The Skinny on the 17-Day Diet
Although it’s called the 17 Day Diet, it technically lasts longer than 17 days. The diet consists of 4 cycles—the first 3 are 17 days long, the last is (sigh) lifelong. In a nutshell, the diet advocates low-carb, low-fat fare and then builds in more whole grains and some refined carbohydrates.
Cycle 1, “Accelerate,” promises a rapid drop of 10 to 12 pounds (much of which is water weight) on a diet of unlimited quantities of skinless chicken and turkey breasts, fish and egg whites and low-carb vegetables (most vegetables other than potatoes, winter squash, corn, etc.), 2 daily servings of “low-sugar” fruit (including apples, berries and oranges, but not ones like bananas and mango…those get added in Cycle 3) and 2 daily servings of probiotic foods (such as sauerkraut and plain or sugar-free lowfat yogurt), 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive or flaxseed oil, and moderate amounts of low-fat and fat-free condiments, such as salsa, sugar-free jam and vegetable cooking spray. Green tea and water are the beverages of choice, alcohol is off-limits. 17 minutes of exercise daily is also part of the plan.
Cycle 2, “Activate,” adds in “controlled portions” of lean red meat and shellfish, plus 2 daily servings of starchy foods (including whole grains, but not bread or pasta, legumes and starchy vegetables) every other day for the next 17 days—the rest of the days are still the “Accelerate” meal plan. Oh, and all of the fruit and starches need to be eaten before 2 pm.
Cycle 3, “Achieve,” adds a few more foods, and you eat this plan every day, although calories are still sharply restricted: 1 to 2 servings of “friendly fats,” such as avocado, nuts and salad dressings; whole-grain bread, pasta and high-fiber cereal (still just two servings of any of these or starchy vegetables); low-fat milk and cheese is now allowed, as are 100-calorie snacks (think Fudgsicles and microwave popcorn); 2 servings of any fresh fruit; and a few more meats, including Canadian bacon and Cornish hen. Protein is now portion controlled, but one alcoholic drink daily is now allowed. If you still haven’t achieved your goal weight at the end of Cycle 3, Dr. Mike gives you the option of doing all three cycles again, repeating Cycles 2 and 3 or just sticking with Cycle 3. Exercise is increased from 17 minutes a day to 45 to 60 minutes most days of the week.
Cycle 4 starts once you reach your goal weight and it is meant to be life-long. Monday through Friday for the rest of your life you eat meals from any of the previous cycles. On weekends you can have 1 – 3 of your favorite meals in moderate portions—Dr. Mike emphasizes that planning is key.
My take on the diet? If you can stick to it, you’ll probably lose weight, although you’ll also be missing out on vital nutrients. The meal plans fall short of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Although it provides adequate servings of fruit for such a limited calorie intake—I calculated calories for two days of meals and they each clocked in around 1,200 calories), it’s short on grains (which provide fiber and B vitamins that you may not get enough of from other foods) and dairy products/dairy replacements, plus it does not encourage beans and other vegetarian protein sources (vegetarian diets have been linked with lower risk of certain cancers and heart disease). In short, it’s very restrictive, which means that you will undoubtedly lose weight on it, but also lose out on important nutrition. As always, I recommend a diet you can actually stick to—one that is nourishing as well as enjoyable.