17-day diet works for some, as do most diets

Diet secrets don’t change much: Eat healthful food in smaller portions and add more exercise. Your body stores fewer calories, and you lose weight.

The 17 Day Diet, the latest diet craze, seems to follow those reasonable steps. The diet, however, doesn’t actually take 17 days. It’s broken up into four cycles, each one 17 days long. Going into a fresh cycle is supposed to combat the boredom that settles in after following Cycle 1—in which you cut down to about 1,200 calories a day—for 2 1/2 weeks.

And, supposedly, confuse your metabolism.

San Diego family medicine doctor Mike Moreno, the creator of this plan, writes in his book of the same name:

Cycle 2 “causes calorie confusion, resets your metabolism by increasing and decreasing calorie intake to stimulate fat burning and prevent plateaus."

Cycle 3 allows more foods with a slower rate of weight loss, and Cycle 4 is for maintaining your new weight with meal plans and occasional splurges.

But the claim that the diet’s changes somehow trick your metabolism raises a few eyebrows. Skeptics include the American Dietetic Assn.’s spokeswoman Keri Gans. She says in this WebMD diet review:

"There is no evidence that you can fool your metabolism by calorie-shifting but the low-calorie plans featuring healthy foods are a good approach to weight loss."

The same review – quite wisely – questions other claims as well, such as the admonition to stop eating fruit after 2 p.m. because “it is harder to burn off these calories and they might get stored as fat." 

Scientific or not, the book has climbed to the top of the Hardcover Advice list in the New York Times and attracted testimonials from people who have shed pounds on it.

But of course people have shed pounds. The dramatic calorie reduction early in the diet is effective enough. And it’s not too surprising that people would lose weight on a diet that recommends eating fruits, vegetables, lean protein and yogurt, drinking plenty of water and getting lots of exercise.

Such wisdom is summarized in countless diet and health websites, and the Mayo Clinic also tosses in what researchers know about metabolism.

Even better, that advice is free.


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