Ever heard of The Military Diet? It’s the best kept secret amongst dancers, models and well, the military in the States who want to lose weight for shows. Emma Reynolds tried it and kept a diary
The Military Diet is one that has casually slipped under the radar. It is a 3-day diet that is popular among dancers, stage performers and well, soldiers in the States who want to lose weight quickly for shows. During these three days, there is a calorie restricted meal plan that only lets you eat around 800-1000 calories. In the four days following the diet, there is a balanced meal plan of 1500 calories or less.
I was introduced to the Military Diet about six months ago when a friend, Sarah and I decided we needed to get bikini ready for our family Christmas holiday in the Caribbean. She suggested the Military Diet, which I had never heard of, and in my desperation for a flat stomach on the beach, I reluctantly gave in to see what the hype was about. She led me to the website and I was taken aback by how easy this sounded. After I tried it in December for one week I lost about four pounds. This month, I’m trying the diet again to get in better shape for the summer holiday. I’ll be keeping a daily diary for two weeks recording my experiences and results.
Sarah said that her friends who are dancers and cheerleaders at colleges back in the United States are instructed by their coaches to use the diet to lose a few pounds before big shows, like performing in front of huge crowds at sports games. The U.S Army reportedly uses this diet for military weigh-ins and new recruits (though Healthista couldn’t verify this for sure). Recruiters allegedly tell potential members to follow this diet before their first weigh-in to get in better shape. After seeing her friend lose weight- and keep it off- with the Military Diet Sarah said we absolutely had to try it out.
The Military Diet sounds a lot grittier than it is. It promises you can lose up to ten pounds in one week. With a calorie restricted diet and regular exercise, the diet is said to boost your metabolism into fat burning mode for immediate weight loss.
It’s essentially an intermittent fasting diet (similar to the 5:2, or the 4:3). For three days you eat a calorie restricted diet of about 800 -1100 calories and the other four days you eat a healthy, balanced diet of about 1500 calories.
Basics of the Military Diet Plan – meals are strictly set for three days and then there are meal suggestions for the other four:
Breakfast: 1/2 Grapefruit, 1 slice of bread/toast with 2 tbsp. of peanut or almond butter, and 1 cup of coffee
Lunch: 1 slice of bread or toast, 1/2 can of tuna, and 1 cup of coffee
Dinner: 3 oz. of any meat (the size of a deck of cards), 1 cup of green beans, 1 small apple, 1/2 banana and 1 cup of ice cream
Breakfast: 1 egg cooked (however you like), 1 slice of bread or toast, 1/2 banana
Lunch: 1 cup cottage cheese, 1 hardboiled egg, 5 saltine crackers
Dinner: 2 hot dogs (no bun), 1 cup of broccoli, 1/2 cup of carrots, 1/2 banana, 1 cup of ice cream
Breakfast: 1 slice of cheddar cheese, 1 small apple, 5 saltine crackers
Lunch: 1 egg (cooked however you like), 1 slice of bread or toast
Dinner: 1 cup of tuna, 1/2 banana, 1 cup of ice cream
The site suggests that during the three days, you can’t eat anything else but what is on the menu, or something they suggest as a substitute. The substitutions are perfect for those who follow gluten-free, lactose-free or vegetarian lifestyles. Snacks are banned for the first three days to push the body into fasting mode. When I got hungry on these days, I drank green tea with one packet of stevia between meals.
Because there is no such thing as a magic diet, all seven days require a healthy meal plan in order to get full results. With that being said, there is a plan with what to eat and how much to eat on your days off to keep weight loss going. Although there are only three strict days, the other four days also require a healthy, balanced meal plan of about 1500 calories or less. On these days, don’t eat sugary, over-processed foods, but instead stick to protein, healthy carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits and whole-grains, and healthy fats.
With this diet, exercise isn’t required but is encouraged in order to get better results. Even a 20-minute walk can help increase weight loss during these few days. When I did this diet, I would run 5 miles every day and still have a ton of energy.
