People in the military are known for being in pretty good shape. So a diet named after them will probably help you look pretty great, right?
Well, maybe! But the Military Diet that you might have heard about on social media has nothing to do with the armed forces. It’s just a really strict eating plan that’s supposed to help you drop kilos fast. Here’s what you should know before giving it a try.
What is the Military Diet?
Basically, it’s a very low-kJ eating plan that claims to help you lose 5kgs in three days. There are no trendy foods or supplements involved. In fact, the Military Diet menu has kind of an old-fashioned feel to it: It’s just tiny portions of low-kJ foods that your Grandma might have eaten when she wanted to slim down. Think: grapefruit, dry tuna on toast, saltine crackers, and hard-boiled eggs. Yum?
On the one hand, the diet’s website claims that it’s specifically designed to help you drop kilos quickly for weight loss “emergencies,” like “when your ex is coming to town and you want to make them drool.” (Um, gross.) But there are also several mentions of repeating the diet over and over by following it for three days and then taking four days off.
Oh, and another thing: Despite the little icon of the retro-style army girl on the top of the website, this diet wasn’t created by women in the military, nor does it appear to be endorsed by them. In fact, it’s unclear who created the diet at all, since there’s no expert or author listed on the about page. This is a major red flag, since it suggests that the diet’s inventor doesn’t have a legit medical or nutrition background.
Can the Military Diet spark weight loss?
Yes…but probably not in the way that it claims. It’s doubtful you’d lose 5kgs so quickly, and you definitely won’t lose weight for the long-term.
The Military Diet describes itself as a form of intermittent fasting (IF), a diet that confines all meals to a small window of time each day. And while IF has been shown to help with weight loss, there’s nothing about this plan that fits the bill. The Military Diet plan is just a menu for three meals per day. It doesn’t say anything about when you’re supposed to have the meals, or how long you’re supposed to go in between eating them.
It also loads you up with so-called fat-burners like grapefruit, coffee, and cottage cheese. And while it’s true that these foods contain compounds that might give your metabolism the tiniest of boosts, there’s no real proof eating them will actually add up to measurable weight loss, explains dietitian Vanessa Rissetto. “There’s nothing in this diet that would help you burn fat more efficiently than a regular diet,” she says.
In reality, the Military Diet is just a form of mild starvation where you limit yourself to around 4,180kJ (1,000cal) a day. That’s considerably fewer kilojoules than the average woman needs, even to lose weight. Most healthy weight loss plans deliver 5,000 to 6,700kJ (1,200 to 1,600 cal) daily.
It’s no big surprise that most people who try the Military Diet end up dropping kilos. “What works with this diet—and any other diet—is kilojoule restriction, not specific foods,” says dietitian Becky Kerkenbush. Still, that doesn’t mean that whatever results you reap will be sustainable. When you lose weight by drastically cutting your kilojoules, you’re really just losing water—not fat, says Rissetto. Extreme kilojoule restriction forces your body to use glycogen—stored carbs that your muscles and brain rely on for fuel—as energy. “Glycogen holds onto water, so when glycogen is utilised, it releases the water attached to it. As a result, you end up losing water weight,” Kerkenbush says.
Bottom line: Do not try the Military Diet?
Following it for three days isn’t going to kill you. But any diet that’s designed to help you lose 5kg over the course of a long weekend isn’t exactly a great idea. “Healthy weight loss is around 0.5kg per week,” Kerkenbush says. “If you lose more than that, it’s likely water weight [instead of fat], which will come back when a person resumes their usual eating habits.”
Plus, this sort of quick fix teaches you nothing about building healthy eating habits for the long-term. “Great, you fit into that dress and then what? You just go back to the way things were, and you never break through and achieve true weight loss success,” Rissetto says.
And if you chose to do it for longer? The three-day on, four-day off cycle is basically a rapid form of yo-yo dieting, which can have a negative impact on your metabolism-not to mention your overall wellbeing. That could make it harder to lose weight and keep it off long-term.
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