Nutrition Wellness

The 3-Day Military Diet: Is it a 3-Day Waste?

October 26, 2018

The 3-Day Military Diet: Is it a 3-Day Waste?

Background

A popular fad-diet that has circulated for years is the “Military diet”. This diet claims you can lose 10 pounds in 1 week (as most diets do) by adhering to a strict 3-day menu followed by 4 days of eating less than 1,500 calories each day. Many diet gurus promise that the diet is chemically balanced to help you kick start metabolism and burn fat fast. The fact that it is coined the “Military Diet” (which has no real ties to the armed forces) also makes it sound very legitimate and intense. But can this diet actually help someone lose 10 pounds in 1 week?

The Plan

Before we get into a dietitian’s perspective of this diet, let’s take a look at what is actually planned in the 3 day menu. The table shown here displays the layout of the diet and what you are expected to follow for 3 days straight.

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Day 1 1 slice of toast

2 Tbsp peanut butter

½ grapefruit

1 cup tea/coffee

½ cup tuna

1 slice of toast

1 cup tea/coffee

3 oz of meat

1 cup green beans

½ banana

1 small apple

1 cup vanilla ice cream

Day 2 ½ banana

1 hard-boiled egg

1 cup tea/coffee

1 hard-boiled egg

1 cup cottage cheese

5 saltine crackers

1 cup tea/coffee

2 hot dogs (no bun)

½ banana

½ cup of carrots

½ cup of broccoli

½ cup of vanilla ice cream

 

Day 3 1 slice of cheddar cheese

5 saltine crackers

1 small apple

1 cup tea/coffee

1 slice of toast

1 cooked egg

1 cup tea/coffee

1 cup of tuna

½ banana

1 cup of ice cream

 

After the 3 days are done, you are expected to continue days 4-7 with a caloric limit of 1,500 calories or less.

The Real Results – Symptoms

Depending on what someone is used to eating throughout the day, this may look manageable. However, the caloric content of these planned days are only 1,100-1,400 calories each day. When humans consume low amounts of energy such as this, most people will experience symptoms including:

  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Hunger
  • Shakiness

These symptoms tell us that the body is saying, “you are not feeding me enough!” This is also known as hypoglycemia. One cure for these symptoms could be to eat more carbohydrates, but unfortunately for somebody following a strict diet like the Military diet, that is not exactly an option. They are left to go to work, interact with family and friends, or run errands with all of these symptoms dragging them down.

This is certainly not ideal. But if this diet does what it promises then maybe those symptoms are worth suffering through, right? Not exactly. According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a diet plan should not be followed if it cannot be followed for the rest of one’s life. If someone does not want to be hypoglycemic for the rest of their life, then this is not the diet for them.

The Real Results- Fluid

But wait…this diet is only supposed to last for one week. After 10 pounds melt off, why would someone need to stick with it? The problem with this promise that the body is incapable of losing 10 pounds of body fat in 1 week. Sure, you might lose 10 pounds, but that weight is likely just fluid that your body releases after a few days of not receiving balanced nutrition. This is very common in most fad diets, especially low-carb diets. The fluid loss can be very exciting for people who follow these diets, but the problem is that people think it is body fat being lost. You can imagine how disappointing it is when carbs are reinstated and the fluid weight returns. Most people end up very discouraged by this because they think they ate “bad foods” and that is why they gained the weight back. This fosters negative emotions towards food, a poor relationship with nutrition, and poor self-image. Typically we see that people return to trying a different diet out to lose the weight they just gained back, which is when the cycle of yo-yo dieting begins.

What I Recommend

If you are considering following the Military Diet and you have made it this far, I hope to have educated you a little better so you are prepared for what is to come. Weight that has been lost rapidly almost always comes back (and can even come back with a few more pounds behind it). What I would recommend is a slow-and-steady weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week with portion control, a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, and the addition of more exercise. All foods can fit into a healthy diet and they can fit into your diet, too! Healthy weight loss takes time, patience, and an open mind. With the right tools in hand, you are ready to create a healthy relationship with food and with yourself – no military experience required!

Michelle Yates, RD, LMNT

Michelle Yates, RD, LMNT, is a clinical dietitian at CHI Health Lakeside Hospital, specializing in the Medical/Surgical unit & the Oncology unit. She doubles as a dance instructor as well as a master’s student for Health Psychology. Her passions are to help others break free from any negative ideas of food they carry, along with opening their eyes to the joys of “everything in moderation”.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CHIhealth.com | Contact Us | News Center | Privacy Notice