What is total diet replacement and is it right for me?

Napala Pratini
min read
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Quick summary

  • Total diet replacement (TDR) is a food product which is used as part of a total diet replacement programme.
  • A TDR programme consists of four, nutritionally-complete, powdered shakes, soups, and porridges each day. 
  • These four meals consist of all the micro and macro nutrients your body needs in a given day, whilst containing only 800kcal total.
  • There is extensive scientific evidence to show that total diet replacement, when combined with effective behaviour change, can lead to weight loss of c. 15kg sustained over many years—and the reversal of diseases like type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea, and knee osteoarthritis.
  • TDR is good for people with a BMI of over 28, who could benefit from losing a significant amount of weight (c. 15kg). It can be even more beneficial for those with the diseases mentioned above.

Total diet replacement is a powerful, scientifically-proven weight loss tool which enables safe, rapid weight loss. But it’s not right for everyone. This article summarises what it is, how it works, and who it’s good for. 

What is total diet replacement (TDR)?

TDR is a food product which can be used as part of a weight loss programme. You can think of TDR like a meal replacement (think Slimfast, Huel, etc.), except that TDR is fully complete from both a micro and macro nutrient perspective. This means that it’s possible to eat TDR for an extended period of time, and maintain healthy levels of all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your body needs. 

At Habitual, we offer a selection of shakes, soups, and porridges, all manufactured in a BRC-certified factory with top-of-the-line ingredients. Some TDR providers use nasties like artificial sweeteners, but we’ve gone the more natural route—and like to think our products taste the best, too. 

How does a TDR programme work?

There are different ways to use TDR, so we’ll tell you how it works at Habitual. We’ve seen our programme be incredibly life-changing to many patients, however it’s all based on years of scientific evidence—so it’s not just us who says that it works!

For the first three months of Habitual, our patients switch away from normal food entirely and onto TDR products (here's a list of what foods and drinks are allowed whilst on TDR). This may seem drastic, we know, but interestingly we’ve heard that this is actually one of the easier bits of the programme. During TDR, we deliver daily behaviour change reading and exercises to encourage you to start thinking holistically about your physical, mental, and nutritional habits, as well as provide access to a tracking dashboard where you can monitor your progress. 

These three months are an incredibly powerful reset period, both for your body (you’ll lose weight incredibly quickly) as well as your mind. For many of us, it will be the first time in our lives that we’ve been able to take a mental break from food, from the hundreds of food-related decisions we make each day. This respite provides a chance to think critically about our relationship with food, exercise, and—really—with ourselves. 

The second three months of the Habitual programme involve a slow reintroduction of food, enabling you to rebuild your eating habits from scratch and to learn what your new, healthier normal looks like. Since you introduce food slowly, some of your meals will still be TDR products (you might have porridge for breakfast, a soup for lunch, and then a “proper” meal for dinner, for example). 

It’s super important to note that the behaviour change component of TDR is absolutely necessary to maintaining weight loss. We all know that yo-yo diets have been around for years, and there’s a reason they’re not effective: They don’t help people to actually change their behaviours. At Habitual, we use TDR as a tool (and we know it’s an incredibly effective one!), but equally we recognise that it’s limited without behaviour change, which is why our programme provides both components (we don’t even offer the option to buy one without the other). 

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Who should do total diet replacement?

TDR is a safe and effective tool for rapid, significant weight loss, meaning that it’s best suited for those needing to lose a significant amount of weight—somewhere between 10-15kg on average. We therefore do not recommend it to anyone with a BMI of less than 30 (you can calculate your BMI here). 

There are a few rare conditions as well as recent health events that would preclude someone from doing a TDR programme, but most people won’t have a problem. The best way to see whether TDR is right for you is to start your journey here

Beyond physical factors, however, it’s important to note that TDR (and especially the programme we offer at Habitual) is best for someone who’s really committed to making a change in their lifestyle. It’s not an easy thing to undergo, and requires a high level of commitment and motivation—but we can promise it’ll be worth it 🤝


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