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There are a variety of three-day diets that circulate from person to person and on the Internet. They tend to promise weight loss of 10 lb (4.5 kg) or more in just three days.
The origins of the three-day diet are unclear. Some people believe that they go back to the 1980s when these kinds of diets were faxed from person to person. Three-day diets go by many different names, including the fax diet, Army diet, Navy diet, Cleveland Clinic diet, and many others. Often they are just referred to as three-day diets. Although many versions of this diet claim to have been created by one medical institution or another, no medical institutions have ever been known to come forward to claim responsibility for, or even to recommend, one of these diets. Many institutions that have these diets named after them, such as the British Heart Foundation or the Cleveland Clinic, go out of their way to inform dieters that the diet did not originate where its title claims.
The most common form of three-day diet on the Internet involves eating a large quantity of tuna and various vegetables during the day, with ice cream each evening. This diet seems to be similar to, or the same
as, the three-day diet sold online by 3daydiets.net. It is unclear, however, if they are the developer of the diet, as they do not claim specifically to be.
There are many versions of three-day diets circulating, all with the promise of bringing dieters significant weight loss in just three days. There are many variations in what dieters may and may not eat during these three days. One diet even calls for dieters to drink only water for the first day. On the second day dieters may eat fruit, and drink only fruit juice, and on the third day dieters may eat only vegetables, and drink only vegetable juice.
The most common three-day diet, and the one that seems to be the most popular, is a three-day diet with a meal plan that instructs dieters what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The specifics of the plan vary, as do what dieters are allowed to drink while on the plan. Some versions allow anything, others specify just water and diet soda in addition to the coffee and tea called for in the meal plan. Many require that dieters drink at least four glasses of water daily. Some allow diet soda to be substituted for the water. A common version of the three-day diet meal plan is:
Breakfast: black tea or coffee, 1/2 a grapefruit, 1 piece of toast with 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter. Some version specify 1/3 of a grapefruit, some call for artificial sweetener to be added to the coffee, some allow grapefruit juice to be substituted for the grapefruit.
Lunch: 1/2 cup tuna, 1 piece dry toast, black coffee or tea. Some versions call for tuna in water, some call for artificial sweetener with the coffee or tea.
Dinner: 3 ounces lean meat, 1 cup green beans, 1 cup carrots, 1 apple, 1 cup vanilla ice cream. Some versions specify a low fat ice cream, other do not. Some versions call for 1 cup of beets instead of carrots.
Breakfast: 1 egg, 1 slice dry toast, 1/2 banana, black coffee or tea. Some versions require artificial sweetened in the coffee or tea. It is not generally specified how the dieter should prepare the egg. Some versions call for a whole banana.
Lunch: 1 cup cottage cheese and six crackers. Some versions allow dieters to choose between 1 cup of cottage cheese and 1 cup of tuna. Some require six crackers, some allow eight. Most versions call for Saltine brand crackers.
Dinner: two hot dogs, 1 cup broccoli, 1/2 cup carrots, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream. Some versions specify beef franks. Some call for 1 cup of cabbage instead of 1 cup of broccoli. Some versions require low fat ice cream.
Breakfast: one apple, 1 ounce cheddar cheese, five Saltine brand crackers, black tea or coffee. Some versions allow or require artificial sweetener.
Lunch: one hard-boiled egg, one slice dry toast. Some versions allow black coffee or tea (with or without artificial sweetener) with this meal, others do not.
Dinner: 1 cup tuna, 1 cup carrots, 1 cup cauliflower, 1 cup melon, and 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream. Some versions call for 1/2 a cantaloupe instead of 1 cup of melon. Some versions require low fat ice cream.
There are other versions of the above three-day diet, with some specifying even more alternatives for the dieter, including an orange instead of grapefruit, cottage cheese instead of tuna, and various vegetable substitutions. Most versions tell dieters to use lemon, salt and pepper, mustard, vinegar, herbs, soy sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and other seasonings to add flavoring to food during the diet, but nothing containing fat, such as butter. Most versions of the diet are very specific in saying that dieters have to follow the rules exactly to see the promised weight loss.
