The 500 Calorie Diet: 10 Things I Learned In The First 20 Days

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Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV. I’m not sharing any medical advice here, only what I’ve learned and experienced myself on the 500 calorie diet. Is it right for you? I have no idea. You can talk to your doctor to learn more. Also, this is long. If you aren’t interested in dieting and/or losing weight with this diet, just skip this post.

You read that right. 500 calorie diet. That’s it. Crazy? Yes. Dangerous? No. Why? Because I talked to a medical professional about what it is, how it works, and if I was a candidate for the diet.

I know this diet is not for everybody. If you don’t agree with this diet I’m okay with that, but I prefer not to be judged for my decision to try it. Please keep comments positive. Feel free to ask questions. And please, if you have any tips or recipes to share, I’m all ears!

Have you heard of or are you considering the 500 calorie diet? Here's a breakdown of what it is, how it works, and what I learned during the first 20 days.

What Is the 500 Calorie Diet?

The 500 calorie diet is sometimes referred to the HCG diet. The 500 calorie diet is normally done with the HCG diet, though it can be done separately.

With the 500 calorie diet, you restrict your caloric intake to 500 calories to encourage rapid weight loss. No sugar, no fats (not even good ones), no starches, no alcohol, no treats. It can be safe to do as long as you don’t do it for more than 40 days at a time (with a 6 week break in between if you decide to do it again), and as long as your in good health…which is why it’s so important to talk to a medical professional before starting this diet.

The HCG diet plan uses the HCG hormone to stimulate your metabolism to burn fat while maintaining muscle. So you’ll supposedly get a muscle-toned body that sheds weight at a reported average of 1 pound per day for men, and about 1/2 pound a day for women. You take the HCG daily via a pill or injectible.

Some people just do just the 500 calorie diet, others use the HCG with it as well. Here I’m discussing ONLY the 500 calorie diet.

What Does the 500 Calorie Diet Consist Of?

As you can imagine, it’s not super fun. For breakfast you can have tea (I drink green tea which is known to help encourage weight loss) or coffee. No sugar, no cream. You can have a tablespoon total of low-fat milk daily.

Lunch and dinner include 100 g (3.5 ounces) of lean meat with 4-6 ounces of vegetables, one serving of fruit and one breadstick. I don’t even eat the breadstick anymore.

Meats are limited to lean beef, chicken breast, veal, white fish, shrimp, crab or lobster, while vegetables are limited to spinach, cabbage, chard, tomatoes, onions, fennel, radishes, cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, mushrooms, green beans, asparagus and green salads. For your fruit, you can choose from an apple, orange, half of a grapefruit or a handful of strawberries.

Tips: You aren’t supposed to have the same meat, veggies, or fruit twice a day. So if you have chicken and asparagus for lunch, don’t have it again for dinner. It’s acceptable to have your fruit separately from your meat and veggies. I usually have mine mid-morning and as a dessert after dinner. You also shouldn’t mix fruits, however you can mix veggies. So you can mix mushrooms, onions, and asparagus together, but not strawberries and apples. I will say that I have mixed berries together with no problem. If you mix and experience a weight stall or gain, don’t do it again. A lot of this is trial and error based on how your body reacts.

The most important thing about the 500 calorie diet: Drink a TON of water. At least a gallon a day, especially during the summer. You can wake up your water with this simple recipes.

I have just completed my first 20 days, with great success. I lost almost 14 pounds and 9 inches in my chest, waist, hips, and thighs. Today is Day 22…only 18 more days to go!

10 Things I’ve Learned During My First 20 Days On the 500 Calorie Diet

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If you are considering the 500 calorie diet, and have already discussed it with a medical professional, here’s some things that you should know.

1. The first week sucks. BIG TIME. You’ll be detoxing from sugar and junk food, and you will be miserable to be around. You’ll be starving. You’ll reconsider what you are doing. I was told Days 3-6 are the worst, and they were. But stick with it because you’ll feel better soon, promise.

2. You might stink. Gross, I know. Nobody told me this one! You may notice bad body odor and bad breath. It’s all of that detoxing you’re doing! I asked Jason if he could smell it, and he couldn’t. Maybe your sense of smell is heightened as well, I don’t know. But the body odor does go away.

The bad breath sticks around. Chew gum, make sure it’s sugar-free gum. I have been chewing this Sugar Free Chewing Gum Sweetened with Xylitol Peppermint and really like it.