Aside from my personal weight loss success of a few pounds after being on it for a week, there is also evidence that this type of intermittent fasting diet is effective for long term weight loss. According to the site, any diet under 1000 calories per day is a type of fasting and fasting actually changes how your body processes food. Fasting advocates talk about how it lowers your levels of IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor), which increases your metabolism and switches your body’s repair genes into ‘on’ mode. When you have low levels of IGF-1, the body switches from growth mode to repair mode which helps to burn fat.
Valter Longo is an associate professor of gerontology and biological sciences at the University of Southern California and works out of the USC’s Longevity Institute. He has also studied the effects of intermittent fasting on IGF-1 levels. He says that when we consume food, this hormone keeps our body in ‘go’ mode, where our cells are driven to reproduce and facilitate growth. It also can speed up the aging process because our body is constantly working and wearing our bodies down. When we practice intermittent fasting, our levels of IGF-1 are lowered, switching on the DNA repair genes. Fasting is just as effective for weight loss as long-term caloric restriction.
Not only does the fasting aspect of this diet help weight loss but so do the foods that the nutritionists have chosen. Foods like grapefruit and coffee help to kickstart our metabolism and are proven to burn fat. The high protein foods in the diet, such as eggs, nut butter, tuna and meat require more energy from the body to process, so they burn more fat to digest.
The only downside of this diet is the hunger during the three calorie-restricted days. If you are a usual snacker (like me), getting used to not snacking between meals is a huge change in the first day. The good thing is that there are only three days where you really need to turn on your self-control, or as my dad says: ‘pull down the temptation shade.’ Because this diet is so particular it’s hard to go out to dinner with friends or participate in social events where food will be around.
Starting today I will chronicle my two-week journey on the Military Diet with an honest experience that hopefully leaves me feeling a few pounds lighter, a bit more energetic and overall generally healthier than before.
My starting weight is 51.7kg and my height is 5’0″.
Week 2 on the Military Diet:
1/2 grapefruit sprinkled with 1 packet of stevia, small piece of wheat-free, whole grain bread (toasted), and 2 tbsp. of organic almond butter, 1 cup of black coffee
Although my breakfast filled me up, I felt a huge pang of hunger before I ate lunch at 2pm. As in I was slightly dizzy and embarrassed my stomach would fill the office with one of those awful gurgling noises. I attempted to disguise my hunger by drinking a ton of water and refilling my coffee. My stomach is still expanded from a weekend of treating myself to sushi and chicken quesadillas in Camden this weekend, so today it feels like my stomach never really was full. I know that in a few days my stomach will feel fuller with less, so it was a sacrifice I was going to have to make.
I brought my lunch to work this morning which consisted of 1/2 a cup of cottage cheese and 1 piece of bread. I don’t particularly like the taste of tuna, which was originally on the menu, so I decided to swap it for some protein-filled, natural cottage cheese. I opted for the full fat version instead of the fat-free version of cottage cheese as fat keeps you fuller for longer. Because the diet is a calorie-controlled diet, it’s important to look up the proper conversion amount between foods. A 1/2 can of tuna and a 1/2 cup of cottage cheese have almost the exact same amount of calories (about 130). I paired my modest meal with a grande black Americano from Starbucks to spike up my metabolism for the second half of my work day. So far, so good!
I attended an exercise class, called Ravercise, to review for Healthista today. The class was an hour long dance class that consisted of rave moves. Essentially it was nonstop movement, which made me completely exhausted after not eating for over seven hours.
I rushed home after my workout and prepared three ounces of tofu, 1 cup of sauteed spinach, 1/2 banana and 1 apple. I typically forgo the ice cream during these three days as I don’t like giving in to my sweet tooth on diets, even though 1 cup of ice cream is allowed. Instead, I had five strawberries before doing my homework and going to bed.
I woke up fairly late today because I have class in the late afternoon so before I ate anything I decided to workout first thing in the morning. I ran a total of five miles outside in the beautiful London weather only enhanced my motivation this morning and headed to my local gym to finish off my workout with 20 minutes on the elliptical and a session of light strength training and a 10-minute ab workout. Famished, I walked home to my apartment.
This is hardly considered breakfast but it was technically my first meal of the day. I typically eat breakfast first thing when I wake up in the morning to give my metabolism a boost, but I guess today was the exception. For breakfast, I had 1 piece of toast and 1/2 a banana but realized that I didn’t have an egg. Instead, I ate a 1/4 cup of cottage cheese.
