The Shibboleth diet’s “it’s a secret” tag line may have you wondering whether it’s the secret to your weight loss goals.
However, you may also wonder how the Shibboleth diet differs from the endless number of other weight loss programs and whether it works for weight loss.
This article provides a detailed review of the Shibboleth diet, examining its benefits and downsides for weight loss.
diet review scorecard
- Overall score: 2.1
- Weight loss: 3
- Healthy eating: 2.5
- Sustainability: 2
- Whole body health: 1.5
- Nutrition quality: 2
- Evidence-based: 1.5
BOTTOM LINE: The Shibboleth diet may help you lose weight, but there’s no research to support this. Although it includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods, the diet may not provide all the necessary nutrients without a multivitamin.
The Shibboleth diet was created by Travis Martin, an entrepreneur who lost 100 pounds (45.5 kg) and maintained his weight loss for years (1).
Martin markets the Shibboleth diet as a weight loss, lifestyle, and wellness ministry.
The wellness ministry component of the diet has a strong focus on Christianity, so much so that the website has a section called “prayers” where members can ask for prayers and pray for others.
The Shibboleth diet offers nutrition education, weight loss video series, daily meal plan options with recipes, and live support for a membership cost of $99.00 per year, $9.95 per month, or $4.95 per week (1).
These membership features are claimed to help you lose weight and maintain it, and they’re offered primarily through their website and by phone.
According to the Shibboleth diet website, you don’t have to purchase special foods or supplements, as everything you need can be found at your local grocery store.
Still, the website sells dozens of items like apple cider vinegar, calorie-free syrups and fruit spreads, protein bars and powders, as well as other nutritional supplements that they presumably earn profit from.
Plus, while the diet claims that it doesn’t require nutrition supplements, several of its meal plans recommend them.
In either case, according to the website, purchasing food for the Shibboleth diet should not cost you any more than what you currently spend on food.
Using his own experience with weight loss, Travis Martin created the Shibboleth diet, which offers nutrition education, meal plans and recipes, and other features for its members.
Diet programs like the Shibboleth diet work by creating a calorie deficit, meaning they decrease the number of calories you consume.
The extent of the calorie deficit determines how much weight you lose and the rate at which you lose it.
Using meal and snack examples from their website, the diet contains 900–1,500 calories per day.
While this calorie range can make it difficult to get enough vitamins and minerals if the diet is not carefully planned, it can help the majority of people lose weight (2).
Indeed, their website boasts hundreds of testimonials from members who have lost weight on the diet.
However, there’s little information on whether people who have lost weight on the diet have maintained it in the long term.
The Shibboleth diet plan ranges from 900–1,500 calories per day, which can help most people lose weight. Whether people who lose weight on the diet maintain it long term remains unknown.
There are several benefits to the Shibboleth diet that may make it effective for weight loss.
Uses self-monitoring and self-reflection techniques
The Shibboleth diet encourages self-monitoring strategies, such as keeping a food log and self-weighing.
These strategies increase self-awareness of eating behaviors and can help people identify problems and make adjustments as needed.
The diet also uses self-reflection techniques by encouraging members to set goals, take action, and evaluate whether that action was effective or if a different approach is necessary.
Self-reflection techniques can assist in positive behavior change, setting the stage for weight loss and weight loss maintenance (6).
Provides accountability and support
The Shibboleth diet requires that members attend weekly classes for both accountability and support throughout their weight loss journey.
Studies have shown that offering accountability and social support can increase adherence to a diet. This is especially important given that a large proportion of people have trouble sticking to diet programs (7).
There are also several Facebook groups in which members of the diet program can share tips, ask questions, and motivate one another.
Emphasizes nutrient-dense foods
The Shibboleth diet emphasizes eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, such as lean proteins, low fat dairy, vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts.
However, to keep your calorie intake low, the company also sells highly processed low and zero calorie foods, such as calorie-free pancake syrup and coffee creamer.
These foods aren’t necessarily healthy, and any healthy dietary pattern should rely mostly on nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods, regardless of calorie content.
The Shibboleth diet uses self-monitoring and self-reflection, provides accountability and support, and includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods. Yet, the company also sells highly processed low and zero calorie foods, which are necessarily healthy.
Although there are benefits to the Shibboleth diet, it also has several downsides.
Based on one person’s weight loss experience
The Shibboleth diet program is based on its founder’s personal experience with weight loss.
That said, what worked for him may not work for you.
It’s also unclear whether Martin or any of his employees have any scientific or nutrition background or credentials.
Therefore, the diet’s library of nutrition content and video classes may contain unreliable information.
May encourage an unhealthy relationship with food
The diet encourages an all or nothing approach to dieting, meaning it’s frowned upon if you don’t follow the program exactly as written (10).
While this rigid form of dieting may work for some people, it can create an unhealthy relationship with food in others.
Some people who follow rigid diets may also have less dieting success (13).
Is too low in calories for most people
Unless the Shibboleth diet is planned carefully to include a variety of foods in adequate amounts, its low number of calories may increase your risk of nutrient deficiencies.
