- Proponents of the “Military Diet” of 1,000 calories a day claim that it can help participants lose up to 10 pounds in three days.
- The strict meal plan includes low-nutrient items such as hot dogs, ice cream and crackers, and requires participants to count calories in everything, including coffee.
- As with other fast diets, dietitians do not recommend it, as they say it puts people at risk of nutritional deficiencies and poor long-term health, and that participants will likely regain any weight they lose in the short term.
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With each new year comes a wave of modern diet promises and too good to be true, and 2020 is no exception. This time, it is the resurgence of an old concept known as the Military Diet, a low-calorie plan that aims to help adherents lose up to 10 pounds in three days.
On Twitter, a search for the Military Diet yields the same number of people who talk about their (often hungry) experiences in the plan, and advertisements that promote their weight loss abilities.
—✨ (@_starlyt) January 8, 2020
The meal plan varies from 1,000 to 1,300 calories per day, well below the typical recommended daily intake even for weight loss, since less than 1,500 to 1,200 calories can put you at risk of malnutrition, according to Harvard Health.
According to the Military Diet website, a typical breakfast in the plan consists of an egg, a slice of toast and half a fruit such as banana or grapefruit. Lunch is a cup of cottage cheese and five crackers, while for dinner you can expect two hot dogs (minus the bun), 1 cup of broccoli, 1/2 cup of carrots and 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream. .
Portion sizes are not negotiable, snacks are not allowed in the diet, and participants must subtract calories from drinks such as coffee (approximately five calories per cup) from their meals.
It is not clear where the diet came from, but it was not from the army
Also known as the Mayo diet, Cleveland Clinic or Kaiser, despite not being affiliated with any of these organizations, the origins of the crash diet are unclear. Online searches of the “Military Diet Plan” appear to have skyrocketed several times a year since at least 2012, most recently in the last days of 2019, according to Google Trends.
Despite the occasional claims that it was invented by an anonymous military officer, there is no evidence that the diet is related to any branch of the armed forces in any way. Nutrition specialist Patricia Deuster, who developed the official nutrition guide for the Special Operations Forces, has previously discredited military diet connections. The current guide recommends between 2,200 and 3,400 calories per day for operators.
“In my 30 years working with the army, I have never heard of him,” Deuster told CNN. “We don’t develop this. We don’t use it. It has absolutely no resemblance to the real military diet. Even our rations are healthier and healthier from a nutritional point of view.”
In fact, the diet does not seem to be supported by any expert or professional of any kind, much less by someone qualified in nutrition. There is no qualified expert on the diet website, and many of the sources he cites come from Wikipedia.
A message sent to the Facebook page for the “Three-day military diet” was not returned.
Experts do not recommend the military diet or similar low-calorie plans to lose weight quickly.
It is true that the diet will probably cause most people to lose weight. Any strict calorie deficit is likely to cause weight loss, especially in the short term, according to registered dietitian Rachael Hartley.
“Certainly, every time you restrict the calories that greatly deprive and deprive the body of the necessary nutrients, you will have rapid weight loss,” Hartley told Insider. “It’s a fast calorie controlled diet, there’s nothing special in the foods included.”
The diet could have negative side effects, according to Hartley, which include low blood sugar levels, dizziness and fatigue. People with health problems or taking medications may face additional risks.
In addition, exercising, or even performing daily tasks, can be difficult in such a low-calorie eating plan, Hartley added.
“A thousand calories are below the recommended daily amount for a 2-year-old child. So, for an adult who eats that and hopes to feed his day, he may not pass out, but he will not have the energy to perform at his best,” Hartley said.
More importantly, the quick-fix diet will not really make a difference in long-term health, as participants will regain weight if they return to their usual eating habits.
Nutritionists recommend healthy and sustainable changes over short and extreme diets
When it comes to eating habits, “sustainability is key,” registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Kirkpatrick previously told Insider.
“I often tell my patients that the best diet for them is one that they can follow in the long term,” he said. “Many of my patients try the Mediterranean, the keto or something else, and lose weight, just to get back to the old cravings and habits.”
Ideally, Hartley added, a sustainable eating pattern does not even have to include weight loss, but should prioritize good habits. This may include eating more vegetables, getting more physical activity or even making sure you get enough sleep.
“The focus on the scale really drives us away from what serves our physical and mental health,” he said. “Instead of looking at an arbitrary number, we should consider taking care of healthy behaviors that are sustainable.”
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