So can you lose a stone in a month eating M&S Fuller Longer ready meals Amanda Cable nearly did – but never wants to see packaged food again
00:12 GMT, 28 September 2012
Marks and Spencer claim its Simply Fuller Longer range is a secret weapon for losing weight — with high-protein ready meals designed to stop hunger pangs. Its research claims that just four weeks of eating the meals and following its weight-loss plan can shave 1.6in from your waistline and help you lose five per cent of your total body weight.But is this a cynical attempt to muscle in on the UK’s 2 billion a year weight-loss industry — or a sensible diet plan Mother-of-three Amanda Cable, from South London, has tried diets from the Atkins to the Dukan, but failed to lose weight. She decided to give it a try for a month — with surprising results.
Amanda Cable, pictured after her diet, was determined to make her latest attempt at losing weight work
It's 9am, and I’m standing in the middle of a Marks & Spencer aisle hoping for a miracle that will change the way I look and feel about myself.
It’s an odd place for an epiphany — one of the few things that M&S don’t stock. But I’m miserable, and desperate for anything to help me lose weight.
Until three years ago, I had weighed a consistent 9st 10lb all my adult life. Shopping for clothes, I automatically went to the rails with the size tens.
Then I was put on medication for migraines. While they eased my crippling headaches, there was one nasty side-effect. They made me constantly hungry and I put on almost 1st, which means I’m now 11st and, at 5ft 8in tall, a size 14.
Any attempts at dieting failed because I found it impossible to stop eating. And despite having stopped the medication, the bad habits of snacking and eating huge portions have become too ingrained to change.
However, Marks & Spencer claims that its Simply Fuller Longer range can help you lose 10lb over four weeks without feeling hungry.
The meals — wraps and salads for lunch and ready meals for dinner — were developed by researchers at the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen.
As well as being calorie-controlled, they are high in protein, which helps make you feel fuller by cutting the levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger pangs.
In tests, 45 overweight volunteers all lost weight, with an average loss of five per cent of total body weight over four weeks. Restricted to 1,000 calories a day, their average waist measurement was also reduced by 1.6in.
Losing weight without feeling half-starved is the holy grail. So can this plan work for me
Starting isn’t hard — there’s a whole array of delicious-looking dishes.
I pick a super wholefood salad for lunch (3, 375 calories) and then decide to splash out on chicken in a fragrant katsu curry sauce (425 calories). OK, it’s not the same as a takeaway from the local curry house, but it does look delicious.
Back home, I log onto the Marks & Spencer home page, where a four-week meal planner tells me exactly what to eat each day to maintain a calorie count of around 1,050 a day — the recommended intake for dieters.
I normally skip a proper breakfast and snack on the children’s leftover toast. But my Marks & Spencer meal planner insists breakfast is essential.
Following its instructions, the next morning I start my day with low-fat yoghurt mixed with fruit and nut muesli and a handful of raisins — 300 calories. It does fill me up, but unfortunately only until midday.
Thankfully lunch is a delicious-sounding roast beef and rocket-topped seeded flatbread (3.50, 380 calories). Sadly, even though I am ravenous, it is like eating my own shoe leather.
The Scottish Lochmuir salmon with soy & ginger helps the diet kick off to an easy start for Amanda
Asian style king prawn and rice salad is part of the range which claims it can help dieters lose stone in four weeks
As a result, I’m bad-tempered for the
rest of the afternoon. I munch my way through my snack allowance of a
banana and an apple, and by dinner time, I’m craving some comfort food.
I choose ham hock with tangy mustard sauce (3.99, 300 calories) and my mood instantly brightens.
As per M&S’s promise, I feel totally full and go to bed confident that I am going to stick to this diet.
next day, breakfast is ham omelette, grilled tomatoes and a toasted
muffin (370 calories). It takes me so long to make that the children are
late for school, but at least it keeps me going all morning.
lunch of super wholefood and feta salad (3) is instant and delicious.
