17 Day Diet Review

So I go straight to the DrMikeDiet website—that would be Dr. Mike Moreno, author of the bestselling The 17Day Diet—and a flashing warning appears on my screen:  

Your connection is not private. Attackers might be trying to steal your information. This server could not prove that it is www.drmikediet.com; its security certificate expired 3 days ago. [1] 

Now what? Do I continue on, potentially at risk of hacking? I have a job to do so I clicked in, unsecured. Fingers-crossed I’ll have no issues—but I must admit this has immediately given me pause, but I’ll make a leap of faith here for the greater good (and a paycheck). 

So let’s get straight to it. What is The 17-Day Diet and will you lose weight on it? Because in the final analysis, that’s what you want and need to know. So let’s go. 

The 17-Day Diet Claims 

The 17Day Diet by Dr. Mike was first published seven years ago and it was a hit. Since, he’s written and published The 17Day Diet CookbookThe 17Day Diet Workbook, and The 17Day Diet Breakthrough Edition—best-sellers all. Moreno has a pretty huge following and ravenous fandom. His Facebook page is up-to-date and engaging, and—with more than 110,000 followers—Moreno makes sure to keep folks captivated and posts regularly.  

In fact, I just finished watching, transfixed, for almost 40 minutes his live Facebook Q&A—with 5,000 others—where more than 125 people commented and asked questions. One woman commented: “I follow your diet since 2 years ago and I lost 40 pounds so far but I noticed I start gaining weight again, I am 53 years old and I don’t know if it’s the menopause or the 2 glasses of wine I like to enjoy after dinner!” Moreno was encouraging with her. [2] 

I have to admit that, not having read his books—although I have done bounteous research on The 17-Day Diet—and being generally unfamiliar with Dr. Mike himself, I found him very genuine and earnest. I’m no pushover, nor am I easily conned; I was raised in New York City, so I have those street smarts! Sitting on a deck in 120-degree weather in San Diego on Labor Day Weekend, chatting with dieters and fans, taking questions and giving advice, Dr. Mike had me re-thinking our little website mishap.  

Okay, so the doctor is cool. What about his diet?  

Moreno says on his website, and on promos for his books on sites including Amazon, that “millions of people have lost weight” using his plan—described as fast, safe, and extremely effective. The claim is Moreno, a University of California at Irvine and Hahnemann Medical School graduate and practicing family physician, uses reader feedback and the latest science in writing his books. The original book has been updated to The 17 Day Diet Breakthrough Edition (where he’s tuned up the original diet with some new science, new tips, and new techniques), and it’s this newest version we’ll be focusing on.  

Moreno says whether you need to lose ten pounds or a hundred, his plan can help you realize that weight loss quickly and permanently. I must say, this claim can only be true if you never stray from his diet, the same as with any revised lifestyle nutrition plan—because that’s essentially what this is: less a “diet” than a complete, committed, and dedicated different way of eating. So the weight may come off fast—as is the case with plenty of diets out there.  

But keeping it off…ah, now that’s the trick. Though it’s not magic or mysterious: you simply have to stick with it. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with all “diets” —if you don’t change permanently, the fat comes back to where it’s lived so long and wants to stay. At least that’s what your brain and body think should happen. Your brain thinks you’re gorgeous no matter how fat you are.  

But Moreno has a bit of a different approach, albeit with similar results: the key to losing weight on his diet is that it “confuses and boosts your metabolism to help you burn fat rapidly during these four 17-day cycles…” [1] 

I am now relying on excerpts from his 2013 book, reprinted by permission, for the majority of the following information (staying on his website, is for me, just not safe right now). [3] 

The 17-Day Diet is a rapid weight loss plan, and most people can expect to lose up to 10 to 15 pounds during the first 17 days. The 17-Day Diet—which claims to work by improving digestive and metabolic health, is organized into four cycles, each working together to help your body reach its ideal weight and stabilize there. Each phase or cycle is 17 days long. 

First is the “Accelerate” cycle—or the rapid weight loss cycle—where you flush sugar and fat from your system and introduce foods and nutrients into your diet that have been proven to trim belly fat, thigh fat, and other stubborn fat zones.  

