When Impowerage began this monthly series analysing particular diets, we stated that while eating healthy, nutritious food is the best kind of diet, some people prefer to have guidelines for their eating. Such guidelines often are sought more eagerly after the holiday season, when sumptuous and traditional foods can be eaten in greater quantities than usual. For some, gaining weight is an undesired but anticipated holiday tradition. The new year is an opportunity to set new goals, make changes in your habits, and reevaluate your boundaries.
The 17 Day Diet by Dr. Mike Moreno has risen in fame since its launch in 2010. In fact, in 2011, “17-day diet” was the third-fastest-rising Google search term relating to diets. The book advertises itself as a “simple plan that targets both belly fat and visceral fat and produces fast results that last!” It promises to help readers lose weight and keep it off, lose belly and visceral fat, and get all systems of the body in top working condition. The premise of the diet is that varied eating, outlined in four seventeen-day cycles, will stimulate the metabolism and burn fat. Moreno says this “calorie confusion” will not only achieve weight loss, but also help dieters avoid boredom.
One of the essential and perhaps most appealing aspects of The 17 Day Diet is the time allotted to building healthier habits. Seventeen days can feel much more achievable than months of seemingly endless dieting. Moreover, according to Moreno, after seventeen days, the body starts to recognize the diet as a habit and the metabolism begins to slow as a result.
The 17 Day Diet is not built upon one sequence of seventeen days, as its name may suggest. The program is structured around four seventeen-day cycles designed to change the body’s metabolism and burn fat daily. The first cycle aims to flush sugar and stored fat; the second alternates low and high calorie days to restart the metabolism; the third focuses on portion control and fitness; and the final cycle combines the first three and emphasises maintaining newly built habits.
The 17 Day Diet outlines not only nutrition guidelines, but also options for seventeen-minute mini-workouts that complement the diet. One simple mini-workout is walking, which may be the best option during the first two cycles, considering their limited caloric intake. Other mini-workouts designed to become a part of your daily routine are posted throughout the book.
Benefits of The 17 Day Diet
Approachable and Practical
Perhaps the principal draw of this diet is that it is broken down into goals that seem realistic and achievable. The diet provides guidelines, meal plans, and recipes using accessible ingredients. Such guidelines include replacing sugar with fruit and mayonnaise with mustard, and using spices and garlic for flavouring. The nutrition portion of The 17 Day Diet is comprised primarily of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and small amounts of grain. These are not fad foods, but are staples you may already have in your kitchen cupboards.
In cycle one, dieters are allowed an unlimited amount of nonstarchy vegetables, such as artichokes and broccoli, and lean protein, such as salmon or tuna. Only two daily servings of fruit, and one-to-two daily tablespoons of “friendly fat,” such as flaxseed oil, are permitted during cycle one.
In cycle two, days alternate between lower and higher caloric intakes. During this second cycle, fat is reduced to one serving, and two servings of healthy carbohydrates, such as black beans or quinoa, are added.
Cycle three expands the list of permitted foods to include more proteins, fats, starches, such as pumpernickel bread, vegetables, such as swiss chard, and fruits, such as apricots. Optional 100-calorie snacks are also added; however, protein is restricted.
Cycle four involves the assumption that the dieter has reached his or her goal, and focuses on maintaining new habits to keep weight off. In this cycle, dieters maintain their new habits during weekdays, but take weekends off as a part of Moreno’s variation strategy.
Visceral Fat Vetoed
One of the primary aims of the diet is to burn visceral fat. Visceral fat, also known as intra-abdominal fat, lies deep within the abdominal cavity, padding the spaces between the abdominal organs. Visceral fat is unlike subcutaneous fat, which lies close to the skin’s surface and can be felt and grasped. A person may be within a healthy weight range, but still have too much visceral fat; visceral fat can be accurately measured only with an imaging machine.
An article published by Harvard Medical School states that “as our waistlines grow, so do our health risks,” and that visceral fat is “of particular concern because it’s a key player in a variety of health problems.” Such health problems include high total cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and in women, breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.
Moreover, according to a study of more than 700 older adults published in Annals of Neurology, visceral fat is associated with a decrease in total brain volume, regardless of body mass index. While visceral fat is harder to lose than subcutaneous fat because it is more deeply embedded in the body’s tissues, the good news is that visceral fat yields fairly easily to exercise and diet.
One reason that this diet has gained popularity quickly is that cycle one yields fast results. Cycle one, the first seventeen days of the diet, is the most challenging cycle, as it involves a restrictive diet of 1,200 calories per day; however, dieters can lose up to fifteen pounds in that time. Such results can provide dieters with the motivation to stick to the diet. However, be aware that if you are not consuming enough calories, your metabolism will slow, and you will enter starvation mode.
Another practice prohibited in The 17 Day Diet is eating fruits or starchy carbohydrates after 2 p.m. However, diet and nutrition experts say what matters is the total number of calories consumed, not the time of day the consumption takes place. Registered dietitian Marisa Sherry says that there is no proof that “after certain times of day your body loses the ability to digest carbohydrates.” Research dietitian Mary Flynn, Ph.D., supports the assertion that there is no link between weight gain and the time food is consumed, saying, “your body digests and uses calories the same way morning, noon, and night.”
Despite the popularity and reported success of the diet, American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and registered dietitian Keri Gans says that the weight loss that results from the diet is from calorie restriction, not from the 17-day cycles or any “calorie confusion.” She says that while “the low-calorie plans featuring healthy foods are a good approach to weight loss,” there is “no evidence that you can fool your metabolism by calorie-shifting.”
Although the diet may have some criticism there are thousands of people who have found success with the diet. Reader Joy lost 50lbs on the diet even without doing the recommended 17 minutes of exercise. Since there is no special food to purchase, it enabled her to stay on her menu plan at any function or restaurant. She highly recommends the program saying, “the 17 day diet did not turn me into a short order cook! Since the food is all healthy and delicious, I prepared the same food for my entire family by simply adding extras for them.”
The 17-Day Diet Overview
Overall, the diet is fairly straightforward and achievable. Moreno writes in an easy-to-read style, an encouraging tone, and acknowledges the challenges of dieting and the individuality of each dieter. To this end, he makes special considerations for dieters encountering various cultural foods, vegetarianism and veganism, dining out, family challenges, holidays, travel, and even shift work. The ingredients of the recipes and meal plans are fairly accessible and reasonably affordable, and the mini-workouts are achievable and most likely can be incorporated into your current daily life.
However, the ban on eating carbohydrates after 2 p.m. has dietitians questioning the scientific basis of the diet. For those training or with very active lifestyles, cycle one may not provide the caloric intake active bodies require.
Click here to read the first chapter of The 17 Day Diet from ABC News.
The 17 Day Diet: Win a Free Copy
The 17 Day Diet by Dr. Mike Moreno includes recipes and meal plans, tips on eating during holidays, and seventeen-minute workouts. If The 17 Day Diet intrigues you, and you are interested in exploring the potential benefits of the diet further, enter to win a free copy by leaving a comment below, or on Impowerage’s Facebook page by 11:59 PST on March 10, 2012. Congratulations to Katie for winning a copy of the book