michael Moseley's book, but it's not his idea. The concept was originally studied at Newcastle University in the UK and you can read the results in this scientific paper.
The Blood Sugar diet is slightly different in that it doesn't use VLCD shakes. Instead it uses fresh, wholesome food in recipes which emphasize flavor, but the principle is exactly the same, so it's reasonable to expect the results should be similar.
Before you get too excited about the results of the Newcastle study, check that you have the type of diabetes which responds to the diet. Read this document for more information:
The Opposing View
As with all new diets, not everyone agrees that the Blood Sugar Diet is a good thing. Here are some contra views:
Of course, the diet is not suitable for everyone. You SHOULD NOT do it if you are:
- Underweight and/or have a history of an eating disorder
- Under 18
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Diagnosed with a significant psychiatric disorder
- Frail, suffering a major illness or recovering from surgery
- A Type 1 diabetic
If you are on insulin, or any medication for diabetes or blood pressure, you MUST plan your diet in conjunction with your doctor, because it's likely you'll need close monitoring to adjust your dosage as the diet progresses.
In fact if you're on any medication for a chronic condition, you should discuss the diet with your doctor before embarking on it.
Caution: f you have retinopathy you should have extra screening within 6 months (as retinopathy can sometimes get worse when blood sugar improves).