Dr. Mike Moreno – Behind the Scenes with the 17 Day Diet
Dr. Mike Moreno
Jonathan: We have a gentleman I know you’ve heard of and he has certainly helped many, many people across the country achieve their health and fitness goals. He is the famed author of the 17 Day Diet. We’ve got Dr. Mike with us! Welcome, Mike! How are you?
Mike: Jonathan, what a nice introduction! Thank you so much. Great to be on the show. I’m excited to chat and answer some fun questions and hope we continue to further the cause.
Jonathan: Well, I greatly appreciate all the efforts you’ve done towards the cause, Dr. Mike. One thing I wanted to start it off with, before we get into your story is. I know here on the Smarter Science of Slim show, we always try to talk about lifestyle change and ensuring we’re in line with science, and we definitely want to free ourselves from a lot of the empty promises that can sometimes be out there in the weight loss world – and I say this with all the respect in the world – that sometimes people hear the term ’17-day diet’ and they’re like, “Okay, what is this?” But if you actually dig a little bit deeper – you have to have a catchy title – but when you actually look below the surface, what you’re talking about is really just clean nutrient-dense eating. At least, that’s my observation. Is that accurate?
Mike: Absolutely right. It’s a baby-step program. The 17 Diet and as we get into the discussion, it’ll become more evident as to why the title is as it is. You look at the book – it’s a pink book, it’s flashy, it’s a catchy thing, and like you said, there is a marketing technique to anything – but really when you dig below, it’s just sound nutritional advice. It’s not gimmicky. It’s a baby-step fashion – and when I say baby step, I mean each baby step is 17 days to getting people back on to a track of proper health and nutrition and not eliminating all of these foods. I think so many people have gone to these protein-driven diets.
You cannot deprive the human body of carbohydrates. It is an energy source, it is a source that we constantly need, and if we don’t have it, we crave it, we need it, and when we want it, we sometimes become gluttonous – as with so many other things. This is exactly as you said. It is sound nutritional advice, but I think it’s been laid out in a format that has not quite been done previously and I think that’s why people are finding it doable and successful.
Jonathan: Mike, I’m curious. Certainly, you mentioned there are a lot of individuals who, when they go on a program which, let’s say, seeks almost a complete elimination of carbohydrate, that can potentially be a struggle for them. Have you noticed that there are maybe different types of people? For example, individuals that do better on a higher/moderate carbohydrate-clean diet and then maybe individuals that do better on a higher/moderate fat, but still clean diet?
Mike: Absolutely! The human body has just got to be the most complicated thing out there. I’ve been practicing family medicine for about 15½ years now, so I’ve dealt with it from children, from babies, quite honestly. Even from delivery all the way up to the geriatric population. Each individual is different, each person functions at a different capacity, and we all know there are people who eat what appears to be 5,000 calories a day and never gain weight. Then we all know there are people who can function off two hours of sleep at night and be as though they’ve slept eight or ten.
We’re all different – whether it’s our sleep patterns or our eating habits or our exercise requirements – and it’s a matter of finding two things: one, what works for you, and two, what you can live with and you’re happy with. I think that dynamic is really critical because we can propose a plan or a thought or an idea to people that may find it not very palatable; palatable meaning, as food or just psychologically. It’s really finding out what works for someone and then finding out what someone not just can live with, but be happy with, because life’s a long journey and we hope that we can live it in a healthy way and enjoy it, because if we don’t, our health can certainly get in the way of us enjoying it.
Jonathan: Mike, that’s such an important distinction because I see so often, in the, let’s call them, ‘nutrition circles’ that people, rather than saying – for example, with your 17-day diet program, I would imagine that your intention is always with getting great results – so you could say, “Here is this program. Give it a shot. If it doesn’t work for you, let’s find one that does work for you” because you are most interested in your patients being successful. Not saying, “This is the only path and if it doesn’t work, there’s something wrong with you and you’re at fault” versus “maybe we just need to try a different approach with you.”
