What is it?

Jorge Cruise, a man who claims to have been 40 pounds overweight at one point, has developed a diet plan designed to correct the buildup of "belly fat." The 3-Hour Diet is a trademarked food plan that involves eating small portions every three hours throughout the day. The 3-Hour Diet is very controlled—eat breakfast at 7 a.m., have a 100-calorie snack at 10 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., a second 100-calorie snack at 4 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., and then soon after dinner enjoy a 50-calorie treat. To follow the diet correctly, dieters need to make sure that they stop eating at least three hours before going to sleep.

Cruise developed this diet based on the belief that if you go more than three hours without putting food in your body, it goes into immediate "starvation mode"—in other words, your body stores fat and burns muscle, purposefully slowing down metabolism, as if preparing for a long haul of no food. Eating constantly will, according to Cruise, keep your metabolism constantly going at a high rate, burning fat continuously throughout the day.

By signing up for the 3-Hour Diet program, you get a personalized meal plan that tells you what you can eat, coaching via online video from Cruise to "keep you accountable," and connections with other members of the 3-Hour Diet community. If you prefer pre-prepared meals, supplements like protein shake packs are sold on the website for $61 for a four week supply. If you think you can go at it alone, you can buy Cruise's book for about $20—that will give you guidelines for the diet plan.

The Promise

The promise of the 3-Hour Diet is that you'll get rid of stubborn belly fat without giving up your favorite foods or having to commit to a full-fledged exercise program. In fact, exercise is optional in this program. The 3-Hour Diet promises that within two weeks of joining the program, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which Cruise believes causes weight gain) will be reduced and so will your waistline. According to the program's website, you'll drop 10 pounds during the first two weeks and then lose additional weight every week after that. The diet is advertised as one that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of weight loss. It also claims to be easy enough to follow that you'll stick with it long enough to help you lose weight.

Pros & Cons

One great thing about the 3-Hour Diet is that it's inclusive; there are no prohibited types of food. In fact, some of the most maligned foods around are allowed—albeit in minuscule portions—including fast food chicken, chocolate candy bars, bacon, and red meat. Who's going to say no to a diet that lets you eat at KFC? Cruise believes that there are no bad foods, just bad portions. Following this methodology, the 3-Hour Diet is fairly sensible. It takes into account the undeniable fact that calories are what determine weight gain and sets strict calorie limits for each meal and snack. The 3-Hour Diet's meal plan also encourages eating a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fruits and vegetables.

One danger is that the amount of eating involved in the 3-Hour Diet's certainly can open itself up to abuse, especially if you have problems overeating to begin with. And the experts don't even agree that regular, smaller portions necessarily translate into weight loss. Another issue is that the 3-Hour Diet does not address the necessity of exercise.

Healthline Says

Cruise's focus on controlling the psychological aspects of weight gain and weight loss is admirable. Stress eating—eating foods high in sugar, salt, and fat to comfort oneself during times of stress—is associated with increased accumulation of abdominal fat. Getting a grip on stress eating is crucial to a successful weight-management plan. The 3-Hour Diet does a good job of tackling some of the key eating habits that lead to excess body fat—night eating, binge eating, and infrequent eating—all of which lead to consuming excess calories at the wrong times.

Our main concern is the 3-Hour Diet's claim that physical exercise is optional. Every weight-loss program should include some type of physical activity. People become overweight when they eat more calories than they use in energy expenditure (activity), and the primary cause of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. is a generally sedentary lifestyle, including exorbitant time spent watching TV and decreasing activities like walking. Thus, for most people, a successful long-term weight management plan must include an increase in activity.

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