30 Mar

I Tried Meal Replacement Shakes for a Month (Here’s What Happened)

Meal Replacement Shakes–An Honest Account of a Classic Diet

I’m going to tell you why meal replacement shakes might be your favorite diet ever.

So, you know the basic rules with this diet.

You replace 2 meals a day with one of these:

a meal replacement shake

And then eat one healthy meal at the end of the day.

I had some questions about this diet (and didn’t google the answers):

Are you allowed to eat snacks, too? 

Does it really matter which meal you replace for the shakes?

Are you supposed to exercise more, less or it doesn’t matter?

I hate things that are complicated so here’s how I did this:

  • I replaced breakfast and lunch with one of these shakes.
  • I still drank my 2 cups of coffee (with cream) every morning.
  • I did NOT eat snacks.
  • I kept to my regular exercise schedule, which is to say I exercised 5-7 days a week for about an hour.
  • I ate whatever the hell I wanted for dinner.

Here’s how it all panned out (and what you can look forward to if you try this diet)…

Attention: I’m not a dietitian or your medical provider. This post is not meant to be a diet recommendation or any kind of medical or nutrition advice.  This post is intended to be an entertaining, informative and honest account of what happened to me when I followed a diet using meal replacement shakes.

Day One

Don’t Be Fooled

girl drinking a milkshake

Attention: You will never be this eager to drink a meal replacement shake. (And It’s not just because there’s no whipped cream or cherry.)

I have some sad news for you.

After you purchase a week’s worth of Meal Replacement Shakes you’ll discover that this liquid concoction is about as close to a (milk)shake as a tofu burger is to a Big Mac or a grilled chicken breast is to a bucket of original KFC.

You get the picture.  I’m sure I knew this on some level but the word ‘shake’ is a ploy to convince you that your new liquid meal is going to be yummy because your subconscious naturally connects the word ‘shake’ to the abbreviation of milkshake which we all can agree is a lovely word.

But don’t be fooled.

Your meal replacement shake is a drink—not a milkshake.

I tried several brands of meal replacement shakes and they all shared the consistency of whole milk.  (Incidentally, my favorite flavor turned out to be vanilla.  And I tried 4 brands and I think the generic Equate *Walmart Brand* tastes the best.)

Don’t get me wrong.  They could’ve tasted worse.  And been gritty.  Or had a weird lingering aftertaste of yellow cardboard.

My meal replacement shakes have basically seemed like flavored whole milk that in no way convinces my body I’ve just had a meal.

In fact, the first few days my body was all like, ‘I’m hungry, not thirsty. What’s happening?  Where’s the chewables?’.

It’s been a long few weeks in my little head.

Day Two

Don’t Go to a Library

I’m not big on diets.  In fact, not counting high school, I’ve only followed any official diet once in my life.

I successfully dropped about 10 lbs. a couple of years ago after diligently counting every single calorie…for about 8 months.

Since then I’ve gained about 5 of that back and there were 5 pounds I never really lost, so with bathing suit season rapidly approaching I decided to try the meal replacement shakes rather than taking on another full-time job of dissecting and tracking every item I put in my mouth.

My point is this, I’ve dieted before but it had been a while.

I’d forgotten the sounds my belly can make after depriving it of sustenance for an entire day.

My stomach can growl, scream, cry and bellow like the sound of dying Yeti at a volume that would be something to brag about if it wasn’t so disturbing.

I actually had my husband ask me from the other room, ‘What did you say?’ only to discover it wasn’t me that said anything…it was my gut calling out to him for help.

The noises my tummy makes have varied from day to day.

Honestly, I wish it was more predictable because it can be embarrassing.

Standing in line at Walmart or sitting in church can be awkward when the long screeches coming from your torso out-decibel the preacher or the sound of your meal-replacement shakes being scanned at the register.

But remember, as with every diet, if at any point during this process you aren’t super hungry then you’re probably doing something wrong.

Day Three

You Only Thought You Were Mad Before

You know how sometimes people get on your nerves?

There are just days when every person that enters my personal space is incredibly annoying.  (I don’t know why they all decide to irritate me on the same day but it’s a thing.)

Well, when you’re dieting you can multiply those kinds of days to include all of them.

If you plan to try out this diet and you’re anything like me then get ready to be mad about everything from the sound of the wind to the color of your car.

By the End of Week One

Find a Saga You’ve Been Meaning to Read

Is Anna Karenina on your bucket list of books to read?  How about Lord of the Rings?

Guess what?  You’re going to be spending a lot of time in the bathroom when you start replacing your food with liquid.

Go ahead and put the novel you’ve been meaning to read in your favorite bathroom at home.  You’ll have a lot of time to power through it.

By the end of the first week on this diet I planned my errands according to which stores had the cleanest restrooms.

Skipping Ahead to the Results

I’ve been on this meal replacement with shakes diet for about 4 weeks now.

I have to be honest with you.

I stopped ‘eating’ the meal replacement shakes twice a day by the 3rd week.  I just got sick of them.

I still had one ‘shake’ a day but usually replaced the second one with a nice juicy bowl of air, a multi-vitamin or something of equal caloric value (about 180 calories).