Mike: It’s so right. One of the statements I use with my patients constantly is that “I don’t want to put my diet into your lifestyle. I want you to give me your lifestyle and I want to put it into my diet.” I think that you hit it right on the head. It’s really a matter of… You get caught up in just thinking that what you do is the same across the board for everybody. One of the things I use a lot with my patients is journaling – not just in terms of diet, but in terms of chronic pain syndromes – whether it’s migraines or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Whatever it may be – allergies is another thing – but when people have issues with weight loss. I sit down with them and I say to them, “Let’s journal your day. From the time you open your eyes in the morning to the time that you lay your head on the pillow, I want to know what your day is – what you do.” Are you a single mom? A single dad? Do you have three jobs? Or two kids? Or no kids?
What is it about your life that is different and challenging? Give me the obstacles because I can’t always provide the tools, but I think that if we think – and when I say ‘we’, I mean myself and the individual I’m speaking with. We put our heads together, we can find a solution most of the time. If not, you said it exactly. Go back to the drawing board. But we can’t give up. We really can’t. I think I’ve seen so many people give up in the last few years that I’m really trying to set a precedence that we can reach out and help each other and get some new ideas.
Jonathan: I appreciate you saying that, Mike, because from the outside looking in, someone could say…. Here’s a perfect example. “There is a 17-day diet and if I try it and it doesn’t work for me….” Almost like a religious argument, “It is the one true path and if it doesn’t work for me, then I have failed and I might as well give up.” What I hear you saying is, nothing could be further from the truth. It is a path and you have to figure out how to walk whatever path you can walk on for the rest of your life and if one particular path doesn’t get you to your destination as fast as you would like or as easily as you would like or as sustainably as you’d like, find another path! Don’t give up.
Mike: Exactly. Never give up. This is a 17-day trial that I assure most people find success – and when I say most people, I mean the numbers are in the 90% or more. I tell people, “Listen. You’re not going to follow this 100% because it’s very, very difficult to do anything 100%. But if you can follow this to within 80-85%, you’re going to see results. Another thing is, as you said, just don’t give up because life is hopefully a long journey and 17 days is a really small portion. People take vacations longer than 17 days, so if you can get 17 days, use 17 days to get your life back on track. That’s a small investment in the big picture.
Jonathan: Mike, getting into the 17-day diet dynamics – certainly we don’t want to give away the farm here, but in terms of the types of foods we’re eating, when we’re eating, things like that – what is the general protocol?
Mike: Well, general protocol is this: This is not about starving people. This is about resetting your metabolism and re-establishing a healthy rate of metabolism. So the general protocol is that you’re having three and four meals a day; you’re having snacks; you’re doing what most of us need to do. We live busy lives. We need to eat. We try to give you carbohydrates from day one, but we try to focus on clean carbohydrates. What we’re trying to get rid of is all of the processed foods. When I say that, I really want people to focus on that term, ‘processed foods’. We don’t need that stuff.
It’s not carbs because carbs are needed, as I said earlier. It’s getting three or four meals a day – getting those snacks – but learning which of those things we should do. I try to focus our biggest meal in the morning or afternoon. Again, it has to be changed depending upon the person’s lifestyle and their job and their daily activities. We use a term in medicine, ADLs, which are activities of daily living.
So everybody’s different, but it’s really heavy in protein, initially, and the carbs – you’re still allowed from day one. You’re still allowed carbs, you’re still allowed fruits and vegetables, and as we progress through the 17-day cycles, we start to bring in after just 17 days, we start to bring in potatoes and yams and whole grains and as we proceed to another 17 days, we start to weave in breads and pastas and a lot of these things that people think, “Oh my gosh! I can never have this again.” It’s just not true. You just need to learn portion control. You need to learn which are the proper carbs and when to have them. That’s what this book tries to outline for people.
Jonathan: Is there ever a point in this protocol, Mike, where…. Certainly, a lot of people use the term ‘moderation’ and ‘everything in moderation’ and we all know intuitively that that’s not actually true. Like, we don’t say “smoke in moderation”, we say “don’t smoke.”
Mike: Right. Absolutely.
Jonathan: Just use heroin in moderation, it is okay!
Mike: That’s right.
Jonathan: Is there a place for these processed edible products in your protocol in moderation?
