‘Lose a Stone in 21 Days with Michael Mosley’: Second Nature’s response

If you’ve been watching the news headlines lately, you’ll have no doubt heard the controversy over Michael Mosley’s new programme on channel 4.

The aim of this programme is for people to lose 1 stone (~6.5kg) in 21 days.

This experiment is led by scientific journalist Michael Mosely, who places 5 volunteers on a very low-calorie diet and then closely monitors any changes to their fat and muscle throughout the 21 days.

This programme has aired just as the government have focussed attention on improving obesity prevention, due to the link to poorer outcomes from coronavirus (COVID-19).

We do agree that there are some valid points made in this programme, including:

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If you have weight to lose, losing weight is beneficial for your health
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It’s important to look at more than just BMI (including waist measurement and fat:muscle ratios)
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Being overweight or obese has been shown to increase your chances of complications if you catch coronavirus (COVID-19)
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Following a very low-calorie diet will result in weight loss.

However, we also have a few concerns with the programme and how this ‘experiment’ has been set up, including:

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Promoting shame around being overweight or obese isn’t an effective weight-loss strategy
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Participants psychological wellbeing and supporting mental health wasn’t considered, which plays a big role in sustainable lifestyle changes
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Following a balanced, very low-calorie diet isn’t realistic or sustainable for the majority of people
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An attention-grabbing title which targets people’s insecurities and then shows an unrealistic approach (for most people, unsupervised) is questionable.

In this article, we’re going to go into more detail about the valid points and issues that we see with this programme. It’s worth noting that this review focuses on episode 1 of the series.

A very low-calorie diet

It’s not that participants won’t lose weight on a very low-calorie diet. In fact, we’re sure that they will. Cutting our energy intake dramatically will result in a negative energy balance, which means we’re burning up more energy than we’re putting in. This will almost certainly lead to weight loss.

A large, ongoing study called the DIRECT trial demonstrated that significantly more individuals with type 2 diabetes achieved remission when placed on a very low-calorie diet, compared with those given standard NHS care for type 2 diabetes.

This study was the first of its kind to demonstrate that losing a significant amount of body fat can help many people achieve type 2 diabetes remission. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s a realistic, long-term diet for most people.

For context, Michael Mosely’s diet programme provides 800 calories a day, and the recommended daily number of calories is 2,000 and 2,500 for females and males respectively. That’s less than half of what many of us should eat in a day.

So what’s the issue?

Everyone’s unique

We’re all unique. An approach that might work for one of us won’t necessarily suit someone else. For most individuals who’re looking to lose weight and keep it off in the long term, a lower-carbohydrate diet, where you reduce the number of carbs you’re eating but don’t eliminate them from your diet, seems to be the most effective for weight loss.

For some people, excluding carbs entirely from their diet might be too drastic an approach or unrealistic for their specific lifestyle or dietary needs. In those circumstances, it would be counterproductive, as it’d most likely lead to them giving up. The best ‘diet’ is one that we can incorporate into our lives and stick to in the long term.

A much more effective way to approach weight loss in real-life settings is to follow a plan created by registered nutritionists and dietitians who take your preferences and lifestyle into account.

Is keto best?

The diet at the beginning of this series is essentially a very low-calorie, ketogenic (keto) diet. It’s important to note that there’s a difference between a ‘low/lower carbohydrate’ diet and a ‘ketogenic’ diet.

The ketogenic diet (keto) is high in fat and eliminates carbs almost entirely. By doing this, the body is deprived of its primary fuel source, glucose. The body then creates new metabolic pathways and starts to function using fatty acids from fat stores and dietary fat intake. Over time, ketones which are produced from the breakdown of fat will start to be used by the brain for energy instead of glucose. This process is called ketosis.

While this may sound ideal, the keto diet can be challenging to follow effectively in the long term. It’s much more restrictive and one ‘slip up’ will take you out of ketosis temporarily.

Volunteers in the programme report feeling dizzy, nauseous, faint, and generally unwell. This is common when transitioning into ketosis and is known informally as ‘keto flu’. These participants are medically supervised and regularly monitored, but this might not be suitable for those of us attempting this diet alone within the context of a busy schedule.

In this programme, participants will follow a keto, very-low calorie diet for a period of time and then slowly introduce carbs back into their diet. Although it’s likely this programme was created to make headlines and to prove that quick weight loss is possible, we don’t believe that it stresses enough that this approach shouldn’t be adopted by everyone without supervision.

For most people, a lower-carb diet, rather than keto, is the most sustainable to follow in the long run and won’t cause the same short-term side effects.

Fuelling the problems with ‘diet’ culture

There are many different factors that should be considered when losing weight – it’s not as simple as ‘eat less, move more’.

Many of us feel demotivated to make healthy changes because of the pressures and judgement that come from society. The recent government obesity strategy has been questioned because of this.

A lot of the language used in the first episode of this programme harbours a shame culture around being overweight or gaining weight. Within 3 minutes, Dr Mosely is discussing the rise of the ‘lockdown belly’ and how many of us have ‘piled on’ the ‘corona kilos’.