For some reason my teenage son really likes to eat my 180-calorie snacks so I ate air and vitamins a lot.

Did my weight change?

I didn’t check my weight until week 2 because I don’t like to be disappointed and because I’d rather do almost anything than step on a scale.

At the end of week 2, I’d lost a pound.

That pattern has continued (about ½ pound a week of weight loss) for me.  This week was the 4th week and I’m down 2 pounds.

As a comparison, when I was on my last diet and counting every last calorie I lost about 10 pounds over 8 months.  So, for me, the meal replacement shake diet has resulted in faster weight loss.

We all know that losing weight too fast is bad and hard to keep off.  I’m still on this diet so I can’t tell you if that pace is too fast for me or not. My goal is to lose about 7 pounds so I have several more weeks to go.

Things I’ve Realized During this Diet & Why This Might Be Your Favorite Diet

I Spend a Lot of Time Eating

Breakfast has never been a big time-suck for me but I’d developed a habit of stopping my day and stretching out lunch to be an entire event where my mind and body completely checked out.  And because of that, I was basically worthless to accomplish much the rest of the day.

By removing that meal and everything that goes with it (like the post-lunch somnolence) I’ve been able to be productive all day.  This has been a nice surprise that I hadn’t foreseen.

I’m Out of Control

I’ve decided my normal eating habits are like the ‘ol snowball barreling down a hill which is to say completely out of control once I get going…

Let me ask you something, how often do you say, ‘Ugh, I ate too much...’?

Before this diet started I said that regularly.

Eating Less Begets Eating Less

When you don’t eat much all day then your stomach gets smaller.

You’ll find out that even though you might spend an entire day fantasizing about how much and what you plan to eat for dinner, you won’t actually be able to eat that much.  I was surprised by how fast I filled up.

The nice thing was that I went to bed satisfied.  (I really appreciated that about this diet.  It sucks hard to go to bed with your stomach growling.  I did that for 8 months last time.)

Bad Timing

I should never do diet experiments during tax season…it’s like sitting down to eat spinach for dinner and then adding a can of beets as dessert.

But at the end of the day, is there ever really a perfect time to go on a diet?  No, the answer is no.

Maybe I Don’t Need as Much Food as I Think

I hate to admit it but I eat just to eat sometimes.  Hunger has absolutely nothing to do with it.

And I’ve always used my exercise routine as an excuse to eat more. (I exercise almost daily and my workouts include weightlifting and intense cardio.)

Even though I’ve been really hungry at times during this diet I can honestly say that I’ve never felt ‘weak’.  And I’ve never missed a workout because I didn’t have the energy.

The truth is, I’ve been training for a Warrior Dash the entire time I’ve been on this meal replacement diet and haven’t had any problems running or exercising.

That confirms something to me—my normal eating patterns include far more calories than my body actually needs.

The trick will be to remember that when this diet is over.

Why Do I Think This Diet Might Be Your Favorite?

At the end of the day this diet isn’t complicated.

Technically, you’re supposed to be eating a low-calorie supper so you could make that complicated if you really wanted to, but it doesn’t need to be that way.

I lost weight without counting any calories.  

And things that are simple are easier to do.  That’s just a fact.

Some diets these days have so many steps, ingredients, and details to remember that, let’s face it, it’s realistically too much to take on and stick with for the average person who already has a busy, chaotic life.

When something is easy you’re more likely to stick with it and get the results you’re looking for.

A Diet is a Diet is a Diet

I realize there are a TON of diets out there.

Trying to pick one is like looking at the menu at the Cheesecake Factory.  There are just too many options.

The thing you need to realize is this, to lose weight you must have a caloric deficit over a period of time.  (That means you have to be burning more calories than you’re consuming.  Period.)

You can change the time of day you eat, the colors of your food, the containers you eat out of, the brands you eat, what you wear when you eat, who you eat with, the shapes of your food or the way you cook your food.

But to lose weight you MUST burn more calories than you eat.

If you want to lose weight, find whatever meal plan suits your lifestyle and personality.

Personally, I know I can’t do a diet where I have to buy special ingredients and cook specific meals.  That will never work for me.  Any diet that feels like a part-time job won’t fit my style.  I know that about myself.

You have to find the diet that will fit your unique style.

That’s the first step.

Stick with me because the second step is just as important as the first (if not more so).

You have to exercise.  You know it’s true.  Whether you’re dieting or not you need to be doing some kind of exercise to stay healthy.

There’s a reason every single diet includes the caveat that you must exercise to see the best results.

Can you lose weight without exercising?  Of course.  Watch Naked and Afraid.  You’ll lose weight if you eat nothing but ants and snakes.

But when you exercise you’re increasing the number of calories you burn.  So, that math equation you’re trying to conquer (burn more calories than you consume) becomes easier. 

Besides the fact that exercise is good for you for a million different reasons so just do it already.

👉 Recommended reading: 10 Things You Can Do to Make Home Exercise Awesome

Thanks for reading!

You’re awesome, as always.





“Life is complicated. Fitness doesn’t have to be.”

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Meal Replacement Shakes-An Honest Account of a Classic Diet-One Strong Southern Girl-Find out why I think this might be your favorite diet.

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