Mike: Well, going back to what I said a few minutes ago, which is, you don’t need to do this with a 100%. We’re all going to have our moments of weakness and whether they’re caused by our challenges vocationally or at home or whatever they may be, we all have a crutch. What my goal is, is to minimize those gluttonous episodes of perhaps eating something that you wouldn’t normally eat. When you go into the program, a lot of people say, “Well, its four cycles of 17.” It’s actually not. It’s actually three cycles of 17. The fourth cycle is a maintenance cycle. The maintenance cycle gives you exactly what you’re telling me or asking me, which is, it gives you the ability to have some freedom on Saturdays and Sundays. Now, it doesn’t mean, “Go out and eat ten pepperoni pizzas and a box of donuts and go crazy!” It means that you can enjoy those things.
I did this because, in my experience, most people have activities or parties or weddings or whatever it may be on the weekends and so, for many people, the challenges will occur on that 5 o’clock on Friday through 6 o’clock on Sunday and then, people get back into their routine. What this does is, in my opinion, mimics life as we live it. Again, this may change. Some people may be working Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and have Monday and Tuesday off, and you simply shift the recommendations.
The point is that, on those weekends, you can go out and have some pizza or you can go out and have that donut or do whatever. You’re right. I’m not going to say on those weekends, “Go ahead and puff away on a pack of cigarettes.” There are certain things we want to abstain from completely, but when the book guides you and tells you when you’re kind of going overboard on these free days or when you’re doing a little too much, and it kind of gives you some hints to toggle back, that means that what most people find are two things: one, when they start to proceed towards these gluttonous days, they don’t feel good and a lot of it’s because they detox their body – they put their body in a different state of mind, mentally and physically – and so when they start to eat these things, their body almost rejects them.
Secondly, most people don’t enjoy it. You have such an overwhelming good feeling of energy and you sleep better and you feel better and you think better and everything just works better. To pour sugar in a gas tank just doesn’t make sense. So, not only does your body not sort of gel with it, but, what I’m finding is, people are saying, “When I have these free days, I don’t really eat those things I used to because it doesn’t make me feel good and I love the way I feel during the week and I’m so productive and positive. I want to feel that way all the time.” So people kind of gel into this routine on their own and people get to these points where you could still have everything and anything in moderation; but what I’m finding is a lot of people shy away from it because they don’t really enjoy it.
Jonathan: It certainly seems like there may be an advantage with a bit of a Garden of Eden complex where, if you know intellectually that it’s not completely off-limits, that gives you a sense of control. Then naturally, you come to the place by your own conclusions that “I don’t want this.” That seems infinitely more powerful than “you can’t have this because I say you can’t” versus “I don’t want this because it doesn’t make me feel good.”
Mike: Exactly! A very good friend of mine – I love him to death – but sometimes he challenges me. I can tell him what to do sometimes and unless he gets there on his own, it’s not as concrete, regardless of what the point may be. I always tease him because I always say, “I knew you would get there, but you had to get there on your own.” When you get there on your own, it’s extremely powerful! When people get there and they come to me and say, “Well, I started doing this and I started scratching my head and thinking, “I’ve been telling you that for the last six months.” When people get there on their own, there is a mindset and there is a power to that and the mind is extremely powerful, but when we say to ourselves, “Yes, I get this”, you’re more inclined to continue that behavior as opposed to, as you said, when someone says, “This is what you need to do.” So it’s very powerful.
I think this is a training method and I think this is why people are not just losing weight, but they’re keeping it off, Jonathan. That’s the cool thing that I’m loving about this! People are saying, “Yeah, I lost 30 pounds and I kept it off!” “I lost 60, 70, 100…..” 150 pounds is the most that I’ve seen lost and these people are keeping it off. It’s not through surgery, it’s not through fasting, and it’s not through drinking liquid all day; this is sound nutritional advice, going back to what you said at the very beginning, and when people get there on their own and get a taste of what it feels like to be healthy again, they’re more inclined to stay the path.
Jonathan: Dr. Mike, I really want to highlight what you mentioned about keeping the weight off because if we look at the scientific literature – I’m sure this is your experience as well – the challenge is not primarily with weight loss – almost everyone has done that. It’s with weight maintenance. One of my favorite studies – I believe it was a study out of Stanford – that compared a bunch of different diets, like high-fat versus high-carbs versus more higher protein, and what they found basically was anyone who’s stuck to anything other than the standard way of eating did well. The conclusion was that it’s the practicality of the ‘diet’ which matters, possibly, the most because the actual diet itself is going to vary person to person to person, but what doesn’t vary is if you stop doing it, it stops working. Right?
