My doctor recommended I try the 17 Day Diet when my body wasn't feeling quite right. Here's my experience, pros and cons, menus, favorite recipes for Cycle 1 and why it's the preferred eating plan when my husband and I need to clean up our diets.
I can't help but celebrate
Guys, I can't help it. I love to celebrate. I love sprinkles. When you've survived cancer twice, every day can feel like reason for celebration. Yet that doesn't mean the calories don't add up. As I've come to terms with getting older (praise the Lord though, life is such a gift), I've also accepted that my metabolism isn't what it used to be.
I've heeded my oncologist's advice and begun the 17 Day Diet.
About the 17 Day Diet
I've never been a dieter, although I've done a few sugar fasts. But when my doctor suggested this eating plan as something to try (my weight had slowly crept up over the years), I listened to her. The mentality?
"You can do anything for 17 days."
And she was right—that helped it stick. (Even if it does technically involve 3 cycles of 17 days to fully go through it.) But, the 17 Day Diet kickstarted me into eating healthy again, which I really need once in awhile.
It incorporates all types of wholesome foods into my diet. Although you cut out carbs in the beginning, the cycles eventually add back rice, beans, squash and bread. The diet doesn't ask you to buy any special products. It teaches moderation with all things.
It's a slam dunk for me.
How the 17 Day Diet Works
Dr. Mike Moreno developed the diet, and if you Google it, you can find both the book and several articles showcasing the pros and cons. One disclaimer I'd like to add: I don't personally do this diet for major weight loss. Sure, I shed some pounds, but it's ultimately to clean up my eating.
There's debate over whether the data backs up Dr. Moreno's claims about weight loss; just know we do this diet because it forces us to eat healthy and in the end, we do slim down.
Cycle 1: Accelerate
This is the first cycle of 17 days and the toughest. Generally here's what it looks like for us and the menu options:
- Kick off the day with hot lemon water.
- Usually alternate eggs and yogurt smoothies for breakfast.
- Eat chicken, turkey and fish.
- Eat veggies (roasted, steamed, sauteed, grilled—we get creative).
- Eat some fruit (try to eat it before the evening).
- Eat yogurt and a little bit of cheese if we're really hungry.
We adore tortilla chips, candy and rice around here, so it's pretty tough. But, this cycle is important and the 17 days do pass quickly.
Cycle 2: Activate
We usually celebrate when we reach this cycle because there's relief—we can eat rice, beans, oatmeal and steak again. Here's what active looks like for us:
- Alternate every-other day with Cycle 1 & 2 for the next 17 days.
- Usually on Day 1 of Cycle 2, we get steak because it sounds so good.
- Healthy starches return, which brings joy. This looks like potatoes, rice, lean cuts of steak, lean pork and beans.
Activate can be deceiving since you alternate this with Cycle 1 for 17 days, but looking forward to starches helps us power through it.
Cycle 3: Achieve
By the time we hit this cycle, we're nearly home free. We follow this cycle for 17 more days.
- Continue eating all of the foods from the previous cycles
- Add back in some whole grains (breads, tortillas, pastas, and more!)
Cycle 4: Arrive
By now we've done 3 cycles of 17 days and the day we hit Cycle 4, we're done. We're through the diet. Here's how it works:
- We're encouraged to design menus based on the 3 cycles throughout the week.
- On the weekends, splurge 1-3 times if we want. (Welcome back sugars, fatty foods, alcohol, etc.)
All of the cycles encourage you to eat fruit and carbs before the evening, and to balance what you're eating with exercise. So generally—common sense stuff.
That's why it works pretty well for us.
Pros and Cons of the 17 Day Diet
So we've done this diet twice, and admittedly there are pros and cons. Other people will likely have some other opinions, but here's our experience.
- It involves eating everyday foods you can buy at a grocery store or grow in a garden.
- You'll likely throw out fewer rotten veggies and fruits from your fridge.
