{As a member of the Influenster network, I’m sometimes sent products to review. This was one of them.}

I remember SlimFast. When I was a kid, it came in cans with ridges on them. My mom would buy a case of vanilla or chocolate periodically, when she once again got fed up with being overweight and decided to do something about it once and for all. Sometimes I would commit to the two-shakes-a-day program with her. We often dieted together.

It never lasted, as so often happens with dieting – especially programs that ask you to drastically diverge from the way “normal” people eat. It’s just not realistic to replace two meals a day with a cup and a half of liquid and expect that to satisfy you. Yes, nutritionally speaking, it is possible to get the vitamins and minerals you need in the form of a meal replacement shake, and SlimFast seems to have packed that into their recently reformulated beverages, though I can’t speak as to the source of their ingredients. One thing I was not pleased with: the chemically-sounding ingredients started off pretty early on the list. And there are a lot of them.

SlimFast ingredient label

One thing I don’t remember from my childhood SlimFasting is the snack foods. I think they may be new. In addition to the vanilla shake, the complementary Influenster sampler also included a variety of their 100-calorie snacks: sour cream and onion baked crisps, cinnamon bun swirl drizzled crisps, and a dark chocolate sea salt bar.

So the idea is, you replace two meals a day with shakes, have one (healthy) 500-calorie meal, and have three 100-calorie snacks throughout the day. That works out to 1,160 calories a day.

The problem is: that’s not enough calories.

Someone of my age, weight, and activity level – roughly 200 pounds, mid-thirties, with light daily activity (light to moderate exercise three times a week) – pretty much the bullseye of the SlimFast demographic – needs about 1,850 calories a day to maintain that weight. Yes, I realize that maintaining that weight is probably not what most people would want to do. So let’s look at how many calories I’d need to safely lose weight.

So to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. So if taking in 1,850 calories would keep me at my current weight, I need to eat less than that in order to lose weight. But how much less? I consulted several online resources, and the average recommendation was that 20% fewer calories would maximize fat loss while minimizing muscle loss (your body likes to burn muscle if it perceives you’re losing too much weight too fast).

That works out to me eating 1,480 calories a day, over three hundred more calories than the SlimFast plan allows.

So what does that mean? It means that not only would I not be satisfied, but my body would also perceive that I was, in fact, starving. Suddenly not getting enough calories. In response, it would make me hungrier, crave carbs (quick energy), and it would hold on to the calories I do take in for dear life by slowing down my metabolism to a snail’s pace.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the taste of the samples; so much so that I don’t have any “live pictures” of any of the snacks, because I ate them all in one sitting while binge watching The Great British Bake Off (FYI, SlimFast, that is your demographic). The shake was also tasty – creamy with a big vanilla flavor. I felt that it had a bit too much of that artificially-sweetened cloyingness, but I’m a tough critic when it comes to artificial sweeteners.

I would like to say that this is a great diet program; but I’ve learned the hard way that (for me, at least) diets don’t work. They set unrealistic expectations and, like most one-size-fits-all products, one size does not, in fact, fit all. Maybe this would work if I only had five or ten pounds to lose and my recommended weight was around 130 pounds. If I didn’t love interacting and creating and enjoying and playing with my food. I’m sure there are lots of people like that.

But that ain’t me.

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