Rice Diet Program

Casually referred to as a semi-starvation diet, the Rice Diet Program is a rigid weight-loss program that is designed to achieve drastic results quickly and also help reverse chronic disease in the body. The program originated in 1939 in a clinic-type environment in Durham, North Carolina as a treatment for people suffering from obesity, hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease. The program was conducted in an expensive, boot camp environment that was strictly monitored by medical professionals.

The Premise: The Rice Diet boasts rapid weight-loss of 20 to 30 lbs. in the 1st week and 2.5 to 3.5 each week after. By adding in the recommended stress reduction techniques and exercise, even greater weight-loss is projected. The very detailed food plan restricts sugar, fat, salt, and processed foods. The goal is to detoxify the body with the food restrictions and incorporate high levels of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fiber back into the diet to keep you feeling full.

The Diet: The most updated version of the Rice Diet can be found in the book, “Rice Diet Solution,” that details the clinical plan for the at-home user. The program is laid out in three phases:

Phase 1: Week one, detoxification – Includes 1 day of the Basic Rice diet and 6 days of the Lacto Vegetarian diet. Projected weight loss is 20 to 30 lbs.

Phase 2: Week two, continued weight-loss – Includes 1 day of the Basic Rice diet,  5 days of the Lacto Vegetarian diet and 1 day of the combined Basic Rice diet and the Lacto Vegetarian diet. 

Phase 3: Week three and beyond, maintenance – The same formula as Phase 2 but you add 200 more calories each week to your diet until you stop losing weight, and then maintain that calorie count.

What to get excited about: For people that really need a hard-core health and weight-loss program, the Rice Diet Program provides exactly that. It advertises quick weight-loss and delivers it when the dieter sticks to the strict food plan. In addition, the program centers around a food plan that outlines healthy eating, exercise, and even stress reducing techniques like yoga and meditation. Finally, it is one of the few programs that really attacks and tries to reverse chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and kidney disease.

Things to consider: This plan is very rigid and restrictive with calories in the first two phases, as a way to quickly shed pounds. In a closed medical environment with lots of personnel to support your efforts and monitor your vitals, this plan can be very effective. But for those trying to duplicate those results at home, this plan can be very challenging. In fact, some of the suggested food items my be difficult to get and require specialty ordering. Another area that concerns health professional is the low protein content (even lean protein) of the plan. Dietitians question whether there is enough lean protein allowed to maintain healthy muscle mass. They also point out that the plan is notably low in calcium and vitamin D so users should consider a good multivitamin to supplement their dietary intake. Finally, the 20 to 30 lbs. of weight-loss that is projected to occur in the first week is a drastic amount for such a short period of time. Starving the body of that amount of fuel for an entire week could result in an unhealthy and unwanted shock to the system that few healthcare professionals would recommend.

The Verdict:  It’s a given that the Rice Diet Program can provide people with obesity issues an opportunity for a good jump-start to weight-loss and healthier living. However, it would be difficult to recommend that anyone start this program in an at-home environment without an extreme amount of assistance and support. The idea that any plan is even casually referred to as a semi-starvation diet should be a red flag to anyone looking for a healthy approach to weight management.


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  • Barb

    The Rice Diet Solution promises a 20-30 lb weight loss in the first month, not the first week. Your article is incorrect.

  • Anna

    I’m on my second day of the Rice Diet. I found the first day completely satisfying until about 3:30 and then I ate 2 red bell peppers with 2T of hummus. I have at least 40 pounds of fat to lose. The corn and black bean salad I’m having for lunch is delicious. I’ve made similar salads many times in the past but this dressing is delicious. I don’t find this diet to be a deprivation.