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Deconstructing The Military Diet

Have you heard of the military diet? It's a fad diet that comes and goes in popularity. Curious about whether it delivers? Read on to find out!

Growing up in a military family made me appreciate the discipline and commitment that are required to be in the military. The so-called military diet that is making the rounds on the internet again is not endorsed by any branch of the military, but it is being hailed by its devotees as a way to jump-start or perk up your weight loss efforts.

Before you raise your hand to salute the military diet, make sure you know the pros and cons.

The Theory

No one is certain where the military diet originated, although there is a website for it. The diet works on the theory that regulating your food intake to a certain balance of carbohydrates and calories for three days will help you lose a few pounds in a week.*

*Disclaimer: Causes for being overweight vary for every individual. This means no individual result should be seen as typical, and results may vary for every person who tries a diet or weight loss program.

It all sounds good in theory, but let’s be real. This theory is just based on the known scientific fact that lowering calories results in weight loss. There is no science behind the foods you eat during the three days of the diet. It’s simply a low-calorie diet with specific foods to consume.

What You Drink

Drink water. A lot of it, all day. The best way to increase water consumption throughout the day is to have a water bottle on hand that keeps water cool for up to 24 hours. Not only will you stay hydrated, but you will feel fuller throughout the day. On top of that, you are allowed to drink tea and coffee. However, you can only use stevia—no artificial sweeteners whatsoever.

What You Eat

The Military Diet website indicates your meals for the three days of the diet should look like this:

Day 1

Breakfast: 1 slice of toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1/2 grapefruit, 1 cup coffee or tea without sweetener

Lunch: 1/2 cup tuna, 1 slice of plain toast, 1 cup unsweetened coffee or tea

Dinner: 3 ounces of meat, 1 cup green beans, 1 small apple, 1/2 banana, 1 cup vanilla ice cream

Day 2

Breakfast: 1 egg, 1 slice toast, 1/2 banana

Lunch: 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 cup cottage cheese, 5 saltine crackers

Dinner: 2 hot dogs without buns, 1/2 cup of raw carrots, 1 cup raw broccoli, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream

Day 3

Breakfast: 1 slice of cheddar cheese (approximately 1 ounce), 1 small apple, 5 saltine crackers

Lunch: 1 slice of bread or toast, 1 egg

Dinner: 1 cup tuna, 1/2 banana, 1 cup vanilla ice cream

This requires significant meal-prep, so it helps to use plastic storage containers for keeping your food fresh.

Substitution Options

You can see from the above menu that the diet is extremely restrictive and low in calories. Substitutions are allowed, but you need to be careful that you do not significantly alter the daily calorie allotment or the diet will not be as effective.

If you want to try the diet but don’t eat meat, you can substitute beans or eggs for the meat portions. Don’t like bananas? Have an apple or orange instead. Try to substitute like foods for like foods. For example, don’t substitute grains for vegetables or fruit for meat.

The Difficulty of Sticking With It

Like many fad diets, the challenge to staying on this diet is actually following the food recommendations. I have tried a lot of diets over the years. And anytime I tried a fad diet such as this one I did well on the first day, so-so on the second day, and I binged on chocolate and chips by the third day.

If you are really committed to trying this diet, I recommend emptying your pantry and refrigerator of junk food. Then purchase what you need for the next three days and do your best to stick with the recommended foods.

If you are not used to eating at the calorie levels the diet provides, you will get hungry. And if you are like most people, when you get too hungry, you eat a lot at one time. There are no nutritious snack options in the diet to assuage your hunger, so you’re going to have to handle the inevitable hunger as best you can if you insist on trying the diet.

Should you try it?

I cannot recommend this diet for several reasons.

First, it falls into the fad diet category, which means it is inherently unhealthy and sets up unrealistic expectations for success. Second, the calorie levels are substantially lower than most physicians recommend. And third, why go on a fad diet when other healthier diet plans are readily available?

Cookbooks are an effective way to help you lose weight; an entire category of cookbooks is dedicated to healthy eating and striking a balance between what tastes good and what’s low-calorie. It might be worth checking out cookbooks like The Skinnytaste Cookbook if you’re trying to lose weight.

Trying the diet anyway?

Remember that this is a three-day plan, and the instructions indicate that after three days you should eat about 1,500 calories a day before restarting the diet.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to stick to this diet for the long term. If you do try it, think of it as a way to jump-start your weight loss and then switch to a more reasonable, realistic, and sustainable diet plan.

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