Next is the “Activate” cycle, where your metabolism is boosted and fat melts away. The trick here is you alternate between low- and high-calorie days.  

Next is the “Achieve” phase or the so-called steady weight loss cycle, where you master portion control and begin exercising: the 17-Minute Spot Reduction Workout.  

Finally, the “Arrive” stage—what we might call maintenance. Using what you learned, you change your lifestyle. This is no longer a diet but the way you eat and exercise for life. And, you get a day to eat some not-so-good-for-you fun and favorite foods so you don’t go nuts.  

He also suggests as an option a Transitional Day of smoothies-only as a sort of cleanse “between cycles to give you a little more fat-burning oomph. Basically, it involves drinking three Fat-Burn Smoothies…one at breakfast, one at lunch, and one at dinner. I call these Fat-Burn Smoothies because they contain ingredients that have been proven to help get rid of body fat.” [4] 

The supplements on his website, which include vitamins and stimulants like Garcinia cambogia, range in price from $8 to $70. [5]  

There’s also the 17Minute Workout DVD and booklet, for $53. And, he sells exercise equipment, like exercise balls and resistance bands, for $17 to $45. There’s also a 17-Day Diet app for $4, and even the “17-Day Diet Meal Plan” by BistroMD, where you’ll pay around $200 for a week’s worth of meals you customize from their menu. It’s by no means all you will eat in a week; rather it supplements a week’s worth of 1200-calorie-per-day eating. [6] [7] [8] 

(This—like all of his websites—was, for me, not secure and my computer operating system cautioned me against going on the site. I did anyway. For you guys).  

Bottom lining it here: In the beginning you eat about 1,200 calories a day (any less and you’re going against all nutritional advice and wisdom and risking your health). You eat lean protein, antioxidant-packed greens, good-for-you probiotics, and tiny amounts of good fats (a drop of extra-virgin olive oil, a sliver of avocado, or tiny handful of seeds or nuts) and you’re forbidden processed, fried, salty, and junk foods. Plus no sugar—aside from that naturally occurring in two servings of low-sugar fruit—and no “white stuff” like rice, bread and pasta. And you cannot cheat at least for the first several phases.  

“My whole focus is to get you thin as soon as I can.” But, Moreno adds, it “won’t be a pleasure diet. You’ve got to stop eating unhealthy crap. You’ve got to eat vegetables, fruit, and lean meat, keep your portions down, cut intake of fatty, sugary, salty foods, and exercise.” [9] 

He admits you’ll initially lose just water weight, but says weight is weight. He also says the conventional wisdom about losing and regaining may not be so wise after all.  

I want to emphasize that excess weight is always a sign of nutritional and metabolic imbalance: what types of foods are eaten, and how they are digested, assimilated, and metabolized. If any of these components of good nutrition are compromised, then the body will not be adequately nourished at the cellular level, metabolic function will be impaired, and toxins will accumulate. Thus, to lose weight fast we need to optimize digestion and metabolism. That’s what the 17 Day Diet does. [10] 

After 24 hours on his diet, you may be a pound or two lighter as your body has begun to flush excess water and toxins from your system. By the third day—once your body registers this new way of eating and the weight loss—blood-related numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar) start traveling in a healthy direction. After a week, cholesterol levels can drop significantly. Blood levels of important disease-fighting antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E are higher. Your bowels are in better working order, and you should be at least 5 pounds lighter. [11] 

By the 14-day mark, he says, blood pressure drops, and by now you can expect to have lost 10 pounds. A month in, your bad cholesterol is way down and within two weeks of that, he says, you’ve lost so much weight you’ll need a new wardrobe. Moreno says 20-pound weight loss by this point is not unusual, and your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels will be substantially improved. Once you’ve been doing his diet for six months, you’ll have reached your goal and be healthy with high blood pressure, diabetes risk, and bad cholesterol a bad memory. [11] 

Sorry folks, but this next thing he said in the book really pissed me off, and this kind of thinking is why so many young women—especially—struggle with eating disorders:  

When you’re fit and in shape, you’re much more datable. In one survey of 554 college students, researchers found that overweight women were less likely to date than their peers. What’s more, you’re marriage material if you’re thin. Research shows that overweight women are significantly less likely to marry than are women of average weight, particularly if they were overweight as young adults. [12] 

Shame on you, Dr. Mike. 