For many people, the pandemic has been an incredibly challenging, unsettling period. Between worrying about loved ones, job uncertainty, and disruption to our daily lives, many people have struggled to keep up a healthy routine.

Encouraging people to harbour guilt for this is, in our opinion, unfair and counter-productive. One volunteer openly discusses how she longs to ‘be normal’ and not think about her weight every time she eats. This mindset can be a huge obstacle for many individuals looking to change their lifestyle, and support should be offered to adjust this mindset, rather than encouraging it, so that any healthy changes can be sustained in the long run.

Considering two-thirds of people regain all the weight they lost and then some following a strict diet, it’s incredibly important to think in the long term rather than in the short term.

Psychological health is key

Stress is one of the most important factors to manage if you’re trying to lose weight, yet very few of us consider our stress levels when making healthy changes. Evidence suggests that stress can lead to weight gain, both indirectly and directly.

Near the start of the first episode, participants discuss feeling lonely, dealing with job loss, and battling with unhealthy relationships with food. All of these factors have an impact on mental health and ignoring this piece of the puzzle is likely to result in participants giving up or regaining the weight they lose (and then some) in this 21-day period.

On top of this, scaremongering people into finding out their ‘metabolic age’ only contributes to stress and anxiety. Everyone responds differently, and although some individuals might benefit from a stern push, it might simply induce further anxiety for others. We’d hope that there’s a focus on mindset and some psychological support behind the cameras, but on camera, there’s no mention of either.

An alternative approach

At Second Nature we know that shaming people about their weight isn’t an effective weight loss strategy. Instead, education around nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress, alongside advice from a registered dietitian or nutritionist health coach, is a much more effective and long-term approach.

The Second Nature programme provides:

  1. 1-1 digital support from a registered dietitian or nutritionist, keeping you motivated and accountable
  2. A digital peer group to help you work through challenges and share your achievements
  3. Habit-change techniques to improve your nutrition, sleep, stress, activity levels, and more
  4. Daily educational articles
  5. Simple recipes with step-by-step videos that won’t leave you feeling hungry
  6. No calorie counting. No fad diets. No hunger.
  7. Tracking technology to track your weight, steps, and sleep.

A barrier that many of us face is the time and cost commitments that in-person programmes demand. The Second Nature programme is done entirely digitally, so you get all these benefits from the comfort of your home at a time that suits you, without paying for travel or taking time off work.

Become a Second Nature member

Join today and take advantage of our two-week money back guarantee (not that we think you’ll want to).

Write a response

Sue Turner
13 September, 2021

I have macula degeneration and wondered if I would be able to follow the plan digitally with my sight impairment finding it increasingly difficult to follow recipes

20 September, 2021

Hi Sue,

Thanks for your comment and interest in our programme!

Please email as they’ll be able to discuss programme accessibility with you 🙂

31 August, 2021

I filled in the form for a free trial, then at the end it says I have to pay so I’ll opt out

6 September, 2021

Hi Gerda,

Apologies for any confusion!

We offer a two-week risk-free trial which means you’ll make your first payment upfront, and then have two weeks from your programme start date to cancel for a full refund if you find the programme isn’t for you – no questions asked.

If you’d like our free 5-day plan in the meantime while you’re deciding, please email to request and our team will send that through to you 🙂

31 August, 2021

I need to lose 1 1/2stone.
I’m 5’5 and weigh 11st 7 lbs

6 September, 2021

Hi Gerda,

Thanks for your comment! We’d love to help you reach your weight loss goal.

To learn more about our programme, you can take our health quiz here, or email with any questions 🙂

Alison moore
25 August, 2021

I need to lose weight i have diabetes

26 August, 2021

Hi Alison, thanks for your comment and interest in our programme – we’d love to help you reach your weight loss goal!

To date, we’ve helped hundreds of people living with diabetes to lose weight and improve their blood sugar control. We take a holistic approach to lifestyle change at Second Nature, all of which can have a positive impact on the management of your diabetes. Alongside providing advice on which foods to choose, we’ll also help you to increase your exercise, get a better night’s sleep, and reduce your stress levels. 

We recommend informing your GP, diabetes nurse, or specialised dietitian prior to signing up, and checking in with them regularly throughout the programme in case any of your medications need to be adjusted.

To learn more about our programme, you can click here, or email with any questions 🙂

Vicky Wilde
14 August, 2021

I need to lose weight with help

14 August, 2021

Hi Vicky, you’ve come to the right place! We’d love to help you reach your weight loss goal.

To take our health quiz, please click here, or email with any questions.

2 August, 2021

Need to lose 2st

3 August, 2021

Hi Brenda, thanks for your comment!

