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

March 30, 2018

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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 a 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 you might like this diet?

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.

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  1. Jayla says:

    I’m not much of a reader, but I can honestly say this is the first article I actually enjoyed reading. You’re funny lol

  2. giselle says:

    This is the first time I am posting on a site like this. I was reading about diets and one thing led to another and led me to your site. Thank you for sharing your experience with meal replacement shakes. I have never done it before, but I am seriously considering it. I was wondering if you or if you heard about anyone who had the one meal of real food for lunch rather than dinner? I don’t like to eat late so I was considering lunch being the meal time.
    Thanks again for being so open and sharing. It was informative as well as entertaining!

  3. Constance Reader says:

    I am considering doing meal replacement once a day, when I get hungry in the afternoon and would usually snack. But previous experience with these drinks have been unsuccessful because the first time I pee after the shake, my stomach is empty and playing the 1812 Overture again. Was that your experience?

  4. JS says:

    I lost a lot of weight when I drank 3 slim fast shakes per day and took a chromium picolinate weight loss pill to curb hunger. You will need an appetite suppressant to help stay on the shake diet. Once when I had shakes only with no appetite suppressant I was really hungry. 800 calories per day diet is a good number to stick with. You will be slim.

  5. Jacquiline says:

    I have to say, I found your analogy of dieting to be incredibly entertaining! 🤣 moreover, I believe your assessment is quite accurate… Keep it simple! The more complicated it becomes, the more difficult it is to actually stick to dieting. Thanks for the info!

  6. Carrie Corrales says:

    Yes! The equate meal replacement shakes from Walmart are the Best I’ve tasted. Vanilla particularly. 2 shakes, 1 dinner, 45 minutes of treadmill. Im noticing the difference! So glad I came across this site. Your a Rockstar OneStrongSouthernGirl!

  7. April May says:

    For someone who gets on the scales only to hear them yell ‘Hey…one at a time please’ I love your article, the humour and good advice. There’s more common sense here than in the 101 books on diets I’ve read that always seem to focus on the young and able. Of course you stress the exercise bit which makes sense, but as I am disabled this can be a bit iffy, but I think I may see light of a very long tunnel at last. So thanks heaps and stay safe.

  8. Teri Allton says:

    Hi there! I have actually made this my regular for some time now…maybeeee around 2 1/2 yrs?? But for different reasons. Basically I was having a huge issue with having to get dentures and the fun that goes along with that – you have a year of your gums shrinking so they pretty much fit for a few days and then back to soreness, them not sticking, etc., all of which result in the inability to chew ANYTHING WHATSOEVER! After the shrinking year, I ran into finance issues right at the same time as I broke my bottom denture. Yeah. Great. Fixed it myself, and have been re-lining and fixing again when it re-breaks due to the repair stuff wearing down myself ever since! I’m aware of the health risks of not going to the dentist to take care of this, but it’s just flat-out not an option! SOOO I was getting really just ill due to malnutrition and thought I’d try to see if these shakes would help. Took FOREVER to find one I actually like, but I did and it’s been not only a lifesaver, but I got added benes of fat loss, extra energy, and more vitamins in me that I never got out of my my eating habits prior to this! I do it backwards, I eat breakfast and then shakes the rest of the day, I just found I feel better that way. Also I will add either ice and blend it or even like no carb vanilla ice cream or sometimes even a bit of regular ice cream when I’m feelin like a reward, and it makes it taste like it’s really a shake!! I use the creamy vanilla flavor of the Atkins one – it’s the only one that I don’t taste that nasty chalk flavor in, and I’ve tried em ALL! Never felt healthier and so used to it now that I’m keeping it this way! When I started exercising more often, I found that literally quadrupling your water intake makes all the difference in burning fat quick and tiring so easily. Just a bit of info for you or anybody else out there!

