The Diet Chef TV advertisement has been banned for breaching rules on social responsibility following numerous customer complaints. So what is the truth about this weight loss plan? Is it worth a try or is it based on some dodgy looking principles? We take a look.
Diet Chef is the largest diet food home delivery company in the UK with more than 150,000 customers and a £15 million turnover. According to an interview with founder and CEO Kevin Dorren, who has a background as a trained chef, his vision was to provide a “meals on wheels” service for people looking to lose weight.
His vision seems to have succeeded. The idea of Diet Chef is simple. You subscribe to the company and then get sufficient food to eat for a month delivered to your home. The food is in the form of microwaveable meals, breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks that are designed for healthy sustainable weight loss. You simply have to add your own fresh fruit and vegetables.
Before you start, you calculate how many calories you need to lose weight with the Body Mass Index Calculator on the website.
The daily calorie count of the meals adds up to 1200 calories so you will be given extra calories that you can use on other food, depending on your own statistics.
For example if your daily calorie requirement is 1400 calories a day, that will give you 200 calories to “spend “ on extras such as milk or even wine should you fancy it. However some users have complained that this is difficult if you want to factor in carbs, such as rice to have with your readymade curry in the evening.
According to Kevin Dorren, the Diet Chef menu gives you the same advantage as having your own personal chef cooking low calorie weight loss meals for you. In our opinion, this is a bit exaggerated because sticking a ready meal in a microwave is not the same as having a personal chef but there does seem to be plenty of different meal options to choose from. Many customers are pleased because the meals are so convenient.
The advantage of a meal plan like this is that it will take away any need for too much calorie counting or cooking over the month, 2 months or 3 months that you stay on the plan. If you do not cheat on your diet and stay within your daily calorie allowance, you should lose weight.
Instant meal plans like this are very popular in the USA and we have covered many of these in previous investigations such as Take Shape For Life.
When it comes to business, Diet Chef looks every inch the success story. The company was formed back in 2008 in Edinburgh by businessmen Kevin Dorren and Andrew Veitch. There are lots of stories about how this company started in a garage, which is true but the men have a strong business background. Dorren had already tried and failed in Silicon Valley with an £80 million dotcom business. Diet Chef was backed by £1.5 million crowd sourced platform Lending Crowd.
Despite their obvious business acumen, Diet Chef has recently run into trouble with consumers and the Advertising Standards Agency over an advert which was judged to be in breach of rules about social responsibility.
In the advert, Cheryl a tearful badly dressed young woman with messy hair and bad skin meets a “slimmer version” of her future self after 2 months of Diet Chef. Her future self is better dressed with better hair and makeup and is happy. The implication that has riled customers is that people who are overweight let themselves go and the only way to be happy is to be slim.
The less slim version replies: ‘You look, amazing. I never dreamed I could be that slim again.’
Future Cheryl says she ‘feels good’ and wonders why she waited so long to lose weight, to which the other version replies: ‘I just didn’t believe I could do it. I just couldn’t stick to anything.’
The voice over then kicks in to tell viewers to go to the website.
Diet Chef claims that the advert did not imply that people needed to be slim and attractive in order to be happy but ASA has not agreed and has banned the advert for breaching rules on social responsibility.
Many people have been made extremely angry by the advert. Us too. In our opinion it is extremely patronising and disrespectful. It seems wrong that the male owned business is targeting the insecurities of a predominantly female client base. You do not have to be thin in order to be happy and attractive but that is the message of the advert.
There is a choice of meal plans and you get to choose your individual meals and preferences when you order. The food is delivered in a box each month and gives you everything you need for 4 weeks (28 days). It does not include extras such as milk, fruit and vegetables, tea and coffee etc.
The individual meals do not vary in price but the longer you stay on the plan, the cheaper it is. So, the 4 week plan – the starter package costs £245 for 4 weeks.
The 8 week plan costs £185.00 every 4 weeks. You pay every month.
The best value plan is the 12 week program which is running a special offer of £95 for the first month and thereafter £190 each month.