Dinner is Scottish Lochmuir salmon with soy and ginger (3.99, 430
calories) and I reflect smugly to myself that this is far easier than
turning up to a weight-loss club meeting or doing any proper cooking.
the end of the first week, I can’t wait to weigh myself. True, a lot of
the Simply Fuller Longer meals contain extra protein — and as a result,
I’m producing more gas than a herd of cows — but my daily calorie
intake has been under 1,050 so I must be losing weight. Wrong — in fact,
I now weigh 11st 4lb. I’ve gained 4lb!
Eating breakfast helped Amanda to give up mid-morning snacks, but enjoyed tucking in to fruit salads between meals
Sticking to any diet plan isn't always easy when faced with temptation. File photo
Despite the bad start, I am determined to make this diet work. I continue to follow the M&S breakfast suggestions — ranging from 200g baked beans on a slice of granary bread (280 calories) to two M&S reduced-fat sausages, with a handful of mushrooms and one tomato on a slice of oat and linseed bread (350 calories). It’s fair to say as a lifelong breakfast dodger, this has made me give up my mid-morning snacks.
Some lunches I find hard to stomach — the Italian-style tomato & basil chicken salad (3, 305 calories) is so horrible that I need a glass of milk afterwards to take the taste away. But I love the duck and noodles with hoisin sauce (3.99, 335 calories).
While last week I couldn’t wait to open the fridge and pop another ready meal in the oven, now I’m starting to miss the taste of freshly cooked food.
If I do feel hungry in between meals — and to be fair, the range does appear to dull my appetite — I tuck into fruit salad, bananas or blueberries, all recommended by the diet plan.
/09/28/article-2209739-15362B81000005DC-483_634x409.jpg” width=”634″ height=”409″ alt=”The dedicated dieter said her month on the Simply Fuller Longer plan helped her to regulate her meal times ” class=”blkBorder” />
The dedicated dieter said her month on the Simply Fuller Longer plan helped her to regulate her meal times
King prawns, Lochmuir hot smoked salmon and couscous was one of the 50 options available as a meal
I’ve spent 224. To buy the ready meals costs an average of 56 a week. This compares with 21.45 a month if I joined WeightWatchers. Having said that, I’d have to eat anyway — so I’m merely swapping one type of food cost for another.
More worryingly, my breath smells of dried garlic, and the sight of another ready meal is beginning to make me go as green as the range’s 320-calorie kerala chicken curry.
I can’t face the duck hoisin noodles which so delighted me when I started the diet. My favourite is now the Asian-style salmon and noodle salad (3.99, 455 calories). I can almost feel myself lose weight as I eat it.
So at the end of the month, will my waist have shrunk as M&S claims it might Its volunteers reported a 1.6in decrease in waist measurements. I measure mine and find I’ve gone from 32 inches to 30 — a full dress size difference from a size 14 to a size 12.
My weight is also down to 10st 4lb. I haven’t hit my target, but I’m not far off.
AND SINCE THEN…
My month on the Simply Fuller Longer plan certainly helped regulate my meal times and get me out of the snacking habit. And when I returned to home cooking, I didn’t give up on my M&S meals.
Some dishes have even become popular with the children — the beef ragu with rigatoni pasta (3.99, 440 calories) and cod mornay with mash, peas and runner beans (3.99, 315 calories) are firm family favourites.
So these days lunches are either Fuller Longer salads or wraps. I’m no longer tempted to simply graze my way through my lunch hour, raiding the fridge for ever more treats.
Today, a month after finishing, I’m 9st 10lb. My total weight loss has been 1st 2lb. My waist now measures 28in — meaning I’ve dropped 4in.
So can I recommend this diet to others I was sceptical, but it did keep me fuller and less inclined to snack, and my weight loss was steady and gradual.
But while many dishes are delicious, some are disgusting and the novelty of non-stop ready meals wears off after the first week.
I’m more than a stone lighter and wearing size ten jeans, so I’ve no complaints — even if I will struggle to enjoy a ready meal ever again!