One of the curious things about dieting is that no matter how fast weight comes off it can never come off quickly enough. I’ve been on the Ideal Protein diet for a bit over two months and I have lost twenty-six pounds officially, thirty unofficially. Getting that amount of weight off in such a short period of time is amazing. There have been times when I have wondered if it was a safe way to take off weight, given that it comes off so quickly.
The general advice from diet coaches to take weight off slowly sounds reasonable until you consider that lots of people follow the advice, give up after a few pounds, and then end up putting on more weight. The other general advice is to make “lifestyle changes”. It makes it sound like you just throw a switch and somehow you move from daily dinners at the Old Country Buffet to eating little but tofu and beansprouts, and that eating habits of a lifetime can somehow suddenly and irreversibly change. So the Ideal Protein Diet is certainly radical in that it takes off weight very quickly. Considering the poor long-term success rates of all those other dieting schemes, it was worth the chance.
As I can attest, if you follow it, weight will come off quickly. Its claim that you should never feel hungry after the first few days, however, is dubious at best. I have no doubt that some and perhaps most of their dieters rarely feel hungry. I still feel hungry pretty much every day, just not all the time. For a while I would wake up in the night with my stomach hurting from hunger. When I feel hungry though it is usually genuine hunger, not because I have a sugar craving. Those particular cravings have largely disappeared. It is the sugar cravings more than anything else that I think are to blame for so many Americans being overweight. Consequently, for me the most challenging period of the dieting comes not during weight loss phase, but when I attempt to sustain a healthy weight. It’s pretty easy to see that I will need to eat a lot less sugar and a lot fewer carbohydrates in general.
Some of us carry weight real well. That describes me. While I have lost thirty pounds, it is curiously hard to tell. I never carried a beer belly (it helps not to drink beer). In addition, for more than thirty years I have gotten regular exercise, including weight training. To some extent my cardiologist overreacted because while I was overweight I entered the diet at the high end of the acceptable level of percentage of body fat. Basically, I retained a large amount of muscle mass from all that exercise, but not to the extent that I look like a weight lifter. So in that sense losing thirty pounds is a bit anticlimactic. I don’t look a whole lot thinner, at least to my eyes, but scales do not lie.
I have taken up a notch on my belt. It used to be that three notches were uncomfortable. Now I must use four notches to avoid a plumber’s crack. I notice my weight loss most where I least expected it: around my arms. My arms now look great, with little in the way of fat between my muscle and my skin. It looks like I do rock climbing every day. Yet I have lost nearly three inches around the waist. Being very daring, I recently bought a new pair of jeans a size smaller than normal, on the assumption I would keep off the weight.
How is the Ideal Protein diet? As far as getting protein and vegetables, it will deliver, and you will be amazed that you can live on half your body’s daily caloric intake with so little fuss. Like any diet it requires discipline. You often leave the table thinking, “Is that all?” Yes, it is. Dinner consists of eight ounces of a lean protein plus two cups of low or no carbohydrate vegetables (basically avoid vegetables with roots). Otherwise at least during Phase 1 of the diet, you are consuming their “foods” which arguably are not cheap. The foods cost about $90 a week, and supplements run out periodically and cost more. By eating less you need a lot of supplements. Their foods are low salt foods, but you still need salt, so you use their salt and sprinkle it on foods or add some to your water. Like most diets, you drink a lot of water, at least sixty-four fluid ounces a day.
For breakfast, I typically make eggs from their omelet mix, which is surprisingly palatable and filling. Lunch is two cups of vegetables plus one of their foods. I find most of their lunch foods remarkably unappetizing. The best I’ve found so far is the Chicken a la King pottage mix (add salt). Snacks are also not much to write home about. The best of them is the Caramel Crunch bar. It’s that and lots of water (I drink mostly zero calorie iced tea) and zero calorie salad dressing with salads. I liberally add spices to my dinner.
So off goes the weight in a rather predictable three pounds or so a week, although it is closer to ten during the first week due to water weight disappearing. Change vegetables, proteins and “food” mixes for some variety, but you will probably find some combination that work well for you. Eight ounces of protein for dinner is actually quite a lot for an entrée. It can be a huge hamburger (no bun or condiments, obviously) or four eggs. I supplement meals with lots of iced tea and usually have one or two cups of coffee (a little instant creamer and artificial sweetener) with lunch or breakfast.
Still, after two months, my body is now seriously complaining. It didn’t help that I spent two weeks mostly on the road. With no access to a kitchen, there was no way to make their omelet breakfast, so I fell back on their small portion and not particularly appetizing “Crispy Cereal”. Have I cheated? A little bit. When in Louisville with no kitchen I had to live off the land, which meant nearby restaurants and plain Subway salads with lunch. It also meant a lot of walking, generally three or more miles a day. My body complained. I ate a lot of Mediterranean food, as three of these restaurants were convenient to the hotel. If they added pita bread or some rice, I ate some of it. I still lost weight, but it was probably from the walking. Last Sunday I found myself at an Apple store waiting while they rebuilt my hard disk. With close to an hour to kill and my tummy seriously complaining, I succumbed to a cupcake from a nearby eatery. In the last week or so when I have felt particularly hungry I have added a quarter cup of peanuts as a snack. I don’t feel particularly guilty about it. I am still losing weight but when my body gives me firm guidance, I listen.
After some discussion with my counselor though I’ve decided to start the second phase of the diet, which consists of adding real protein at lunch instead of protein from a powder. I may extend it beyond the two weeks to take off additional weight, or not. Ideally I’d like to be at the weight I was when I was married, but I was a skinny thing then because I didn’t work out. I have added a lot of muscle mass and I think it is reasonable to keep that extra muscle mass.
In summary, the Ideal Protein diet does work, it is reasonably painless but it requires tenacity like any diet. It is not inexpensive so adding in coaching fees and food it can easily cost you $1500 or more by the time you are done with it. Its ultimate success will be vindicated if I keep the weight off. My pancreas should now be well rested as it has had little in the way of carbohydrates to process, so when I resume eating carbohydrates I should process them more efficiently. I hope that I will consume fewer of them, and keep up eating more vegetables as a percent of my diet. I am finding that I prefer steamed cauliflower. So maybe I can retrain my taste buds, at least to some extent.
More dieting episodes to follow.