I arrived home practically starving and instead of making the lunch meal, I made myself the dinner meal. I had 2 eggs, 1 cup of broccoli, 1/2 cup of sliced carrots, and 1/2 banana. I don’t eat red meat, so I just swapped out the 2 hot dogs for 2 eggs. I technically skipped lunch, which probably wasn’t good after such a long workout but I fell asleep right after dinner after an exhausting day of class and running errands. Typically when I’m on this diet, I eat all three meals, but today was an exception.
I woke up early before work and did a 20-minute HIIT workout on the treadmill. After this I stationary biked for 20 minutes. I completed the workout with a session of abs, jumping jacks, arm circles and stretching.
Before sitting down to work I had a meal of 1 small apple, 3 crisp bread pieces and 1 slice of cheddar cheese. Figuring out how much cheese a slice is is hard, especially for my will power because I would eat a block of cheese over a piece of cake. (Gross, but true). On the site, it says that a slice of cheese is equivalent to the size of 4 dice. I LOVE salt on my apples, so I sprinkled some salt on my apples and a little pepper on my cheese. Instead of saltines, I opted for fibrous crisp bread crackers. 5 saltines are around 70 calories and 3 crisp bread pieces are 25 calories, so that’s about 3 crisp breads to keep the same caloric intake. Crisp bread has more fibre to keep you fuller until your next meal, so I always love that. I paired my breakfast with a cup of coffee.
TIP: Something that really helps me is drinking water after every other bite or so that I eat. This kind of tricks my stomach into feeling full, especially on the third day which requires the least amount of calories eaten. Between meals, I also love drinking green tea with a packet of stevia.
Lunch seriously couldn’t have come sooner today. I was absolutely starving and almost shaking from being so hungry. I said earlier that the first day is the worst, but I have to go back on my word. The third day is absolutely hair-pulling awful. For lunch I had one fried egg, a piece of toast and a cup of coffee. So close yet so far away from being over! All I tend to think about on the third day is how relieving eating a normal meal will be.
For dinner I had one cup of cottage cheese and 1/2 a banana, along with a cup of green tea. I did some homework for a few hours, as well as watched 2 episodes of my new favorite TV show, Entourage, and went to sleep.
Day 4, the first ‘off’ day:
Although this was the first day off of the diet, and I successfully got through the toughest three days! For breakfast, I had 2 scrambled eggs, 1 cup of sauteed spinach and a few cherry tomatoes (shout out to Whole Foods for their delicious array of cherry tomatoes this time of year… those things are like candy!) I had a cup of coffee to top this breakfast off and was on my way to class.
Class walking tour:
On Thursday I toured Wembley Stadium (I am SUCH a tourist), but this tour actually included a ton of walking that by the end of it, my glutes were a little sore and my calves were aching a bit. Not only did we walk over 200 stairs at the stadium, there was also a pretty hefty walk to and from the tube station. This was great to get my blood flowing between meals.
I ate lunch a bit late because the walking tour ran late. For lunch I had one piece of whole-grain, wheat-free toast, one fried egg, a small banana and to curb my sugar cravings I got a Superfruit fruit cup from Pret A Manger.
After a few more hours of class, I arrived home starving. I had 1/2 a cup of cottage cheese, 1 piece of toast and 1 cup of sauteed green beans. For dessert, I had a cup of blackberries and a Coco Loco Nak’d Bar.
I didn’t work out this day because I was swamped with work, but I couldn’t my walking tour as a low-intensity workout for the day. It was definitely better than nothing. Because I was up so late doing workout, of course my hunger cravings gave way and at about midnight I made myself an almond butter and raspberry jam sandwich.
Day 5, the second ‘off’ day:
Before work I had some time to head over to Whole Foods to grab a juice, which happens to be one of the only local juice bars in Camden. The Whole Foods crew pretty much knows me by name at this point because I go so much, unfortunately for my bank account. I grabbed a 16 oz. Green Machine juice which has spinach, kale, celery, wheatgrass, spirulina, broccoli and lemon. It was a great morning pick me up after a late night of working on my computer. I paired this with coffee.