As such, the diet generally recommends a branded multivitamin that they sell.
Plus, the 900–1,500 calorie range is much too low for most people.
For safe weight loss, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women consume 1,200–1,500 calories daily and men 1,500–1,800 calories (8).
The diet’s low calorie intake may also lead to negative side effects, such as dizziness, low energy, headaches, and extreme hunger.
Research has shown that although low calorie diets may result in rapid weight loss initially, these diets may cause metabolic harm and typically lead to weight regain over time due to their restrictive and unsustainable nature.
Low calorie diets lead to metabolic changes that increase appetite and decrease your resting metabolic rate, causing you to burn fewer calories on a daily basis, which can cause weight regain over time (14).
For these reasons, most experts suggest that only small reductions in calorie intake should be made to promote sustainable, healthy weight loss.
The Shibboleth diet is based on one person’s experience with weight loss, may encourage an unhealthy relationship with food in some people, and may be deficient in nutrients.
The Shibboleth diet has specific rules and guidelines regarding what you can and cannot eat.
Foods to eat
The diet consists of seven food categories that — when combined in a certain way — claim to throw your body into an efficient and effective “fat-burning mode.” Interestingly, no evidence supports this claim.
The diet specifies which of these categories can be combined for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
These seven categories include (15):
- Lean protein: chicken breast, fish, low fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt (nonfat, plain), egg whites, and deli meat
- Fibrous carbs: salad greens, spinach, green beans, cucumbers, bell peppers, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, and high fiber tortillas and breads
- Energy carbs: corn, potatoes, oatmeal, grits, peas, navy beans, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta
- Protein and fat: lean (93%) ground beef, lean steak cuts like sirloin and round steaks, Canadian bacon, whole eggs, dark meat chicken, and tuna packed in oil
- Antioxidant carbs: apples, berries, cantaloupe, grapes, kiwifruit, oranges, prunes, and watermelons
- Superfood: peanut butter, nuts, seeds, and beans, including black, red, kidney, garbanzo, soy, and pinto
- Shellfish: shrimp, clams, oysters, lobster, crab, etc.
The diet also allows one snack per day for women, and two for men.
Approved snack options include:
- two rice cakes with 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of peanut butter
- a can of tuna with five whole wheat crackers
- a handful of nuts
- 1/4 cup (57 grams) of low fat cottage cheese with five whole wheat crackers
- 4 cups (28 grams) of Skinny Pop Popcorn
- 1/2 serving of any approved meal or meal replacement product
If you’re still hungry, the diet allows you to have “freebie” items, such as fibrous vegetables, pickles, and sugar-free Jell-O and popsicles.
Beverages allowed on the diet include water, clear diet soda, certain protein drinks, coffee, unsweetened tea, and low calorie powdered drink mixes like Crystal Light.
Foods to avoid
The Shibboleth diet is highly specific about what you can eat, listing brand names of foods, beverages, condiments, and supplements.
That said, the diet does not have a list of foods to avoid and instead encourages its members to focus on foods that they can have rather than foods they can’t have.
Each meal of the Shibboleth diet consists of a specific combination of its seven food categories. The diet is very specific about what foods and beverages are allowed.
The diet also requires that you drink 64–128 ounces (1.9–-3.8 liters) of water daily.
Here is a 3-day sample menu of the Shibboleth diet for women. Men should add one snack daily.
- Breakfast: egg white omelet made with six egg whites, spinach, mushrooms, onions, and peppers, and one slice of wheat bread
- Snack: white string cheese stick with five whole wheat crackers
- Lunch: chicken salad made with shredded chicken breast, leafy greens, diced tomato, and shredded cheese, topped with apple cider vinegar
- Dinner: turkey sandwich made with deli turkey meat, whole wheat bread, mayo, cheese, mustard, and cucumber slices
- Breakfast: French toast made using two slices of whole wheat bread dipped in egg whites, fried in cooking spray, and topped with cinnamon, spray butter, and calorie-free syrup.
- Snack: peanut butter spread over rice cakes
- Lunch: tuna sandwich made with water-packed tuna, whole wheat bread, mayo, tomato, lettuce, and relish
- Dinner: chicken stir-fry made with chopped chicken breast, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms, mixed with soy sauce
- Breakfast: peanut butter and jelly sandwich made using wheat bread, peanut butter and sugar-free jelly
- Snack: low fat cottage cheese with five whole wheat crackers
- Lunch: meal replacement protein bar
- Dinner: baked tilapia with lightly buttered asparagus spears seasoned with salt and pepper
The Shibboleth diet allows three meals per day, as well as one snack for women and two for men.
The Shibboleth diet is a weight loss and wellness program created by Travis Martin.
Due to the diet’s low calorie allowance, the diet can help most people lose weight if they stick to it.
However, the low calorie count of the Shilobeth diet isn’t appropriate for most people, especially on a long-term basis, and can induce negative metabolic changes that can lead to weight regain over time.
The Shibboleth diet encourages behavior modification and offers accountability, but it may contain unreliable nutrition information, create an unhealthy relationship with food in some people, and can be very low in calories.