You get to choose from a wide range of meal options when you order your package. According to the product information, there are over a 100 different recipes to choose from.
Breakfasts include various muesli blends, cereal bars.
Lunches include instant soups and meals (similar in size and appearance to Pot Noodles) which include creamy pasta, tomato and herb couscous, milkshakes and protein bars.
Dinners include pork meatballs, Italian Bolognese, Coq au Vin or Chicken Tikka. There is plenty of selection.
Snacks include oat bars, pretzels, popcorn and crisps.
There are six key features to Diet Chef:
It is important to remember that all the diet plans including the 4 week plan are subscription only and you will be billed every four weeks until you cancel.
Here’s what it says in the small print;
Please note that all Diet Chef meal plans are rolling subscriptions; at the end of your minimum commitment period you will continue to receive a hamper every 4 weeks, so you can seamlessly continue your weight loss. If you do not wish to receive any further hampers after your minimum commitment period, you can contact us and cancel your subscription.
This means that your order is renewed automatically so it is possible that you could end up paying more than you bargained for. For example, if you only signed up for the 4 weeks option for £245.00 you will have to pay this same amount again for the following month unless you cancel it first. The other plans are the same.
Worryingly if you change your mind and wish to cancel a long term order (8 weeks or the 12 weeks plan) before the allotted time span is up, you will have to pay a £50.00 cancellation fee to get out of the contract.
However you can pause the diet plan by contacting the company. This only applies to people following the 8 week or 12 week plan who wish to pause for up to 21 days.
You can pay via debit or credit card or PayPal.
There is a 21 day guarantee. But this does not offer you your money back in the case of dissatisfaction. The 21 day period simply allows you to cancel the plan free of charge. The terms and conditions read,
Please note that no cancellation fee will be charged if you cancel your Diet Chef plan during our 21 day money-back guarantee period.
Like most diet plans, Diet Chef will work if you keep to the meal choices and don’t add too many fattening extras. If you struggle with portion sizes and calorie counting you may find that this is an easy convenient method of weight loss.
However, we think that eating what looks like upmarket pot noodles each lunchtime and a microwave meal for yourself for your dinner will soon become depressing. In addition Diet Chef will not help you make lasting healthy choices you can live with. You are not going to get in the habit of cooking healthy non fattening meals and snacks from scratch so as a method of weight loss and weight maintenance it is not really sustainable. Once the deliveries stop you will be back to where you started and it might be hard to keep the weight off.
You can only buy Diet Chef via the official website so genuine customer experiences are only positive. There are numerous customer reviews posted on feedback site Trust Pilot but we cannot guarantee their authenticity. All feedback for Diet Chef appears to be positive.
Here is a typical success story left by a lady called Susan. Her before and after pictures look impressive,
Having seen TV adverts for Diet Chef, I signed myself up for their eight week plan and found it so easy to stick to. I began walking every day and took up Pilates. The weight dropped off. Following this initial success, I continued my monthly subscription and have managed to successfully lose 3st. I am now the weight I was forty years ago!
Diet Chef may be worth a try but you need to be careful. The billing structure leaves a lot to be desired and in our opinion customers may be encouraged to sign up for longer periods and for more money than is immediately obvious.
In addition, this diet plan may not be easy to stick to. Eating only microwave meals will not suit you if you enjoy food and cooking and have a family to cook for. In addition, it will be hard to resist adding rice to curries for example or milk to tea yet these choices need to be factored in. The product information tells you to eat your five a day but there is no calorie control on these foodstuffs. There will still be some calorie counting and mental juggling required in order to eat and keep within your daily target so it is not as straight forward as it first appears.
As for the banned Diet Chef advertisement, we would have expected a so called reputable company to have avoided fat shaming and clichés that women who are overweight have somehow let themselves go. In our opinion this shows the company has a low opinion of their Diet Chef customers and this combined with the somewhat tricksy payment terms makes this diet plan not quite as glossy and professional as it first appears.