The doctor also goes on to say you’ll have more and better sex because men don’t want to have sex with fat women and vice-versa. Yes, he says this. “The romantic world revolves around physical appearance. If you want a love life with great sex, lose the weight.” The doctor adds that if you’re fat, you’ll make less money, so lose weight and get richer. And, Moreno says that while he despises fat discrimination calling it “wrong.” [13] 

But this is the world we live in. It’s not going to change anytime soon, so get over it. Lose weight and you won’t have to deal with it. Thin people look better, and, like it or not, get paid more. If you’re trim and healthy, you don’t have an absentee problem. You might even be more productive on the job. All of this helps your earning potential. So, if you want to live well and make your mortgage or rent payment, get those pounds off. [13] 

He wants you to be a “total hottie or hunk.” [14] 

Well, I never said he was perfect. 

The 17-Day Diet Ingredients  

Whole foods full of antioxidants—preferably organic and non-genetically modified (GMO)—plus foods with healthy probiotics. So, unless you buy his supplements or his prepackaged meals, it’s what you spend in the grocery store.  

A quick word about the supplements. I noticed he features healthy fish oils and other vitamin and mineral supplements, but also stimulants like Garcinia cambogia [active ingredient: hydroxycitric acid (HCA)], which I have written about ad nauseum. Suffice to say on Garcinia cambogia, I’m with the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), WebMD, the NIH, and ultimately from the Mayo Clinic website a pharmacist who says it’s “possibly safe” when used for up to 12 weeks—and even then, they’re not sure. [15] [16] [17] [18] 

There’s not enough reliable evidence that it’s effective in weight loss, it interacts with lots of meds—especially depression meds, which a lot of people take—and it may cause liver damage. Honestly, it’s not worth it.  

The Science (or Lack Thereof) Behind the 17-Day Diet  

So Moreno claims the best way to long-term weight loss is though initial quick and significant weight loss. A study published in the September 2010  International Journal of Behavioral Medicine—titled “The Association Between Rate of Initial Weight Loss and Long-Term Success in Obesity Treatment: Does Slow and Steady Win the Race?”which was conducted by researchers at the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida in 2008, may back that up: [19] 

…findings indicate both short- and long-term advantages to fast initial weight loss. Fast weight losers obtained greater weight reduction and long-term maintenance, and were not more susceptible to weight regain than gradual weight losers. [20]  

In the study of 263 obese women, researchers found  

…evidence that, within the context of lifestyle treatment where women are encouraged to consume 1,200 kcal/day, losing weight at a fast initial rate leads to greater short-term weight reductions, does not result in increased susceptibility to weight regain, and is associated with larger weight losses and overall long-term success in weight management. It is therefore suggested that, within lifestyle weight control programs, substantial efforts be focused on promoting large rather than small behavioral changes during the initial weeks of treatment. [21]  

So everything we knew before about rapid weight loss is bunk? I’m confused.  

Moreno also cites a Finnish study he says had subjects adopt a rapid-weight-loss diet for 6 weeks, and what followed was visceral abdominal fat trimmed by 25 percent and abdominal subcutaneous fat by 16 percent. I found the study, and what he says is partially true: what they were actually investigating was not “rapid weight loss” diets; rather, “very low calorie” diets (VLCDs). That you lose weight on a VLCD is not a shocker. [22] 

Speaking of Finland, I located a study by researchers there who followed a set of twins for 10 years and found that you inherit your weight and if you start exercising when you’re young, you have a better chance of fending off grandma’s big-belly gene. Just saying. [23] 

Finally, returning to the United States, a recent review of the 17-Day Diet by Ellen Stokes, RD, LD—published on WebMD.com—found that the talk about metabolism shifting and tricking the brain may or may not be a dubious claim (science is still debating this), but one thing is clear: Moreno’s 17-Day Diet does lay the foundation for a diet and exercise plan that may help you lose weight. 

