How would you like to lose 10 pounds in just three days?
Sign me up, right?
I can see why, who wouldn’t want to try something that advertises those results?
But you guys know me, I’m Mr. Skeptical. You’ll need to show me the research before I believe extraordinary claims like that.
So I did a little research myself to see what the 3 day diet is all about.
What is the 3 Day Diet?
There are several variations on the 3 day diet out there, but they all promise to help you lose 10 pounds each week for a cumulative total of 30 pounds every month.
Whoa, those are some serious numbers.
Healthy weight loss goals should be focused on losing about two pounds every week by following a careful diet and exercising regularly.
So who created this seemingly amazing plan that promises you’ll lose five times that amount?
Some people believe the creation of the 3 day diet came from word-of-mouth and junk mail. In the 1980s, it became known as the Fax Diet because “offices everywhere were inundated with anonymous faxes touting this ‘miracle diet’”.
The 3 day diet also goes by names such as the ice cream diet, the Military, Army, or Navy diet, and the Mayo Clinic, American Heart Association, or Cleveland Clinic diet. All of these institutions firmly deny being associated with the diet and do not endorse its usage, which sets off a big red flag for me.
If I created a successful weight loss plan, I would definitely want the credit…unless it didn’t work. And if these health conscious institutions don’t want to be associated with the diet, maybe there’s a reason.
After some careful scrutinizing, I discovered 7 myths about the 3 day diet that I think you should know about too.
1. The Food is Healthy and Nutritious
While some meals on extreme diets like the Master Cleanse only let you drink a lemon water based concoction, and others make you only drink fruit juice or meal replacement shakes, the 3 day diet includes inexpensive ingredients and easy to follow meals to specifically eat during breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Sorry, you’re not allowed any snacks though, not even healthy ones.
But wait a second…
On day two you’re supposed to eat two hot dogs for dinner. And then eat vanilla ice cream for dessert. Those are two very unhealthy options I wouldn’t expect to find in a short-term diet.
Here, have a look:
|DAY 1||DAY 2||DAY 3|
|BREAKFAST||1/2 grapefruit1 slice of toast2 tablespoons of peanut butter1 cup coffee or tea (with caffeine)||1 egg1 slice of toast1/2 banana1 cup coffee or tea (with caffeine)||5 saltine crackers1 slice of cheddar cheese1 small apple1 cup coffee or tea (with caffeine)|
|LUNCH||1/2 cup of tuna1 slice of toast1 cup coffee or tea (with caffeine)||1 cup of cottage cheese1 hard boiled egg5 saltine crackers||1 hard boiled egg (or cooked however you like)1 slice of toast|
|DINNER||3 ounces of any type of meat1 cup of green beans1/2 banana1 small apple1 cup of vanilla ice cream||2 hot dogs (without bun)1 cup of broccoli1/2 cup of carrots1/2 banana1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream||1 cup of tuna1/2 banana1 cup of vanilla ice cream|
Where’s the logic in this type of eating exactly?
Not only does dinner on day two sound way off base, but take a look at dinner on day three: tuna, banana, and ice cream, anyone? That combination makes me want to gag just thinking about it.
So as you can see, this meal plan is less than ideal.
My big issue here is that the 3 day diet doesn’t set you up for long-term success. When you stop following the diet, you shouldn’t be eating hot dogs once a week. You shouldn’t think that eating vanilla ice cream every day is healthy. Not only are you most certainly going to gain all the weight back, but you’ll probably gain back even more.
Bottom line: you’re never learning how to eat healthy food when you follow a diet like this. Your body becomes so used to being on an up-and-down, yo-yo diet cycle instead of thriving on a complete, stable way of eating.
2. It’s Only Dieting for Three Days
The 3 day diet is actually a misnomer because in reality you’re actually on a 7 day diet for the entire month. Let me explain.
You’re supposed to follow the strictly regimented diet for three days, that part’s true. But then you’re also given four days ‘off’.
Well, call me crazy, but doesn’t that sound like the type of diet you should always be following?
Except when you’re on the 3 day diet, you have zero cheat days. I don’t know about you, but even though I follow a healthy diet, I need to allow a little wiggle room for the occasional pizza night or date night at a butter-loving French restaurant.
So yes, you’re going to lose weight if you carefully assess everything you eat for the entire month, without binging on snacks or having cheat days, but is that easier than just eating well-balanced meals regularly?
3. You Don’t Have to Count Calories
The 3 day diet ‘experts’ say you don’t have to count calories when following the meal plans they give you.
But that’s not exactly true.
If you follow the serving sizes and foods listed, without substituting, you may have a general idea of the calories you consume. If you hate tuna and want to switch that out, you need to figure out an equivalent tradeoff and count calories, carbs, and proteins to make sure your swap is the same.
Your four days off also need to be accounted for. Since these aren’t cheat days, you need to pay attention to the calories you consume so you know you’ll stay in line with the typical calorie range the 3 day diet adheres to, which will net you between 800-1,000 calories a day.
And that leads me to my next issue with this diet plan.
The minimum estimated daily amount of calories are 1,200 for women and about 2,200 for men. As Michelle Kerns writes for LiveStrong: “While following the Military diet for three days might not result in serious nutrient deficiencies, it can lead to repeated cycles of weight loss and weight gain that can weaken your organs and your immune system, and increase your risk of gallstones or heart problems”.
4. It’s Healthy to Lose 10 Pounds in 3 Days
For most people, it takes about one month to safely lose 10 pounds, not a week.