Mike: That’s the point. You said it exactly. If you stop doing it, people say, “Well, you’re saying stop doing it. Stop doing the 17-day diet.” That’s where the sort of confusion is because when people start reading the book, they will go, “Oh, I get it.” This is not a 17-day fix. This is a pathway back to exactly what you’re saying – the ability, the power, the strength, the mindset, the physicality of being able to maintain this lifestyle. It’s all about lifestyle. You’ll hear people say it all the time, “Well, you have to change your lifestyle.” Well, what does that mean? For everybody, lifestyle is different because everybody has different responsibilities and things that they need to do.
So this is about giving people the ability to reset their lifestyle on a physical standpoint and it’s not just always about weight. I tell people, they sometimes get frustrated because they don’t drop as many pounds as they were hoping, but you have to look inside. What’s your blood pressure doing? What’s your cholesterol doing? What’s your sugar doing? How are your heart and lungs working? This is a whole body process. This is not just, “What does that scale say? How many pounds did I lose?” Granted, you’re going to see weight loss, but what people don’t see are those hidden factors that you can have improve inside and those factors that I mentioned –they’re ultimately leading to so many problems from a health standpoint in this world.
Jonathan: Mike, what have you noticed with your patients? You’ve been doing this, like you said, for well, well over a decade and you got your family practice, you’ve obviously touched maybe, at this point, millions of lives with the 17 Day Diet. Congratulations! It’s been wonderful to watch that ride. When we get off the call, I want to have an off-the-record conversation with you on how you did that.
Jonathan: Have you noticed in your practice – because I’ve noticed this and there’s a bit of research to suggest it – in terms of personality types, where the type of lifestyle nutrition pattern which may be best for us each as individuals, and really they’re being almost two types of people. One is someone who would much rather have a program in which they can eat a little bit of everything, just not too much of anything, and some people would prefer to have a program where they don’t eat any of certain things, but can go a little over-the-top with other things. Let me give you concrete examples. To me, the 17-day diet is a little bit more of “all things in moderation, just don’t go overboard”; whereas something a bit more like a carbohydrate-restricted diet says “as long as you don’t eat X, you can basically eat as much that you want of Y.” Often when people do that, they spontaneously reduce caloric intake, it’s been shown in numerous studies. But those are two very different approaches. What are your thoughts on those two approaches?
Mike: That’s an excellent question! I’d have to say, in the last three years since I’ve been doing a lot of these interviews, that’s one of the best questions I’ve heard. I think personally – again, I’ll foundationally set this up by saying, everybody’s different. As you said, that’s why those two principles have to be realistic options. That being said, everybody’s different and I think, really, this program is kind of a little bit of both because it kind of gives you hints and dos and don’ts for both types of people.
My personal feeling is this – I’m a foodie. I love to eat. I eat socially; to me, a big thing, familial-wise. I’m Mexican. I grew up around big families eating and screaming and yelling and food and tortillas and…. I grew up around this stuff and it’s a part of my heritage – I love it! – and like so many other cultures there – I’ve been fortunate the last few years to visit so many other cultures in the diet and utilizing this diet into their cultures – my thoughts are really that I think for everybody. It’s what works for you.
I’m more of a moderation kind of guy because I like to do things. I’m not about deprivation. My thoughts have always been that when you deprive people, failure is an ultimate demon that will poke its head out. I think people should be able to do as they choose. The payoff for that is simply this – maybe give a little more exercise or a little longer of a walk or say to myself, “You know? I’m going to enjoy myself tonight. I’m going to have an extra glass of wine or a piece of…. whatever it is you’re doing – and it really doesn’t matter – but I’m going to find an extra half hour tomorrow to make up for it.”
If your payback is a little more exercise or maybe being a little more strict on a day or two following whatever day you sort of went off things, I think that’s great. My thing is, again, when you go to the being strict for two days versus just a little exercise, I think a healthy walk with a friend or family or sometimes by yourself to collect your thoughts. I think the payback should be a little exercise, but again, I’m not about depriving. I think deprivation leads to failure and rebound and people revolt and I think that sends you down a bad pathway. I think, enjoy any and everything and learn about moderation and if you mess up, so what? Guess what? You can make up for it in other ways, but you just want to have those mess-up days not occurring too often.