    • Hi Teri! Wow, you’ve been through a lot. I’m not sure if I’ve tried the creamy vanilla Atkins flavor but if it doesn’t have the chalky flavor then I’m sure it’s good. Thank you for sharing this! I’m sure your insight will help someone else.🙌

  9. Tracy says:

    I use slim fast shakes (cafe latte or chocolate/caramel and I add instant coffee granules to those). I love the shakes both taste wise and ease, like you I’m not into complicated. Missing chewing so much I even started to snack on crisps which are not my go to junk food. I also fit normal chocolate in most days which is my weakness. Even with some massive cheat days I have managed to lose 28lbs in 8 months so I am going to continue. My main issue is that I skimp on the meal so I can squeeze in choc or ice cream or some kind of baked goods. Slowly, repeat slowly, getting there though I like veg, meat and yogurts so trying to increase those and decrease sweet stuff. Not easy, but worth it x

    • Hey Tracy! 28 lbs! That’s amazing! I know what you mean about ‘missing chewing’! lol! You never even think about missing that until you start ‘eating’ liquid meals all the time. And I can totally relate about the chocolate. I can’t go very long without it, either. Thanks for taking the time to share this. I know it helps others who’re thinking about trying out meal replacement shakes. Congratulations on the weight loss! And thanks again for your insight. Best, Mickie

  10. Angela McCarley says:

    Oh my goodness! I should have lost 3 pounds just from laughing so hard. I started my liquid diet out of the blue today and wanted some advice on what to do besides replace the shakes and drink tons of water. This article has given me so much laughter and life! Good luck to all and please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

    • Oh Angela, you made my day! I love it when I find another person who ‘gets me’ and my humor. Thanks for taking the time to write this (and read about my experience with meal replacement shakes). Good luck with your liquid diet! You’re certainly in my thoughts and prayers.???? Mickie

  11. Kelly Martens says:

    Well I don’t know if anyone is reading this but I started using “Raw Organic Meal Organic Shake and Meal Replacement” 90 days ago. You are right, its not going to be a drink you go “YUMMY I WANT MORE”! I did make changes. I added goodbelly and flax seed. I bought a shake bottle with a ball and shook it vigorously. I took one to work and kept it in the fridge. During work I munched on grapes and low salt pretzels when the “busy eating” craving struck. At night I ate whatever I want for supper. How did I do? I lost 10 pounds in 90 days. More importantly, I feel better then I have in years. Also the cravings I had for years… the cravings for many of my favorite foods – bacon,eggs,potatoes and such diminoshed in a huge way. My favorite snacks – Doritos and other high fat foods – don’t even taste good anymore. It makes me wonder if something happens to the brain with what we eat, as if its like a poison we become addicted to and when its removed the body rebels, thus the craving. I won’t lie it wasn’t an easy transition initially. I still don’t really know who I am anymore food wise because it all keeps changing. Its also inspired me to address other areas. I drink at least 6 22 ounce bottles of water a day and have watched the swelling of the tissues due to toxicity almost null. Last week I switched to decaf (first two days sucked) and next week going to try a herbal tea in the mornings instead. My only daily meal I’ve been looking at ways to improve. I could never be a vegan. I think some of it is very unhealthy. But the bottom line is I’m very very glad I stuck with it. It worked for me. I’m also learning to ignore the “experts” because everybody’s journey here is truly they’re own

    • Hi Kelly! I read every comment so thank you for taking the time to give yours! I love all your insight. Congrats on 10 lbs! My favorite part of your feedback is ‘I’m learning to ignore the ‘experts’ because everybody’s journey here is truly their own’. I don’t necessarily ignore the experts but it’s so valuable to recognize that your personal journey will be unique to you so it’s important to find your own way. Thanks so much for sharing this! Have a great day. Mickie