We’d love to help you towards your weight loss goal. For more information about how our programme works, please click here, or email with any questions 🙂

Gemma Lawrence
20 July, 2021

Want to lose 1 stone

Doig Simmonds
10 July, 2021

I need to loose one stone

22 July, 2021

Hi Doig, thanks for your comment – we’d love to help you reach your weight loss goal. For more information on our programme, you can click here, or email with any questions 🙂

Andrea Croft
8 July, 2021

I want to lose weight to feel better about myself and be healthy

Penelope Franks
6 July, 2021

Have lost weight before and maintained but with lock down and an ill husband have sparingly put a stone back on Help

22 July, 2021

Hi Penelope, thanks for your interest in our programme – we’d love to help you reach your weight loss goal. For more information on our programme, please click here, or email with any questions 🙂

Jane Stanton
3 July, 2021

I too was concerned by the simplistic and somewhat sensationalised approach to weight loss on Michael Moseley’s Chanel 4 programme, especially given that he is medically trained.

Most of us are well aware by now that these ” quick fix” diets have been around forever, their success rate is low and that there is no ” one size fits all solution” to weight loss.

There appeared to be little or no reference to highly significant contributing factors such as stress or shift work and the psychological element seemed to be largely overlooked.
Thank you for your measured response which I hope will reassure many.

Lorraine Green
28 June, 2021

Need to lose 2 stone..i am going for an op for my the monent diary foods i cant eat as thy effect my gallbladder plus certain other foods do also so i am interested in what foods i can have to eat that wont upset my tummy and gallbladder and help me lose weight plus gain energy..

Lindsey Murphy
11 June, 2021

Just been diagnosed as type 2 diabetic, also managed high BP and taking thyroxin. At 61, I’m concerned although I eat healthily. I’m keen to try the diet and hope for positive results and feedback afterwards.

Beulah Bogue
8 June, 2021

I have underactive thyroid and high blood pressure find it very difficult to lose weight but very easy to gain weight

30 May, 2021

I have no thyroid, it was removed 4 years ago

30 May, 2021

Need to lose a stone but I need a plan that is gluten & diary free

27 May, 2021

Interested in loosing weight and want to see learning about the plan.

1 May, 2021

I have just 1 week left of the 12 week 2nd nature course. In that time I have managed to get my weight down by over a stone and a half. I now eat better, sleep better, am fitter and feel good. My clothes don’t fit so well but I am no longer obese. My blood pressure medication is down to a quarter of what it was when I started this, and my type 2 diabetes medication has been cut in half. It has changed my life and I cannot recommend it too highly. I will miss it after next week but I am sure the changes will be long term. My name is Chris , a 71 year old male.

Diane morris
30 April, 2021

I have to lower my cholesterol,my dr has told me to try Morley’s diet

Chrissy Rynor
29 April, 2021

Need to lose 4 stone at least !

Kim Ford
28 April, 2021

I am interested in this as I’ve just been diagnosed as diabetic type 2

Claire Vermaut
13 February, 2021

need inspiration

amanda marsden
15 November, 2020

Please could I have the 5 day free recipes

Amy Groome
1 December, 2020

Hi Amanda, please take our health quiz here to get the 5-day free trial and example meal plans.

Shirley Geraghty
8 September, 2020

The Direct trial doesn’t cut out carbohydrates, the food on the very low calorie diet (actually made by Cambridge Weight Plan) contains all food groups including carbs.

Trudie Zabrana
25 August, 2020

Funny that Michael Mosely and his wife have more important qualifications as Doctors rather than journalists – as did the Scarsdale diet developer. Against your red crosses I would like to reply that while shame is not beneficial neither is it of any help to tell an overweight person that it is OK – On a purely health basis it is not OK – it is killing them. An attention grabbing title may just motivate people to try harder and while I would agree that a very low calorie diet is not for everyone, please take into consideration that there are many people who can eat 2000 calories plus without any real nutrition. Better to get 800 calories of fish meat, veg and fruits than 2000 calories which includes lots of treats to make you “feel better”. Having battled with weight for most of my life it is my experience that the only way to get or keep slim is to eat less food and ensure there is enough protein, vitamins and minerals to stay as healthy as possible. One of my best friends and greatest supporters has always maintained that when given the list of excuses for being overweight that it is strange that no one ever came out of a concentration camp overweight. Sad but true

Tamara Willner
26 August, 2020

Hi Trudie, thank you for your comment! We totally agree that telling people who have weight to lose that it’s healthy isn’t the right route. However, we’d argue that there’s a difference between shaming individuals who’re looking to lose weight and actually supporting and educating them (including supporting their mental health). Evidence suggests that a lower-carb approach results in weight loss which is sustained over a long period of time. You can find out more details about a lower-carb diet in our guide here. Many people on our programme find that they aren’t hungry, which helps them stick to their healthy eating plan. On a calorie-restricted diet, people are often left unsatisfied, which can lead to them giving up after a period.

Jo Mc
15 August, 2020

Fantastic article. I do find that stereotypical ‘lockdown belly’s as was described by the program is quite unsupported of those who have actually lost weight since lockdown.

15 August, 2020

An excellent article. Very informative with plenty of common sense points.
Many thanks.