Last Friday I travelled to London to attend an event organised by Kellogg’s to promote the new My Special K website: www.myspecialk.co.uk.
Myself and several other bloggers were invited to the very swanky Soho Hotel in central London to watch a presentation on the new website, followed by a Spa session at the Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden.
We were shown some of the website features as well as a video testimonial from a lady who had successfully used the website to lose weight, and importantly, continue a healthier lifestyle.
So what does the website offer?
- Its free
- Flexible eating plans including easy cook, recipes based and a vegetarian plan
- Can specify a specific goal i.e. to lose weight for your wedding or lose baby weight
- Customised support from motivational emails, on screen tips and the website forum
- Short fitness videos and tips
- Accompanying iPhone app and link to Tesco.com grocery delivery service
- Easy to navigate site
- Tools such as a BMI calculator and eating out guide
- ‘Mood’ tracker which can be overlaid with weight tracker to identify emotional eating patterns
- Partnership with Glamour Magazine for fashion tips
- A maintenance plan once you have reached your goal
The team from Special K have worked closely with a panel of ‘experts’ in diet, nutrition and psychology to develop the site and all of the plans adhere to government guidelines around getting your 5 a day etc. The girls from Kelloggs clearly know their stuff and answered all of our questions very well.
I think they’ve realised that the fad ‘two bowls for two weeks’ diet was a bad idea (obviously!) and this new plan represents a complete move away from that kind of approach.
The site and information it provides has been developed in direct consultation with customers (I can testify to that having took part in a focus panel exercise last year).
The plans are also based on the concept of volumetrics – basically eating more food which is nutrient dense and lower calorie – a concept that I think a lot of healthy living bloggers already utilise, me included! Er, salad beast anyone?
I have to admit, I didn’t think I was going to have a very good opinion of the website – I wanted to attend the event to be able to ask questions. I’m certainly not a fan of Special K as a product, it is not something that I have ever really eaten, and would certainly not eat now. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while its pretty clear that I favour whole, real foods over processed foods such as breakfast cereals. I have even less interest in processed ‘diet’ foods.
However, their is no mention of Special K (other than all over the branding of course!) within the meal plans. The closest they get to encouraging you to eat Special K is ‘a low fat breakfast cereal’ which as it happens is featured as a breakfast option, (along with toast and juice etc, never just a bowl on its own) in the food plan every other day – so there is more than just a little encouragement to eat it. However, technically you could follow the plan and never eat a single Kelloggs product.
One of the other bloggers at the event is doing Slimmers World and felt the plan was very similar to that and other well known weight loss plans such as Weight Watchers. Some aspects of the website remind me of Weight Loss Resources too.
In the name of research I signed up to the site so I could see what kind of plan it gave me. Much to my dismay it told me that I was underweight! – my BMI is 20.4 – within the healthy range and therefore would only give me a maintenance plan to follow. Although I obviously highly disagree that I’m underweight I see this as a good sign in that anyone signing up who should not be losing any weight does not use the site to get down to an unhealthy weight, although some one could always put in false information if they wanted.
I was given a vegetarian plan – here’s an example of today’s meal plan:
Your balanced daily menu
Low-Fat Cereal and Banana with Fruit Salad Smoothie
A Kiwi and Yoghurt
Tahini and Beansprout Tortilla Wrap
Fresh Rapsberries with Custard
Peach and Fig
Swap meal from…
45 Kcals per portion
- 1 medium peach
- 1 ready-to-eat fig
Feta, Red Pepper and Courgette Macaroni Bake
I was pretty impressed with the food options I was given apart from the low fat breakfast cereal and custard. You also get the option to swap a meal with others in the websites database which is quite wide ranging. I think you may also have the option to input your own meals and recipes.
One thing that the plan doesn’t seem to take into consideration is exercise and eating to fuel / refuel and the impact that this would have on your calorie expenditure.
Another concern I had was that the plans would include too much processed food but part from the ‘low fat breakfast cereal’ most of the meals are made from scratch using whole ingredients, although this may be different on the easy cook plan.
I was also concerned that the focus on choosing a goal weight or event to work towards would mean that users resorted back to old eating habits and the yoyo dieting that has certainly caused me problems in the past. I was told that when your goal is reached you automatically move to the maintenance plan and the motivation emails / tips you receive are tailored to try and ensure you keep up the healthy habits you have developed rather than going back to making poor food choices.
My overall verdict:
I have to say I was impressed with the site, the plans seem to be pretty sensible. I think this could be a great tool for the average woman out there looking to lose weight who likes the more regimented approach of having a set out food plan rather than winging it themselves. I would even recommend this to my Mam as I know that this kind of set up would appeal to her. As long as you approach the site with a critical consciousness – i.e. be aware when they are trying to get you to buy their products, then this could be a great resource. The fact that the plan is free and is mainly based on unprocessed foods scores a big thumbs up from me.
Although I don’t agree with some of the theories behind the plan such as eating a low fat breakfast cereal every other day or only eating 5 fruit and veg a day – I think the more veggies the better and where is the porridge? I have no doubt that the plans if stuck to, would lead to healthy weight loss and some improvements in health. For me the website could go a lot further to promote the benefits of eating a long term, lifestyle changing whole foods based diet – but this is obviously not going to happen with a site that is set up to promote a manufactured cereal!
At the end of the day even though Special K is not specifically included in the meal plans the website itself is one giant Special K advert – they aren’t offering this for free for nothing!
So use the site and plans if this is something relevant for you and fits with your desired style of programme (web based, structured) – but ignore the Special K advertising!
Obviously this review is just based on my humble but honest thoughts and opinions – and its worth stating for the record that even though we were treated to a nice day out this has not in any way influenced my review of the site.
What are your thoughts? Have you looked at the site or do you feel that its something you would ever use?