Jonathan: Again, Mike, it gets back to that. It seems like an overarching principle we’re talking about here which is, regardless of what you’re eating, you should always be conscious of ensuring cleanliness of the food you’re eating and ensuring the nutrient density, but it is absolutely going to vary from person to person in terms of what you just said, is a little bit of everything in moderation. That works really well for you.
I’ve noticed with myself – let me give you a concrete example. I was talking with one of my friends the other day and they were craving some of this dessert and for them and for my mother as well, they can take a bite of a dessert and they’re like, “That’s good!” Like, “I’m good. That’s what I wanted.” If I take a bite of a dessert and I don’t eat the entire dessert, I will feel less satisfied than if I didn’t eat any of the dessert.
Mike: Thus is born the three-bite rule. For those of you who haven’t read the book, there is a very, very elaborate discussion about that very thing. I’m like you. I can’t have one bite. That’s not enough. So I use the three-bite rule when it comes to desserts. For most desserts, especially some of these ones that are rich in chocolate and sugar and stuff, two or three bites is usually about what you need – and there are some great tips in the book that show you how to practice this discipline and how to succeed at doing it. But listen, I’m on your side on this one. One bite’s not enough, but you use the three-bite rule and then you either remove yourself from the situation or have the dessert or the situation remove itself from your presence; but yeah, one bite’s not enough. The three-bite rule seems to work pretty well. Most people are satisfied with that.
There’s always a point I always joke around with people because I’m not one of these people that wipes the plate clean and it is okay and I think society in the last many years has sort of led us down this pathway that you can’t waste food and you can’t do this, you can’t do that. My thought is this: When we’re all in a gathering – and I want people to do this – next time you’re around the dinner table or with friends or at a restaurant, even look around at other tables, watch as people are eating and you’ll notice this behavior and it occurs without people really realizing it, and I do it myself. There’s this point in the meal where normally people are leaning in – into conversation, into the meal, into what’s going on – and suddenly, you’ll see them lean out.
We’ve all done it. We sort of arch our back and we rub our bellies and we start to…. It’s that first moment of fullness. Let me tell you that’s just such a critical moment in eating a meal. I’ll tell you that is the point where if you stop, you not only feel fulfilled from eating, but you feel great when you’re done. I mean, most of us come out of a restaurant – or a lot of us sometimes – just rolling out of there and want to just find a couch or a bed and just collapse. It kind of takes away from the experience, in my opinion. So, look around next time you’re at a restaurant or dinner table and watch for people – watch them do that lean back – and it’s key to watch the people who do that and then push their plate away and are disciplined enough to be done versus those who continue to lean back in and do this two or three more times until they’re just stuffed.
Human behavior is so amazing and I think in the 15 years of practice, that’s the one thing I’ve learned. Patients always say, “Oh, God! You teach us a lot about this.” I can’t thank my patients enough for what they’ve taught me about human behavior and the challenges they’ve given me over the years, but we’re all different and I can’t stress enough to you how much we need to just lend a hand to – whether it’s a friend or family or even someone you don’t know – and really, really try to help each other because we’re all in this together.
Jonathan: Mike, I want to shine a light on what you said there in terms of the eating in a social gathering – just to make sure I understand you correctly because I can totally empathize and it’s had a profound impact on my life as well – and that’s, what you’re describing – correct me if I’m wrong – is – for example, you serve yourself some food and you’ve got your plate there, you’ve got a nice plate, you eat it, and when you’re done, when you take your last forkful, you think to yourself, “That was good! I could eat some more.” But what you do – and this is actually what myself and my wife do – is we say, “That was really good. I could eat some more.” Then we wait and we talk for 3-5 minutes and ‘amazingly’, at the end of that 5 minutes, 80% of the time, we are completely satisfied.
Jonathan: I just want folks to understand what I believe you’re not saying – ‘stop when you’re still hungry’ and ‘it’s just about eating less’. What I hear you saying is, it’s about not unnecessarily overstuffing yourself simply because your gut hasn’t had time to communicate with your brain just how satisfied it actually is.