However, as Mike Russell, M.D., writes for Shape magazine: “If you weigh 180 pounds and your goal weight is 130 pounds, losing 20 pounds in one week—the right way—teeters on the brink of impossible. If you’re more like a Biggest Loser contestant, weighing 380 pounds, then losing 20 pounds in one week is plausible (especially considering the large amount of water weight you would lose during the first week)”.
Generally, the more weight you have to lose, the easier and quicker you’ll be able to do it. If you’re straddling the high end of the BMI scale towards obesity, cutting out harmful fast food and severely cutting your calories will definitely let you drop pounds.
However, losing such a large amount of weight so quickly usually has a habit of creeping back on even quicker. When you actually work hard to achieve long-term results through a steady, healthy diet with exercise, you’re going to keep the weight off longer and it won’t be just water weight.
5. You’re Losing More Than Just Water Weight
Yo-yo dieters are often faced with the exciting feeling of losing lots of weight in a very short amount of time. Psychologically, this motivates people and causes them to want to continue with their fad diet-of-the-moment, until reality sets in and they crave more variety in their food choices or stop their diet completely.
Then the weight slowly comes right back onto their problem areas.
So they start yet another diet, see fast results, then fall off the wagon again.
This quick drop in weight is commonly referred to as losing water weight.
What is water weight exactly?
Ever notice how your fingers and toes swell and bloat when you eat a high sodium meal or stay inactive for awhile? If you weigh yourself you’ll see as many as five pounds added to the scale in just one day! That’s water weight.
Katherine Zeratsky, a specialty nutritionist and dietician, told CNN that our kidneys “decide whether to hold on to water. If you’ve had too much salt the night before, then your kidneys will hold on to more water to dilute or correct that salty imbalance…then they flush it all out”.
Your kidneys will also hold onto water if you’re dehydrated, so it can try to naturally restore your body’s salt balance on its own.
Zeratsky explains that this extra water is stored in tissues or blood vessels all over your body and tends to show up in your extremities like your swollen fingers, toes, and lower legs.
Now supporters of the 3 day diet say that you’re not losing water weight, but actual fat instead. However, there’s no clinical evidence to suggest this statement is accurate at all.
I’m really not surprised that users lose water weight on the 3 day diet; they’re supposed to drink caffeinated coffee or tea, and as we know, caffeine is a diuretic. These beverages will not rehydrate the body, but they will drain all the water it’s saving, hence a drop in weight on the scale.
Water weight drops fast, but that weight does not drop from fat. Water weight is also the easiest weight to put back on very quickly, especially if you’re not exercising.
6. The 3 Day Diet Will Speed Up Your Metabolism
As if this diet didn’t have enough hooks to try and grab you, it proudly exclaims that you can speed up your metabolism and lose 10 pounds a week without any form of exercise whatsoever.
This one is almost laughable to me.
Not only does this statement not have any scientific evidence to back it up, but it’s so absolutely contrary to everything we know about our metabolism.
There are only a handful of ways to speed up your metabolism and make it burn calories more efficiently…and the 3 day diet doesn’t follow any of them.
To speed up your metabolism, Health says to:
- Kick up your interval training workouts to make your cell powerhouses, the mitochondria, work harder to burn energy.
- Eat more omega-3s to balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, helping to regulate metabolism. They may also reduce resistance to the hormone leptin, which researchers have linked to how fast fat is burned.
- Make some muscle with strength training.
- Drink green tea for the catechins that may improve fat oxidation and thermogenesis, your body’s production of energy, or heat, from digestion.
- Enjoy several small meals a day instead of three big ones.
- Don’t cut back calories too much to prevent entering starvation mode.
As you can see, since the 3 day diet doesn’t incorporate exercise into its regime, there’s no way you can increase strength or make more muscles to help burn calories.
So how exactly does the 3 day diet speed up your metabolism when it clearly violates all the ways we know how to do this?
The answer: it doesn’t.
7. The 3 Day Diet is NOT a Fad Diet
- Ruling out of entire food groups
- “Unlimited” consumption of anything high in fat, sugar, or cholesterol
- Promotion of increased caffeine intake
- Lack of variety or extremely stringent rules
- Certain foods or food combinations said to “burn” fat
- Promising that certain foods increase your metabolism
So is the 3 day diet a fad diet? Let’s see:
It rules out the healthy fats food group and severely lacks a variety of other types of food due to the stringent rules it sets.
It claims to increase your metabolism, though offers no way to do this, nor evidence to prove that their method works. And it promotes an increase in caffeine by making sure you drink a caffeinated beverage every day.
Fad diets don’t tend to stay around, and I can’t imagine anyone living healthfully or happily on this diet. When I see diet plans like this I’m always reminded of the advice Michael Dansinger, MD, reiterates from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “First, if a diet sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Second, if you can’t see yourself following the diet for the rest of your life, it’s not for you”.
Yeah, I’d completely say that the 3 day diet is a fad diet, without question, and that’s no myth.
What You Should Do Instead
I’ve shared a bunch of quick, healthy recipes with you guys thanks to this site, all of which are more delicious than hot dogs and crackers I might add, so if you really want to eat clean for three days, let’s do it together.
If you ever need to lose a few pounds quickly, skip the questionable diet and add my amazing fat melting drink to your routine; it’s all natural and you can make it in two minutes flat. Don’t go for fads, go for something you can stick to long term because it means you will end up with true results from the efforts you put in.
Which myth about the 3 day diet were you shocked about most?