The three-day diet usually promises that dieters will be able to lose 10 pounds in three days if the diet is followed exactly. Often the diet claims that this will result because the combination of foods called for by the diet causes some kind of increased metabolism that will burn pounds of fat. It is never made clear exactly what kind of reaction this is supposed to be, or how it is supposed to work. Often the diet says the dieter can repeat the diet after a few days of regular eating. Some version of three-day diets allow for as few as two days of normal eating, others require up to four or five. The three-day diets are intended to provide a dieter with extreme weight loss in a very short time and are not intended to change the dieters lifestyle or overall eating habits. Usually the diets go so far as to tell a dieter to eat whatever he or she was eating before the diet once the diet is over. The diets only caution is not to overeat. No exercise recommendations are made with three-day diets. Weight loss is supposed to come from increased metabolism and lowered calorie intake alone.
There are many benefits to weight loss if it achieved at a moderate pace through healthy eating and exercise. Three-day diets, however, are not considered moderately paced and do not include exercise, or a well-balanced diet. Although the diets claim that a dieter can lose 10 pounds in three days, weight loss is likely to come mainly from lost water weight. There may be some psychological benefit to quick weight loss, but this is likely to be undone if the weight is gained back quickly after the diet is over.
Anyone thinking of beginning a new diet should consult a physician or other medical professional. Daily requirements of calories, fat, and nutrients can differ significantly from person to person depending on age, weight, sex, and other factors. Talking to a doctor can help a dieter determine which diet is safe for that dieter’s individual needs, and a doctor can help a dieter choose a diet that fits in well with his or her long-term weight loss goals. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should be especially cautious when thinking of beginning a new diet because when a baby is receiving nutrients from its mother, what the mother eats can have a significant impact on the growth and development of the baby.
There are some risks associated with any diet, but diets that severely limit calories or the variety of foods that dieters may eat tend to be more risky than well balanced, moderately calorie-reduced diets. The most common three-day diet requires dieters to eat only about 1,000 calories a day, with some versions that have been analyzed consisting of at as few as 700 calories per day. This is too few for most people to maintain good health. A diet that contains fewer than 800 calories per day is considered a very low calorie diet. Very low calorie diets carry high risks of side effects, such as gallstones and cardiovascular problems. Very low calorie diets are only intended for the extremely obese who are experiencing significant medical problems due to obesity. These diets are carried out under the close supervision of physicians. They are not intended, or safe for, dieters to follow on their own.
Dieters who follow a three-day diet may find that any weight lost is gained back as soon as the diet is over, and may even find that more weight is gained that was lost. Having a very low caloric intake makes the dieter’s metabolism slow down because the body thinks that it is starving. Then when a normal number of calories are reintroduced into the diet, the body wants to store extra fat in case there is a period of starvation again. This natural defense mechanism of the body against starvation can cause dieters who alternatively eat very few calories and then return to normal eating to gain large amounts of fat over time, even while they are trying to diet. Very low calorie diets pursued over only a few days also promote binge eating at the end of the diet.
Many of the versions of three-day diets, especially those intended for fasting, carry a high risk of vitamin and mineral deficiency. The body needs food from each of the food groups every day for good health. Drinking only fruit juices, or eating any very limited variety of foods, can make it nearly impossible for a dieter to get all of the nutrients required for good health. Any dieter considering this kind of diet should consult a physician about an appropriate multivitamin or supplement to help reduce this risk of deficiency. Multivitamins and dietary supplements carry their own risks, and can not replace a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Three-day diets are not generally accepted as healthy, effective ways to lose weight for the long term. Although no scientific studies have been carried out to determine the effectiveness of common three-day diets, experts suggest that anything that promises dieters 10 lb (4.5 kg) of weight loss in three days is unlikely to be taking off fat. Instead, dieters are probably losing water weight, with possibly a little fat loss and some muscle mass loss through the reduced caloric intake.
The United States Department of Agriculture makes recommendations for a healthy diet in its MyPyr-amid food guidelines. MyPyramid gives recommendations about how many servings of each food group are required daily for good health. These recommendations can be found at <http://www.MyPyramid.gov.> Any diet that will produce sustainable, healthy weight loss should follow these guidelines and include foods from each food group every day. Sustainable diets should not be extremely restrictive of any food group, or be extremely calorie-reduced.
Many studies have shown that exercise and diet are more effective at producing weight loss when done together than either is done alone. Three-day diets do not usually have any exercise recommendations. Instead, they generally claim that a combination of foods will magically melt away fat without the dieter having to expend any effort. Healthy weight loss plans should include both a diet and an exercise component. As of 2007, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that adults get a minimum of 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise each day for good health.
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American Dietetic Association. 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995. Telephone: (800) 877-1600. Website: <http://www.eatright.org>
The Diet Channel. ‘‘3 Day Diet.’’ 2007. <http://www.thedietchannel.com/3-day-diet.htm>
Tish Davidson, A.M.