The juice didn’t fill me up as long as I thought, so I brought a Pulsin protein bar (which I also got at Whole Foods) to work with me. It has 206 calories, 15g of protein and about 9g of sugar. This is perfect because it isn’t too high-calorie or sugar-filled and has enough protein to fill me up until an early afternoon lunch. I had the Maple & Whey Crisp flavor. This bar is gluten-free, vegetarian, made with no GMOs and has a low-glycemic index. I love finding bars that are low in sugar and contain a lot of protein, which is why I love this bar!
Snack, 3pm:After I got back from work, I had an apple with about 2 tbs. of almond butter before my run.
Thanks to my filling snack, I ran 5 miles through Regent’s Park and then finished my workout at the gym with 30 minutes on a stationary bike. I did about 10 minutes of light lifting (4kg dumbells), 10 minutes of abs and some stretching.
For dinner, I had 2 eggs with sauteed spinach and cherry tomatoes with a piece of whole wheat toast. I had a friend visiting so we caught up over a few glasses of wine. Alcohol will obviously halt any weight loss program, but the site suggests that wine is better than heavy beers (dark beer is suggested) and hard liquor probably shouldn’t be consumed.
Day 6, the third ‘off’ day:
I skipped breakfast this morning because I wasn’t too hungry. For lunch I went to EAT with my friend who was in town and had a chicken pesto sandwich on whole wheat bread.
Mid-afternoon drink, 3:30pm:
After a day of shopping and sightseeing, I went with a group of friends to a local pub so my friend could get a true British pub experience. We each had a cider and considered it our afternoon snack. I typically don’t drink during the day, but this was an exception.
After more shopping and sightseeing I went to a healthy Mexican cafe where I had one quesadilla with chicken on a whole wheat tortilla and 1 cup of pinto beans. This cafe was known to be really healthy, so I was super excited to get some healthy food. It was a fairly plain dinner, but so good!
Day 7, the fourth ‘off’ day:
In the hopes of showing my friend who was visiting a good time and a true London experience, I took her to a local cafe where we got English breakfast. This was my first time actually having it, but I ordered the vegetarian option and loved it. In all, I ate a fried egg, a bit of hashbrowns, beans, 2 sliced and grilled tomatoes, and 1 piece of toast.
1 piece of toast with almond butter
For dinner I had 1 cup of fat-free cottage cheese, and 1 piece of toast with a small bowl of berries and kiwi. It was a pretty random dinner, but filled me up before I went to bed.
Summary of the first week:I did really great up until the last two days. I probably should have chosen healthier options, but since I had a friend visiting, it was tough to alter absolutely everything. I made some healthier choices, and I feel really good. Overall, I feel less bloated and have a ton of energy. I ate under the 1500 calorie restriction every day, which was good. I tried recording my food and its calorie contents in my phone as best I could, which really helped me throughout the off days!
Week 2 on the Military Diet:
Here we go again! I’m feeling really energized and excited to start the diet again. My stomach feels smaller and I notice that I get fuller much faster than I usually do. Whenever calories are restricted, your stomach really does get used to how much you are consuming. I also stopped snacking at night, which has made such a huge difference. For breakfast this morning, I had 1 cup of raspberries and 1 piece of rye toast with 2 tbsp. of almond butter and some coffee. I actually didn’t have a grapefruit at my house, so I switched it over for 1 cup of berries. Calorie wise, this was totally fine, but the site says not to substitute anything for grapefruit. The site also says that grapefruit is a major fat-burner and it helps to alkalize the system. Fat flourishes when the body is acidic, so choosing alkalizing foods will help flush out fat. I looked it up and saw that berries were catabolic, alkaline and also have a low-glycemic index. Contrary to what you would normally think, they also have minimal amounts of sugar in comparison to other fruits. I figured berries were my best option if I were to substitute anything.
For lunch today, I had a 1/2 cup of tofu and 1 piece of rye toast and another cup of coffee. I was really hungry before lunch but got full pretty fast, especially with the coffee.
I was feeling pretty tired today so I decided to do a short workout. I went on the elliptical for 20 minutes trying to keep my RPM above 105/110 in order to get the most out of it. After, I ran 1 mile on the treadmill and jogged 5 minutes back to my apartment.
