What is the pilot diet?

UKRAINE - 2023/11/14: In this photo illustration, Pilot Flying J (Pilot Travel Centers LLC) logo is seen on a smartphone and on a pc screen. (Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UKRAINE - 2023/11/14: In this photo illustration, Pilot Flying J (Pilot Travel Centers LLC) logo is seen on a smartphone and on a pc screen. (Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

The “Pilot Diet” is a distinct approach to healthy living that dates all the way back to the 1970s. Despite not being linked to aviation, this diet claims to offer a unique set of guidelines that can help you navigate your way to improved well-being. Here’s everything you need to know about the principles of the Pilot Diet and what sets it apart from more mainstream eating habits.

This drastic, low-calorie diet focuses on combining different types of food for optimum results. Rather than emphasizing calorie counting, this way of eating was developed around the belief that the chemical reactions from the foods we eat play a more important role.

The Pilot Diet is a 28-day diet where you’re required to eat exactly what the plan specifies. If you were to veer off course even slightly, you have to start all over again on day one. You’re also not allowed any substitutions or modifications if you want to achieve optimum results. This plan claims you can lose between 20 and 60 pounds in just four weeks.

What Does the Pilot Diet Entail?

This restrictive eating plan requires dieters to adhere 100% to the program for desired results. The Pilot Diet centers around:

High-Protein, Low Carb Emphasis

The Pilot Diet places a strong emphasis on restricting carbohydrate intake. This approach aims to support muscle development and maintenance while minimizing the consumption of refined carbohydrates, thus reducing fat. This plan includes lean proteins like boiled eggs, grilled or boiled fish or shrimp, grilled chicken, grilled meat and fat-free cheese. These protein sources are paired with non-starchy vegetables.

Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables

While there’s no shortage of fruits and veggies, only certain types are permitted. For instance, on day one you’re only allowed to eat half an orange or half a grapefruit for breakfast, accompanied by one to two boiled eggs. However, at lunchtime, you can eat an unlimited amount of only one of the following fruits – oranges, plums, strawberries, pears, apples, cantaloupe or watermelon. Watermelon, while delicious and nutritious, is made up of 90% water, so it’s unlikely to keep you satisfied throughout the day.

Permitted vegetables are the non-starchy kind. These vegetables are mainly water-based to promote hydration and include cucumber, tomato, green peppers, lettuce, carrots, zucchini, squash and spinach, among others, depending on the day.

Three Small Meals Per Day

The plan includes breakfast, lunch and dinner with no snacks in between. The meals are small and the quantities of most foods are specified, however, on certain days you can eat an unlimited amount of specific foods.


Staying adequately hydrated is a common thread in many health-centric diets, and the Pilot Diet is no exception. Water is promoted as the beverage of choice, with an emphasis on consuming enough fluids throughout the day to support overall well-being.

Rules of the Pilot Diet

Besides sticking to the 28-day plan to a T, a few other rules are in place to optimize weight loss. These rules include:

  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Sticking to your regular workout routine, however if you’ve had any medical procedures like a stent procedure, you should avoid strenuous exercise until you’ve recovered.
  • You may only steam or boil your vegetables.
  • You can add salt, pepper, garlic, spices or onion to season your vegetables, but nothing else.
  • No butter, oil or margarine is permitted, even on toast.
  • You may drink no more than two diet drinks per day, which are usually considered to be zero-calorie drinks.
  • You can have an unlimited amount of tea or coffee, but you may only add artificial sweeteners.
  • You can eat an unlimited amount of only one of the following – cucumber, lettuce or carrots between meals, however, you need to wait at least two hours after your previous meal.
  • You may eat an unlimited quantity unless it’s specified.

What Are the Possible Risks?

With any crash diet – a short-term eating plan to lose a large amount of weight in a short amount of time – there are risks. The most immediate concern is the potential for nutrient deficiencies as crash diets typically lack essential nutrients needed for your body to function properly. Rapid weight loss can also lead to muscle loss, weakening your body and resulting in strength loss.

Crash dieting can also impact your metabolism, slowing it down as the body enters survival mode in response to drastic energy reduction. Restrictive diets, like the Pilot Diet, can also result in individuals entering a restrict-binge cycle, where they binge on foods they restricted during their dieting phase. This cycle can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, often resulting in weight gain in the future.

Is This Plan For You?

The Pilot Diet is a short-term eating plan focusing on rapid weight loss over a four-week period. While this may sound appealing, it’s not for everyone and comes with risks. As with any dietary approach, it’s best to consult a health care professional before making drastic changes to your eating habits.

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