Flavored water helps with hunger bangs and is perfect for the 500 calorie diet.3. You’ll be bored. It’s hard to eat only a very limited menu and not be able to eat what everybody else is eating. You may even want to become a hermit and avoid social settings where people are eating and drinking and being merry. I’ve tried to hang out (4th of July sucked – I couldn’t eat anything at our get together), and it’s really hard. You can’t cheat at all. If you cheat with sugar, fat, or starches, you’re taking 2 steps back.

4. I prefer hot veggies over salads. The first almost 2 weeks I tried to eat a salad with meat and either balsamic vinegar or lemon squeezed on it. I got burnt out on salads quickly. So now for lunch I fry a piece of chicken or turkey burger with some veggies. It takes a bit longer, but it’s worth it.

5. Seasonings are your friend. You need to church things up. Just make sure whatever spices and seasonings you use are sugar-free. Try veggies and meat with Bragg’s liquid aminos (it taste kind of like soy sauce), use Frank’s hot sauce and Tabasco, and use garlic and onions for flavor.

Stevia and flavored liquid stevia (my favorite flavors are the Vanilla Cream and Coconut) in place of sugar. They aren’t cheap, but you only use a few drops at a time so they last forever.

Have you heard of or are you considering the 500 calorie diet? Here's a breakdown of what it is, how it works, and what I learned during the first 20 days.6. Sugar-free doesn’t necessarily mean sugar-free just because the label says so. Brands hide sugar under different names like maltose, maltodextrin, and sucrose to name a few. Here’s a list of the 56 different names for sugar. Make sure you are checking label ingredients!

7. You’ll get sick of eating plain meat with just seasonings on it, so get creative. Branch out and try new things. Jason and I LOVED these lean curry burgers that we served over spinach with a side of lemon cucumbers. The recipe calls for garam masala, and I have a recipe for it here.

This clean eating un-stuffed bell peppers recipe (minus the corn and cheese) is a favorite, too. Use chicken broth in place of the coconut oil. And this berry salad (minus the chocolate chips!) is amazing as well. There are also a ton of recipe boards for this diet on Pinterest. I’ll be sharing some recipes, too.

8. You shouldn’t exercise on this diet! I’m totally not making this up. You won’t have energy for a big workout, and if you do, you’re body will go into starvation mode trying to store all of the fat and calories it has.

A short walk or light yoga is fine, but anything else is no bueno. I’ve recently fallen in love with yoga and the peace and calmness it brings with it. It’s been very helpful to me these last 20 days.

9. You might stop losing, or even gain, weight. Water retention due to the heat, your monthly period, or cheating will all lead to a weight loss stall.

If you have a weight loss stall for more than a few days, there’s a couple things you can do:

Do an “apple day” where you only eat 6 apples from lunch one day to lunch the next. I did, and wasn’t hungry, but was sick of apples.

My sister preferred a steak day. You don’t eat anything until dinner and have one very big lean steak. That’s it.

We both experienced weight loss the following morning after trying both things.

10. You won’t be hungry. Okay, you might occasionally get hungry, but for the most part you’ll be satisfied. I was much more hungry during the days before I started this diet when all I did was eat crap all the time.

When you do experience hunger pangs, drink more water. Chew some gum. Eat a zero calorie food (like celery). Do something to take your mind off of it.

Zero calorie foods are a great way to snack or to stop hunger! These are some of the ones you can eat on the 500 calorie diet.

And I think this goes without saying: you will need support. Find a friend who’s also dieting or join a group on Facebook. I was lucky enough to have my sister doing it with me for the first 20 days. Since I’m doing another 20 days and she’s not, I still have her because she’s done it twice and knows how difficult it is. Jason has been a huge support, too. He’s been eating with me, though he’s not necessarily following the diet. And my family and friends have been my cheerleaders…it has been worth it!

Yes, I know there are risks to such a low calorie diet. But I also know it works. My sister did this diet back in January and lost close to 20 pounds in 20 days. She also did it with me again over the last 20 days and lost another 11 pounds.

I can tell you I’m sleeping better, my allergies aren’t as bad, I feel better overall, my blood pressure is normal (I had high blood pressure), I’m not as moody, and I’m not craving crap. The best thing? My depression, which is normally at its worst during this time of year, is nowhere to be found. I couldn’t be happier!

If you have a success story, tips, recipes, or even a Pinterest board to share related to the 500 calorie diet, please share!

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