1 fried egg, 1 piece of toast and 1/2 banana.
I had 1 cup of cottage cheese. I didn’t have time to pack the saltines or the egg. I paired this with a cup of coffee and it staved my hunger until dinnertime.
I had a piece of grilled chicken with tomatoes instead of carrots and 1 cup of broccoli. I’m not actually sure if I could do this, but I didn’t have carrots in my fridge so I had to make due. I also had another 1/2 banana.
I drank a glass of wine this night. If we’re talking on a purely caloric basis, this was equivalent to the 1/2 cup of ice cream I could have had. Because I don’t normally eat ice cream, the glass of wine was a perfect little treat for the night.
I had one apple for breakfast and was running out the door so I didn’t have time to bring with me a slice of cheese or saltines.
For lunch I brought one piece of toast and 1 fried egg. I’m feeling under the weather so I’ve been drinking green tea all day to help clear my throat.
Today, I didn’t want to push my immune system so I just did a 20-minute walk.
For dinner I had 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and 1 banana. This didn’t really fill me up, but I went straight to sleep right after.
This was the first ‘off’ day during the second week. For breakfast, I had some sauteed spinach and cherry tomatoes with 2 eggs.
I had quite a busy day on Thursday so I ate lunch fairly late. I brought with me 1 cup of tofu and a piece of toast. I also had a small fruit cup from Pret A Manger.
I didn’t eat much this day, as I was still feeling under the weather and running low on time. For dinner, I had 1 cup of cottage cheese and a banana. I also had a glass of wine for ‘dessert’ after a long day… much needed!
I was traveling this week all over England, so on this day I had a quick breakfast of a fruit cup.
Dinner, 6pm: I didn’t have lunch this day because I was so busy, but for dinner I treated myself to a few pieces of pesto, cheese and tomato pizza. I never eat pizza so this tasted incredible.
Workout: Throughout the day, I walked a few miles sightseeing and shopping! Not exactly an intense workout, but I got in a bit of exercise!
I had English Breakfast this day with some friends. Not the healthiest option, but it kept me full all day long! I got really sick during this Saturday, so I definitely needed some energy to refuel my body. I came down with a sore throat early this morning and was feeling pretty weak.
For dinner I had a small caesar salad. Again, maybe not the healthiest option but I was out all day, so I needed to refuel my energy. It’s hard eating out because not many restaurants have the best food options! Typically (when I don’t give in to unhealthy foods) I ask waiters to swap out romaine for spinach or caesar dressing for a light vinaigrette. I was still feeling really sick and had to cut my sightseeing early to head home in order to see a doctor.
After a long weekend of traveling with friends, I woke up feeling even worse than the day prior and headed straight for the ER to see what was going on. The doctor diagnosed me with tonsillitis (I physically could not speak words for a full 36 hours), which was a major bummer, especially because I was entertaining friends from the US while traveling around England for the weekend. At 12pm on Sunday I finally had an appetite, so for lunch I had tofu with sesame ginger dressing and onions. It was the perfect healthy lunch after a weekend of semi-guilty eating and being sick.
For dinner I had a Greek salad with olive oil and a side of potatoes with salt and pepper. I was still feeling really nauseous, so I figured some healthy salad would make me feel better!
My weight is 49.8kg and my height is 5’0″.
DONE! Overall, I’m satisfied with my experience on the Military Diet. The 3 ‘on’ days are really not that hard and the four ‘off’ days aren’t either. The only downfall I experienced was that it was really hard to choose healthy food options when I was going out to eat. I gave in the last few days to some of my cravings (English breakfast and pizza) but I think for the most part I did fairly well. I feel less bloated, less heavy and more motivated to continue on a healthy eating path. I only lost about two kilos, but I do feel like my waist is smaller.
My measurements stayed pretty much the same except my abdomen, waist and thighs decreased, as well as my weight by over two kilos or so! Although I fell sick for the last two days and had a strange appetite, I do feel better after two weeks. If I did this diet again, I would be more strict on the off days. I also found that the days I drank a lot of green tea kept me fuller for longer, so I would probably incorporate more of that.