Cambridge Diet: Is the popular plan right for you?

The Cambridge Diet is one of the most popular diets in the UK, with a host of celebrity fans including Jennifer Ellison and The Only Way Is Essex star Lauren Goodger.

The diet, which was originally devised by Dr Alan Howard at Cambridge University in 1970, can promise rapid weight loss thanks to meal-replacement food packs that have all the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.

There are 5 steps to The Cambridge Diet, ranging from step 1, called Sole Source (around 500 calories per day) to step 5 (1,500 calories per day). Each step includes at least one meal-replacement food pack, which could be a nutrition bar, soup, mousse or shake. The principle of the diet is that with the right amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, very few calories and the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals, your body gets all the nutrients it needs and uses its fat stores for energy, therefore burning fat. And because the diet is high protein you don’t lose muscle mass or have cravings, like on other diets.

The Cambridge Diet is so effective, hoards of celebrities have claimed it as the reason behind their weight loss! The latest celeb to find success with the diet is Jennifer Ellison. Rather than bowing to the celebrity trend of immediately jumping into a hardcore diet straight after giving birth, Jennifer focused on more important things, like raising her kids!

Even when she was the target of cruel Twitter trolls after her second pregnancy, who branded her ‘massive’ and commented that she had ‘let herself go’, the Liverpool lass was quick to defend herself, tweeting in response:

To all the horrible ppl commenting about my weight… I gave birth 12 WEEKS AGO! Sort ur heads out my baby boy is my priority NOT my size!!’

Hear hear Jennifer! Four months after the arrival of her second son Harry, it seems the former Brookside actress decided it was time to tackle her baby weight loss (not that she needed to – we think you’re gorgeous as you are Jen!)

It’s been revealed that she’s yet another celeb to find great results with the Cambridge Diet, limiting her daily calorie intake to just 640 calories at certain stages, with the aim of reaching her target pre-pregnancy weight of a tiny 8st.

It can be viewed as quite an extreme measure to lose weight – 640 calories a day certainly doesn’t sound appealing to us – and Jen has spoken out about her decision to try the Cambridge Diet.

‘After I gave birth to Harry, my figure was the last thing on my mind – I was just concentrating on bonding with my baby and enjoying being a mum to my two boys. But recently I weighed myself, and realised my BMI was 28. I was horrified when I realised I was not far off hitting a BMI of 30 – officially obese.

‘I was over 12 stone and I was worried that being so overweight was affecting my health. I don’t want to be so overweight that I can’t look after my family without struggling for breath.’

A spokesperson for Cambridge Weight Plan told New magazine ‘Jen started on Step 1, which allows 640 calories a day. Jen is currently on Step 2 (810 calories). She doesn’t have much weight to lose so will be on Step 2 for a couple of weeks and will then work up the steps.’

If you feel inspired by Jennifer and want to follow in her footsteps, then read on to find out all about how the Cambridge Diet can work for you!

What happens on the Cambridge Diet?

You meet with a Cambridge Diet counsellor every week to buy food packs – you can only buy these from a registered and trained counsellor. You also meet to discuss your progress with the Cambridge Diet and talk about your issues and difficulties, if you have them. Some people talk to their counsellor about their emotional issues with food, weight and body image, other people just appreciate a few encouraging words – it’s like having a diet coach.

Depending on what step you follow, you eat between three food packs per day (step 1, Sole Source) or one food pack with three meals and snacks per day (step 5), but this is still a balanced low-fat, low-calorie, lower carb diet. The step you start on depends on how much weight you have to lose and how quickly you want to lose it. All the steps involve eating less calories than usual, but step 1 and step 2 involve hardly any carbohydrates, which puts your body into a process called ketosis. Ketosis is when your body uses its fat stores for energy.

Who is the Cambridge Diet good for?

Anyone who has a BMI of 26 or more, and if you have a difficult emotional relationship with food and/or a large amount of weight to lose. It’s a good diet to do because you have support from a counsellor. For the 1st and 2nd step on the Cambridge Diet you have to fill out a medical form and inform your doctor. Plus every 4 weeks on the Sole Source step you give yourself a break and have a light meal, rather than just food packs.

What are the drawbacks of The Cambridge Diet?

Like any diet, you need willpower and it can be hard to stick to if you’re just doing the 1st step, Sole Source, but you will lose weight quickly, which normally gives people the incentive to stick to it. Some people find it hard to drink 8 large glasses of water a day. And you are not allowed to have chewing gum, diet drinks or tea and coffee with milk on the 1st and 2nd step of the programme. Even though there’s a large variety of food packs, some people still don’t like any of the flavours. It’s very safe although there are a small minority of people who can’t do the diet for health reasons.

The side-effects of ketosis are bad breath, lethargy for the first three days and headaches, but not everyone experiences this. Some people think it’s expensive but you are replacing food with Cambridge Diet food packs and buying less food – so you may even save money on your weekly food bill. The price of a set of weekly food packs varies between £35 – £40 a week if you’re doing the first step of the programme.

What can I eat on the Cambridge Diet?

For step 1 (Sole Source) you only have 3 Cambridge Diet food packs, water, tea/coffee without milk, herb tea. You cannot have any other food, milk, alcohol, diet drinks or chewing gum. For step 2 you will have 3 Cambridge Diet food packs plus one low-fat, low-carbohydrate meal, such as cottage cheese salad or grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. You are allowed 1/5 pint of milk but you still have to have 8 large glasses of water and cut out alcohol. For steps 3 and 4 you have just two food packs, as well as a breakfast of 150 calories and main meal such as lunch or dinner.

Sample breakfast:Fruit smoothie and 3 rye crispbread with low-fat cream or cottage cheese

Sample main meal: Prawn stir-fry and a small piece of fruit. For step 5 you have one food pack, three regular meals and one 100 calorie snack.

Sample lunch: Roast tomato and orange soup, a small granary roll filled with cottage cheese. A 100g pot of low-fat fromage frais

Sample dinner: Paella with one portion of vegetables

Sample snacks: Two chocolate chip cookies.

Have you tried the Cambridge Diet? We’d love to hear from you! Just leave us a comment in the box below…