So how’s that Ideal Protein Diet going, Mark? I just finished day ten of the diet and what a strange diet it is! It consists of a mixture of healthy food (you better learn to love carbohydrate-free vegetables) and what feels like mad scientist “food”. It’s hard to argue with results, however. When they put me on the scale I had dropped 9.7 pounds in eight days.
Yikes! If I maintained that kind of weight loss I’d be emaciated in ten weeks! That won’t happen. It’s true that when you get about 900 calories a day and burn 2500 calories a day you are going to take off weight quickly. Which means for me anyhow it should take about two to three days to take off a pound, if you can maintain this crazy diet. This kind of weight loss should rapidly slow down. What’s coming off now is mostly water weight. After you exhaust blood sugar, the body will hunt for calories in your muscles, specifically glycogen. Glycogen is bound to the muscle with water molecules. Burn the glycogen and that water finally exits the body. So it’s kind of like getting double for your money, while it lasts. Soon, if it hasn’t started yet, my glycogen will be exhausted too. Providing you can retain muscle mass (the whole point of the Ideal Protein diet) the body turns to burning the fat in fat cells for energy.
This is a crazy diet because this kind of extreme weight loss seems dangerous somehow. I had always heard that to take off weight safely you were supposed to take off a pound a week. In theory you were less likely to put it back on than if you took it off more quickly. The Ideal Protein diet seems to be rewriting the rules.
Whether I can continue holding out is open to question. I think so but not because of the “food”, which generally consists of powders in silver envelopes that you mix with water in a shaker they provide. This “food” makes up my breakfast, lunch and snack, which means that I have one real meal a day: dinner. You can have eight ounces of lean animal protein with dinner (or tofu if you are a vegetarian) and two cups of no-carb vegetables, which you also have with lunch.
While not a painless way to lose weight it’s incredibly quick and you don’t usually feel hungry (except in the first few days). After trying enough of their “foods” you can find some that are good enough and some that are quite good. As a snack person, the snack constitutes the food highlight of my day. The Caramel Crunch bar is quite good. Some of the foods are an acquired taste, at best. If you like your soup foamy, you may find some of the soups acceptable but I found them hard to finish with ingredients that were often gritty. There are enough choices where you can get by, but you won’t be raving about the food to your friends. My “omelet” for breakfast has the sort of consistency and look of eggs, but not quite. It’s acceptable enough and with little else but protein you shouldn’t feel much in the way of hunger until lunch. Protein suppresses appetite and vegetables fill the void in your tummy. Repeat indefinitely until you reach you weight loss goal. Then start Phase 2 and learn to keep it off. Or so they say.
I expect I can complete this diet, but it won’t be without giving myself some constant coaching. I am trying to be thoughtful to my pancreas, which for a couple of decades has been in overdrive, squeezing out extra insulin to handle the extra blood sugar. It certainly deserves a break. These weight loss people believe that with a long break it can function more like a normal pancreas. When I think of unpleasant ways to die, pancreatic cancer is probably number one. I doubt there is a link between it and obesity (this was never a problem for Steve Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer) but why take a chance?
Aside from the weight loss, there have been some good things about this diet. I have more time because I am not exercising. It is specifically discouraged, because the body cannot draw calories as quickly from fat as it does from blood sugar courtesy of various sugar-laden fast foods. Exercise typically took six or more hours a week out of my schedule. I have them back, at least for a little while, which is giving me more time in the evenings to enjoy nerdy activities like writing code for my open source project. (I know, I know. I should be blogging more instead.) I’ll go back to exercise when I am off this diet, but it’s nice to have a break from that routine. It’s also strange to pass that plate of brownies and not feel a magnetic draw toward it. It took a few days but the sugar craving is gone.
In its absence is a kind of neutral zone. When we went to see the musical Next to Normal a couple of years ago, the severely depressed woman Diana spoke of life on antidepressants: no highs, no lows, just a boring steady state. She missed the lows because it let her enjoy the highs. I feel like that sometimes. I finish lunch and I am full, sort of satisfied but my stomach feels strange. I want to feel some gripping hunger. Since dinner is my only real meal, there are things that can be done to make it more interesting. Mainly, I can avail myself of spices, and I can add some olive oil when I heat up the meat in a skillet. That and some freshly heated vegetables liberally covered in the salt they want you to take regularly can make dinner pretty satisfying. I still need to find some calorie free salad dressing. Eating vegetables, particularly raw vegetables, gets somewhat dreary after a while. Mostly you drink lots of water. A little coffee is allowed. I did find a calorie-free iced tea/lemonade mix with Splenda that is really good. The diet coach said it was okay but recommended drinking it only at meals. Since Splenda is okay, a low-tech and cheap way to make drinking water more palatable is simply to add a couple packets to a bottle of water.
Doubtless I will develop more coping techniques in the weeks ahead. This diet will likely become more challenging the longer it goes on and particularly when I have to travel in a couple of weeks. But I will get through it somehow, I hope. Full steam(ed vegetables) ahead!