- This forces you to learn how to eat healthy snacks.
- It changes every 17 days so you feel like you can stick with it.
- It doesn't eliminate dairy and some low-sugar sweeteners at the beginning.
- The final cycle acknowledges life: you'll want to celebrate, grab a burger and fries, make cookies. etc. It shows how to do that in moderation.
- It doesn't require a lot of strenuous exercise (which for me as a survivor, is helpful).
- It's pretty simple to be plant-based or vegetarian on this diet.
- If you like to cook, you'll get some great time in the kitchen. (It's been a great COVID-19 diet.)
- If you don't eat fish (like me), you're pretty limited in Cycle 1.
- It does take some time to chop up veggies & cook. If you're short on time, this can be tough.
- If you're looking for the best diet to help you with major weight loss goals, it carries some controversy. While my doctor recommended it for me and my health goals, you'll want to check with yours.
- Not going to lie, there are times I feel hungry.
- If you don't like to (or know how to) cook, you might struggle with this. Eating out can also be hard during Cycle 1.
Recipes we use for the 17 Day Diet
So a big part of this diet is cooking, at least in the beginning. I mean you can find some options if you're eating out, but salads and grilled chicken with steamed veggies can only go so far. We cook quite a bit during this diet.
Cycle 1 recipes
Here's some of our favorite recipes (all that you can eat in Cycle 1, which is the toughest)
- Chicken and Vegetable Soup (we've nicknamed it Red Soup). (Get the recipe in Dr. Moreno's book)
- Chicken salad lettuce wraps (Get the recipe in Dr. Moreno's book)
- Slow cooker Mexican cilantro chicken
- Greek Turkey Meatballs
- Mozzarella Chicken in Tomato Sauce
- Green Chicken Chili Enchiladas with Cauliflower
- Grill out (we often do turkey burgers, chicken tenders and veggie kabobs)
- Turkey taco meat (here's the homemade taco seasoning recipe I use)
- Farmer's Omelets
- Yogurt Bark
Get a ton of great recipes and menu ideas from the 17 Day Diet Blog.
Eating out on the 17 Day Diet
You've got to be creative and plan ahead if you're going to eat out and following a healthy eating plan, but it can be especially tricky if you're on the 17 Day Diet and in Cycle 1.
Here's what we've found to be options for when we dine out:
- Chef salads with grilled chicken
- Turkey burgers (everything on the side and no bun)
- Steamed veggies
- Asian entrees with chicken, steamed veggies and brown sauce
- Most fish entrees will work too
By the time you hit Cycle 2, it's a lot easier. We will often order Chipotle or get steaks, or order Asian and Greek Food which comes with some great options.
The 17 Day Diet and My Colon Issues
A lot of people wonder if I can do a diet that gets rid of most carbs because of my colon issues. Since I've only got one foot of colon left, I usually need help with fiber and bulking. I can't drink a ton of water, or I'll be in the bathroom all day. Also, post-surgery, I've survived on white breads and pasta, rice, bananas and other soft, low-residue foods.
Honestly, I have experienced loose stools in the beginning stages of this diet, which means I need to take quite a few (5-6 pills) of Imodium each day. (I'm usually taking at least a few pills daily, however, so I just need to be prepared.) I cannot keep up with how much water it says to drink, but I try to make up for that in smoothies and soups.
Those are a few downsides of the diet. But, there are many more positives.
Obviously, it's teaching me to eat healthy again and break bad habits—which I need. The low-residue diet isn't meant to be a long-term nutritional option but sometimes I cling to it for safety.
Also, if I can get the loose stools under control, I find the amount of times I "go" is far, far less. When I'm eating healthy foods, my body is producing less waste, so it actually gives my GI system a rest.
More About Us
Our journey into the 17 Day Diet is part of a bigger story toward health and wellness due to me surviving colon cancer twice, starting when I was 17. To read our story, check out my memoir Blush: How I Barely Survived 17.