Howard’s Way’s alternative to weight-loss surgery

From: Howard's Way
Published: Sat Feb 06 2010

Recent claims that the UK’s obese are being hit by a ‘postcode lottery’ may be concerning senior surgeons but obesity specialist Penelope Howard, of the Howard’s Way very low calorie diet (VLCD), believes that surgery should only be a final resort for people with severe weight problems.

Penelope commented: "I have known of cases where the patients who, having undergone obesity surgery - with all that this involves – have had to exist on pureed food (food replacement) and take their nutrients in additive form for the rest of their life. By contrast, Howard’s Way patients receive all their nutrients in the Howard’s Way food replacement formula throughout their weight loss period and then re-enter the real world and live on ‘regular’ food the rest of their life!

"We have actually had patients who, having had obesity surgery, ask if they can come on our diet," she added.

At a Royal College of Surgeons’ conference, held in January, senior surgeons branded access to NHS weight-loss surgery as ‘inconsistent, unethical and completely dependent on geographical location’. Constraints on NHS funding mean that, in some areas, guidelines are being ignored and patients denied access to surgery – although, some 4,300 weight-loss operations were conducted by the NHS in 2009.

Penelope Howard’s advice to the obese - those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above – is to acknowledge that they have an addiction to a particular food (often white sugar) and seek help from those who both understand that addiction and have many years experience of success in helping people lose weight.

Typically, most Howard’s Way patients lose at least three stones (20 kilos) in weight in the first 12 weeks of the diet. One Howard’s Way patient – Shelley Williams – recently lost some nine stones in weight, while many others testify to having lost between three and seven stones.

Howard’s Way claims that, impressively, its ‘lifetime support service’ helps patients and former patients from putting the weight back on again.

Penelope explained: "There is a huge similarity between what we do with our patients and what an expensive rehabilitation clinic does for an alcoholic or drug addict. "The only obvious difference is that we do not provide residential care – although our specialists are available ’24 x 7’ to provide support and advice via the telephone and in person."

Howard’s Way puts its patients through a controlled abstention programme – from food – for at least three months to break the cycle of addiction. In doing so, patients are able to get rid of much of the effects of that addiction - their excess weight – in a healthy and safe manner.

"In addition, we educate patients so that they understand what it is that they are addicted to – and the whys and wherefores of their addiction," Penelope continued.

"We also reassure them that we are ‘here for them’ at any time that they need us in the future – because an addiction is for life. However, just because you’re addicted to something, you don’t have to be in its grips for the rest of your life," she said.

"All in all, we try to remove any feelings of guilt and low self-esteem that our patients have. Instead, we emphasise the ‘positives’ about their life – which is, of course, enhanced by the enormous weight loss they are experiencing," Penelope said.

Howard’s Way operates from four centres – in Croxley Green, Stanmore, Luton & Dunstable, and Victoria, in London – but it also has a nationwide network of locums and other specialists to offer telephone support to those who want to take the rehab route to weight loss – and say ‘no’ to their food addiction.


About Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCD)

Some 45 per cent of Britain’s population is now classed as ‘obese’. Obesity has been shown to increase the risks of contracting a range of conditions including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer and sleep apnoea - a respiratory disorder in which breathing is made more difficult by excessive body fat around the neck or on the chest. This excess body fat constricts the airway and, sometimes, the lungs, causing short interruptions in breathing during the night.

Those who are obese and who want – or need – to lose a significant amount of weight in a relatively short time are finding a very low calorie diet (VLCD) to be an effective way of achieving their goal.

A VLCD is a diet involving extremely low calorie consumption each day. It is defined medically as a diet of 800 kilocalories per day or less. VLCDs are formulated, nutritionally complete, replacement meals containing 800 kcal (3350 kJ) or less per day. VLCDs also contain the recommended daily requirements for vitamins, minerals, trace elements, fatty acids and protein. Carbohydrate may be entirely absent, or substituted for a portion of the protein - and this choice has important metabolic effects. The VLCD products are usually a powder which is mixed with water or another low calorie liquid.

A 1997 study concluded that the use of a very low calorie diet (VLCD) is very effective in rapidly improving glycaemic control and promoting substantial weight loss in obese patients with Type 2 diabetes. Moreover, a VLCD increases insulin sensitivity and reduces the substrate for gluconeogenesis. Thus VLCD treatment may improve glycaemic control more than calorie restriction alone. A VLCD is typically undertaken by an obese patient who wishes to lose a lot of weight quickly, as the risk to health that obesity presents is considered much greater than any risks of the diet itself, so long as it is undertaken with medical supervision.

Because of the extremely low calories per day, a VLCD diet cannot be used by children no matter how obese. Also, a VLCD must not be undertaken without appropriate supervision.

All Howard’s Way locums are given extensive medical training relating to being on the diet, and constant back-up is provided by Penelope Howard herself, to ensure the continuing good health of all Howard’s Way patients.

About Howard’s Way VLCD

Penelope Howard had worked with obese patients and a very low calorie diet (VLCD) for some five years before she founded Howard’s Way in 1998.

Those enrolling on the Howard’s Way VLCD initially agree to an 18 week programme involving regular meetings twice weekly for the first four weeks, then once a week from there on. For the ‘Distance Dieter’ these meetings are replaced with one-to-one ‘support calls’ every week. In addition, Howard’s Way staff try to speak to those beginning the diet for at least five minutes a day to provide vital ‘moral’ support.

Howard’s Way recognises that the hardest struggle is maintaining lost weight. So, while dieting, all patients are talked through weekly handouts to gain knowledge and understanding on the workings of their body and the effects of eating certain foodstuffs. Additionally, Howard’s Way Maintenance support is ‘free of charge for life’ for all our dieters.

Typically, most patients lose at least three stones (20 kilos) in weight, men often much more, in the first 12 weeks of the diet. Those who choose to carry on with the diet continue to lose about a stone (6.5 kilos) every four weeks.

The Howard’s Way VLCD comprises specially formulated foods, in the form of: milk shakes; soups; and fruit bars; containing the full complement of vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fatty acids that an adult requires but restricting the calorific intake, to induce a state of ‘mild dietary ketosis’ after day three of the diet.

Further information from:
Penelope Howard: + 44 (0)1923 773851 /
Bob Little, Bob Little Press & PR: +44 (0)1727 860405 /
Company: Howard's Way
Contact Name: Bob Little
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: +44 (0)1727 860405

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