  12. Chantelle says:

    This has definitely made my day…this was so close and as personal and realistic as it gets… THANK YOU DO MUCH FOR SHARING‼️
    I searched this “diet” plan to see if it was realistic and common. I recently purchased a few cases of the meal replacement shakes (equate- creamy strawberry and french vanilla flavors) and didn’t really like that one distinctive “protein shake” after taste. So today I decided to use my little bullet blender and add ice cubes and a banana with the shake and I AM IN LOVE…it’s a shake now! I could really get use to this taste and it’ll be easy for me to stick to replacing 2 meals a day. I initially tried to start keto but I am way too busy to keep up. I can maintain eating within the keto guidelines for dinner though. This is day one of replacing meals so I will definitely be back to give an update in 4 weeks from now. (I personally added the memo to my Google calendar). Thanks so much for the inspiration!

    • I’m so glad this helped you!! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave your feedback and YES please check back in! I can’t wait to hear about your next 4 weeks on the shakes! Have an awesome day!

  13. valerie says:

    The equate shakes are good whether you are dieting or not. I worked in health care many years and on our breaks in the hospital, we often drank an equate shake. Working the midnight shift, you can easily gain weight. Drinking an equate shake, is a good way to get some nutrition without the pounds. Now that I am older, retired, more sedentary and need to lose a good amount of weight, I have chosen to eat the following: Coffee for breakfast. Toast with jelly or a plain bagel with jelly for late morning snack. Equate shake in the afternoon. Healthy Choice Meal or green salad for supper. Late Evening Snack or TV Snack as I prefer to call it, fruit such as strawberries, grapes, melon, or apples. It’s not just about dieting. It’s about a life style change. I don’t think it is good to deprive yourself because you will gain the weight back and then some. So while dieting, choose the foods you enjoy and eat them at a minimum, a few days per month. For example, instead of eating an entire package of Oreo’s, eat two or three. Be sure to drink lots of water……not just during your diet, but every day. Dieting truly does not need to be real difficult. I think a big problem people have is wanting to see weight loss immediately. If you’re very obese, you will see weight loss faster than someone only needing to lose ten pounds. Of course, do some sort of exercise daily and it does not need to be formal. In other words, rake the yard, mow the yard, pull weeds, go for a brisk walk, mop the floors, etc. The point is, get moving!

    • Hi Valerie! There’s so much great advice here! I love your term ‘TV snack’…we can all relate to that one. Thanks for sharing. And yes, yes, yes to that last one! Get moving! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Best, Mickie

  14. Jack Spencer says:

    I started with Premier Protein shakes twice a day and average 500 calorie dinner plus 3 pieces of fruit as snacks. i’ve lost 4 pounds so far, but I’m 60 pounds overweight and the first pounds go fast if you’re obese.
    I do one or two cheat meals a week. I have what I want, but don’t stuff myself. This keeps my metabolism from stalling.

    • Hi Jack! I’ve never tired Premier Protein shakes. How’s the taste and consistency? It sounds like it’s working for you! Thanks for sharing and keep me posted on your final results. I’d love to know how long you’re able to maintain the shakes. It’s a tough ‘diet’ plan because there’s just not enough variety with meal replacement shakes (in my opinion). Thanks for reading! Best, Mickie

    • Grace Waits says:

      I just started the Premier Protein shakes twice a day as well. Jack, can you give me an update on how your doing and how long you’ve been doing it?

  15. Nicole Poche says:

    I LOVED reading your experience. It really felt like you were talking directly to me. This is day 15 for me. I replace 2 meals with a sensible meal. I been walking 45 mins to an hour every morning. I cut out fast foods bread pasta some sugar(my coffee in the am need 2 tbs) juices sodas. Only water. I would love to hear more.

    • It sounds like you’ve got it down! Have you lost any weight? Cutting out fast food and bread/pasta is SO HARD!! I really like using meal replacement shakes to lose weight because it’s so easy to execute (no calorie counting) but for all the reasons I talk about in the post it’s difficult to do it for very long because, let’s face it, they don’t taste very good and they are in NO WAY like food. Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment!

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