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The 17 Day Diet is actually three cycles, each lasting 17 days, plus a fourth long-term maintenance cycle. Whether you are looking to lose 10 or 100 pounds, this plan can help you lose weight quickly, avoid the dreaded plateau, and revamp your metabolism, says author, Dr Michael Moreno.

“Everyone wants fast results and the calorie confusion of this plan burns fat, achieves weight loss results, and helps dieters avoid boredom,” says Moreno.

The 17 day diet: What it is

Cycle 1, called “Accelerate,” strips your diet down to the bare bones of approximately 1,200 calories per day.

“This phase cleanses, hydrates, removes unhealthy carbs, improves unhealthy eating habits, and stimulates fat metabolism,” Moreno says.

In cycle 2 (called “Activate,”) the food plan is alternated with a slightly higher-calorie activate plan. Moreno says the zig-zag between cycles keeps the metabolism guessing, helps prevent boredom, and continues to stimulate fat burning to yield about a 5-6 pound weight loss.

Cycle 3, called “Achieve,” is the stabilisation period that allows healthier foods with a slower rate of weight loss of about 2-3 pounds, Moreno says.

Cycle 4 — the final phase, called “Arrive” — is when you arrive at your target weight. In cycle 4, follow meal plans from one of the earlier cycles during the week with controlled splurges at weekends to maintain your new weight.

Exercise at least 17 minutes a day during the first two cycles – primarily walking because of the limited calorie intake. In the later cycles, ramp up exercise to 150-300 minutes per week for continued weight loss.

The book, which is only available online, contains recipes and tips for eating out and handling your diet during the festive season.

The 17 day diet: What you can eat

The 17 Day Diet promotes a diet of clean eating, devoid of sugar, processed foods, fried foods and other unhealthy foods.

Cycle 1 allows an unlimited amount of non-starchy vegetables and lean protein (including 2 eggs per day, if you have normal cholesterol level), along with limited amounts of fruits, probiotics (such as yoghurt), and a little bit of “friendly” fat, such as olive oil or flaxseed oil.

Registered dietitian Melissa Nodvin, estimates this plan to be about 1,200 calories per day, or the minimum recommended calorie level.

Here is a sample day’s plan from cycle 1:

  • Unlimited lean protein
  • Unlimited non-starchy vegetables
  • 2 low-sugar fruits
  • 2 probiotics (low-fat yoghurt)
  • 1-2 servings of friendly fats
  • Green tea
  • More than 3 pints of water

Cycle 2 is the same as cycle 1 except it reduces the fat to one serving and adds two servings of healthy carbs, pushing the calories to about 1,500 daily, Nodvin says.

Healthy starches such as legumes, brown rice, bulgar, couscous, corn, squash and sweet potatoes are just a few of the options to choose from.

During this phase, you alternate lower-calorie days with slightly higher-calorie days.

Cycle 3 allows for the addition of more healthy food choices to help you achieve good lifetime eating habits. Food lists are expanded to include more healthy fruits, proteins, fats and starches. The meal plan is basically the same as cycle 2, except protein is restricted to portions equal to the size of a sponge and an added option for one serving of alcohol and 100-calorie snacks.

Cycle 4 assumes you have met your target weight. If you were lucky enough to lose all your weight in 51 days, this phase is about maintaining the new you. During the week, follow the guidance from cycle 1, 2, or 3 and when the weekend rolls around, let loose.

Moreno allows one to two favorite meals, and one to two alcoholic drinks daily at the weekends, but cautions dieters not to binge; he calls it strategic cheating. “If you only splurge a little, it will keep your weight in check and make it easier to get back on track on Monday,” Moreno says.

He suggests weighing in weekly and when the scales go up five pounds, return to cycle 2 until you get your weight back to normal.

The 17 day diet: How it works

Dieters clean up their diets, getting rid of fast foods, sweets, refined grains, and more in cycle 1. This phase is designed to ‘improve digestive health, help clear sugar from blood to boost fat-burning and discourage fat storage,” Moreno says.

Cycle 2 “causes calorie confusion, resets your metabolism by increasing and decreasing calorie intake to stimulate fat burning and prevent plateaus,” Moreno writes in the 17 Day Diet.