Mike: Exactly right! There’s two points I’m going to make: One is that I generally recommend that people eat to when they’re 70-80% full because that extra 20% will come, as you just stated with you and your wife, it will come with time and when those neurotransmitters and the signals from the gut get to the brain and all of the chemical things that take place – I don’t want to get it all medical because it gets boring – but the satiety receptors, once they have time – satiety meaning fullness or feeling full – when those receptors have a chance to be saturated and they send that signal to the brain and say, “Hey! We’re all full here. We’re good to go.”
That’s really enjoyment. What I find is that often times, I feel like I’m enjoying the meal and the taste and flavors and all of the meal and experience of the meal leading up to that point. Sometimes when you push past that 75 or 80% to that 90 or that full 100% or feeling stuffed, it almost seems like you don’t enjoy that last push. I think the enjoyment is really that front part – part of it’s the food and part of it’s the company and your friendship and conversation and part of it’s just enjoying the taste and flavors of foods. So you’re absolutely right. When you try to train your body and your mind to find out where that 75 or 80% sort of timeframe is in an eating of the meal, you’ll enjoy your meal a lot better.
One of the other things is I like to eat and feel energized. I like to eat and feel like I’m ready to go. It’s like filling up your gas tank. You know that feeling when you fill up and you have a full gas tank, its great! You get in the car and you just feel like you can go anywhere and do anywhere; and it’s really the same with eating. I love that feeling of being energized and feeling good after you eat and let’s face it, most of the time after we eat, we typically aren’t going to bed and if you are, that’s probably something you should change in terms of your behavior. A lot of us really eat and then are launched into our day and whether that’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner – whatever it may be – a lot of us have to be mentally and physically prepared to do something, so why not eat and feel energized and think clearly and feel better as opposed to wanting to lay down and sleep.
Jonathan: It’s good stuff and if you’re not lying down and sleeping, which is good, then you should take that time and you should go check out DrMikeDiet.com because our good friend, Dr. Mike, who we’ve been talking to here, has a free report up there called 7 Simple Ways To Lose Weight Now. It’s certainly also going to improve your health a bit. His book, which I’m sure you’ve heard of, has been all over the media, is the 17 Day Diet. Dr. Mike, thank you so much for joining us. What is next for you? In some circles, you’ve basically scaled the publishing success mountain. Which mountain are you going to scale next?
Mike: Well, I’ll tell you. The book initially was followed by a cookbook, which was really fantastic! I had the fortune of working with some very talented individuals to produce a number of new recipes that all fall into the very simple cycles. So that was completed about a year ago.
Up next, currently being worked on is a revision of the current book, and that’ll be out probably not till the first of the year – I’m thinking probably January. But this book’s going to be fantastic! It’s going to revisit a lot of the foundational principles of the 17 Day Diet. We’re going to have some amazing testimonials and you’re going to see people of all ages from all over the country, from all over the world, quite honestly, and some of their success stories. So we’re going to be able to share a lot of those with people and I think they’re truly inspiring. We’re going to have a ton more recipes that are going to be available and then we’re going to have some new literature that focuses on body-specific weight loss and certain foods that target certain parts of the body in terms of decreasing size. So there’s some good stuff coming in the first of the year and hopefully I think people will continue to just grasp ideas.
Again, at DrMikeDiet.com, there are a lot of people sharing their success stories and ideas and challenges and so it’s a great forum to get help, whether it’s individually or through just group support, there are a number of things out there.
Jonathan: Well, Dr. Mike, we’ll have to have you back on the show, if you don’t mind, because I also have a book coming out right around that timeframe, so we might have to work something out. Maybe we can go on tour together or something.
Mike: Hey, fantastic! I’m sure it’d be great. Anything to get people healthier, I’m all on-board. I appreciate you having me. It’s been a great time and I hope people enjoy listening and let’s all, like I said, reach out and help each other because life can be a good journey if we live in a healthy and positive way.
Jonathan: I love it. Thank you so much, Dr. Mike. Folks, 17 Day Diet. DrMikeDiet.com. Remember, this week and every week after – eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon.
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