"Boot camp" is a popular descriptor for any strictly regimented program, including diet and fitness plans. Since most people know real military boot camps are rigorous and difficult, the term is handy shorthand. Boot camp diets are strict eating and exercise plans that, like military basic training, are not meant to be followed long-term. A boot camp diet is designed to bring about maximum weight loss in minimum time.
A boot camp diet has strict food allowances that may provide less than the minimum calories recommended by the U.S. Committee on Dietary Allowance, according to the National Institutes of Health. Boot camp diets are often designed for specific groups or geared toward events, such as the Bridal Boot Camp Diet for participants worried about fitting into that expensive wedding gown, Bikini Boot Camp Diet for rapid slimming before beach season arrives and the Supermarket Diet, boot camp version.
Many boot camp diets are slightly better than crash and fad diets. Boot camp diets that require at least 1,200 calories per day, include regular exercise, have a varied and nutritious food regimen and include foods that are readily available and affordable may be safe to follow with physician permission and monitoring. Very low calorie diets (VLCD) with the "boot camp" title require the participant to consume too few calories and are lacking in nutrition. Some focus heavily on one food, such as grapefruit, or require having only liquid at one or more meals. These diets can result in rapid weight loss but may be too dangerous to follow without medical supervision.
A strict eating regimen combined with exercise may serve to break unhealthy eating habits. Participants who follow a boot camp diet and exercise regimen and then follow a different diet plan with a more liberal, nutritious eating plan may find it easier to make a lifetime commitment to healthy eating and exercise.
Because they are designed for rapid weight loss in a very short time, boot camp diets that promise quick weight loss only last from two to four weeks. Healthier plans may last longer and produce a slower, steadier weight loss. Participants are more likely to keep the weight off by following the slower diet, because rapid weight loss is often water weight, muscle and bone loss. Since this is not fat reduction, the weight is likely to return as quickly as it was lost once the participant stops following the plan, according to the American Dietetic Association.
A VLCD may be prescribed by a doctor for medical reasons. If so, the doctor will closely monitor the patient to forestall any adverse side effects. Boot camp diets that eliminate entire food groups such as proteins may have adverse effects. Most boot camp diets fail to take into consideration the current health, weight, shape and fitness level of participants and should not be undertaken without a doctor's permission. Rapid weight loss takes a lot of effort and determination that most people find too difficult to maintain for the long term, according to Dr. Donald Hensrud of the MayoClinic.com.