Even at its most restrictive phase, the plan allows enough calories to provide an interesting and balanced diet. And it lets you add activity gradually until you meet or exceed the amount recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) and most health experts. [24] 

And WebMD’s Dr. Melinda Ratini says the 17-Day Diet is “anchored in whole foods, regular exercise, and other good habits that can help achieve lasting weight loss and weight maintenance.” [24] 

Word on the Street About The 17-Day Diet 

The 17 Day Diet Breakthrough Edition book reviews are glowing and heaping with praise. On Amazon, of more than 575 reviews, more than 70 percent of people rated it a 5-star diet book. [25] 

I always try to find the most recent reviews, and there was no shortage of them to check out. The following three seem to encapsulate the general sentiment: 

“Karmen Walters” (May 2017, 5 stars) says, “I met my weight loss goals through this amazing plan and lifestyle change by losing 55 pounds and I am now maintaining my weight loss for over a year. I have shared this book with many friends and family members and those who have begun the program have had the same great success. Thanks Dr. Mike.” [26] 

“Ms. K” (May 2017, 5 stars) says her love handles are gone: “I’ve been on and off of WW for more years than I can count, then I tried this…OMG, it works! Down almost 13 pounds in the first 17 days and I don’t feel like I’m hungry! Best diet ever for me! If you’ve tried a lot of different diets, and haven’t had success, try this one!” [27] 

And “Joange” (March 2017, 5 stars), who, at 70 and with only 30 pounds to lose, shared a lengthy and detailed review. But perhaps most telling—and likely helpful for people trying to figure out if this diet is for them—is this excerpt:  

Now what is so amazing with this diet is that I haven’t been hungry once, have been on vacation for a week of the time, have been able to eat out and have no cravings! The key is to eat what is spelled out (there is a huge variety for any type of food allergy or issue), drink the amount of water suggested, limit fats, no carbs after 2 p.m. and exercise. Doesn’t that sound like every other diet plan? Basically it is yet what allows this to work so effectively is that carbs are seriously limited during the first 17 days and then slowly reintroduced during the next two phases. This somehow jump starts the metabolism. There is an optional fast day (not really a fast since you get to have 3 filling shakes on that day) and you can drink coffee! Another positive with this diet is that I’m extremely health conscious. I don’t like any artificial anything and don’t want to be offered preservative laden ‘treats’ like most other diets lure you with. This diet is all about real food, not junk treats.  

…I feel like I’m eating the healthiest and most balanced that I ever have. I’m losing weight, feeling great, healthy and thrilled to finally be thinning down. [28]  

Though “Joange” does share that the restriction on carbs takes some getting used to. Not surprising, because any low-carb diet is a shock to a body that lives on carbs.  

I nearly threw in the towel in the beginning because I felt pretty lousy for about 10 days. I thought I was coming down with something. I figured out it was the carb issue which was a real wake up call on how I had been overdoing carbs. [28] 

Okay, but what about the naysayers? There was one common theme in the 60-plus 1- and 2-star reviews: the diet is too restrictive or difficult to follow and stick with. 

“A. Abel” (Nov 2014, 2 stars) says, “The concept is great, however, far too restrictive for me and as a full time worker and part time student, it was difficult at best to coordinate food for a day. May work for some but this just wasn’t for me.” [29]  

“Harold J. Kellogg” (July 2016, 3 stars) says, “The diet is too hard to follow, and keep going. The book is good. The promise to keep with the diet is difficult.” [30]  

And “Susan C Hoehn” (June 2016, 1 star) says, “Ridiculous. You’d think I’d know better by now than to fall for such a restrictive diet. It’s just not sustainable; way too unnatural.” [31] 

The Bottom Line: Is The 17-Day Diet Worth a Try? 

Risky (very low risk, though).  

Lots of people love it, plain and simple. My own feeling is if you: 

  • forget the bad advice and questionable references Moreno makes,  
  • don’t bother with his supplements or meals-in-the-mail for $200 a week,  
  • instead just buy his book and his cookbook and actually read and use them  
  • do your own workout (moving your body is moving your body) instead of shelling out $40 for the workout DVD,  

the more power to you—go for it.  

Review Sources

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