Cycle 3 has a liberalized meal plan that reintroduces healthy foods in proper portions and allows one alcoholic drink per day. Expect weight loss to slow down unless you miss out alcohol and/or increase aerobic exercise.

Assuming you achieve your weight loss goal by the end of cycle 3, you can progress to cycle 4 or maintenance. If not, return to cycle 2 and three until you arrive at your target weight.

Strategic cheating is the bonus in the final phase, where you can enjoy your favorite foods, within reason, on weekends. Dieters are allowed up to three favorite meals during the weekends.

Throughout the plan, dieters are encouraged to use portion control, eat breakfast, lots of salads, make healthy substitutes (mustard instead of mayonnaise, for example), get in touch with their hunger cues, drink plenty of water and eat slowly.

No fruit after 2pm is a red-flag tip that Moreno explains is because “it is harder to burn off these calories and they might get stored as fat.” Diet and nutrition experts say what matters is the total number of calories consumed, not the time of day or type of food.

We asked British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Dale Rees to comment on this diet plan.

“Working as a clinical weight management dietitian you come across lots of different diets, all trying to help you shift excess body fat.  For some people they can work. For most of the patients I see, they work for the short term and then, once boredom kicks in, it’s back to old habits and thus weight regain,” he says “The simple truth is: no diet fits all.”

How does the 17 day diet shape up? “As I teach my clients, the best way to lose weight is to look at how they are eating now (keeping a food diary) and decide on where they can cut down on calories by empowering them with knowledge about healthy eating behaviours.

“Everyone has their own preferences and needs, but generally the principles are the same. For example, taking time over meals, ensuring a regular eating pattern, trying to eat lots of fruit and vegetables, cutting back on fats and sugars, choosing healthy fats and using wholegrain carbohydrates, drinking plenty of fluids, doing activity, the list goes on.  Some of these principles are used by the 17 day diet, and I think these are good messages to convey.

“But it is still a ‘fad’ diet; people are sold a gimmick and think it will do the trick.  It’s not easy to change life-learned behaviours.  It requires time and support, including a holistic view of people’s attitude and behaviour around food.”

Dale Rees is also unimpressed with what he calls “flowery phrases” to the way the diet deals with body fat: “Fat storage occurs from having more calories than we need.  It’s not about where they come from or at what time we eat them.  Fat is easy to store; we are made for it!  I feel Dr Moreno likes to use ‘spin’ in selling his idea, making it sound more attractive.  I have difficulty with terms like ‘revamp your metabolism’ or that “calorie confusion of this plan burns fat”.

For safe-maintained weight loss Rees recommends the average woman reduces her calorie intake by 500 calories to start with – aiming for an average weight loss of 500g-1kg (1-2lb) per week. “In essence the first two phases of the 17 Day Diet are low calorie, low carbohydrate, and high protein diets.  If you stick with these, you will see weight loss as the body must turn to fat metabolism to provide the deficit in energy to function properly.

“If I had a client wanting to take this approach, I would advise that this is not done for more than four weeks.

“1,200 calories a day for two weeks is challenging. This is a low energy intake and people will find it difficult to sustain. ”

The later stages of this diet allow more freedom and include many more sources of carbohydrates. “I feel this is a good approach,” Rees says. “The thing I have a concern about is the controlled weekend splurges.  It doesn’t help to build a positive attitude to ‘bad’ foods.  It still causes stigma and a negative view of them, an earned guilty pleasure.  There is a place for so called ‘bad’ foods in a healthy diet, food and drink is pleasure for a lot of people.  I feel these foods should be incorporated into the diet not segregated to special days.  It’s not the right message.”

Despite the plan’s title, you will not lose weight quickly and keep it off after being on this plan for only 17 days.

Alternating between cycle 1 and cycle 2 might prevent boredom, but it really is just a strategy to cut calories and give you staying power to stick with the plan.

Although the evidence is lacking to substantiate Moreno’s weight loss theory of metabolic adjustment to burn fat, the principles of the diet are the foundation of all good diet plans: cut calories; eat healthy foods; limit sugars, alcohol and refined starches; and get regular exercise. That’s solid advice that will lead to successful weight control.

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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