08.09.13: Don’t Make Any Big Decisions on Bananas and Skim Milk Day

We went on vacation.  It was a wonderful vacation.  It had been four years since we went on a real vacation, and it was well-deserved.  We spent time with good friends and we enjoyed ourselves.  Then, we went on a little road trip – a mini-vacation, if you will.  We saw friends we hadn’t seen in a year and we enjoyed ourselves.  Then, we went to a party.  It was a really big party.  We saw friends we hadn’t seen in years and years and years and we enjoyed ourselves.

Then, we got up on Sunday morning.  Late morning.  And we looked in the mirror and saw bloated, funhouse-mirror versions of ourselves staring back.  And we realized our sins were not victimless – they had, in fact, compounded and fed off of each other (pun intended) and we were far, far from where we had been.

So what now, we asked?  Get right back on the horse and in the gym.  Steam up some broccoli and grill up some salmon.  Of course – but what NOW?  Now, when we hate ourselves a teeny bit (a lot) and need to be shaken until our teeth rattle?

We needed something drastic and radical to jolt us back on track, in large part because we didn’t really trust ourselves to get back on track.  We’d go for a while, a week or more, and then there would be an occasion or a night out.  And then another.  And although we would keep exercising and eating right most of the time but not as often as we should, our progress would slow to a crawl.  We would shrug and say, well, whatever.  Carpe diem.  YOLO.  Yes, I’ll have another.

And that, friends, is why I am typing with one hand and eating cabbage soup with the other on today, Day Four, Bananas and Skim Milk Day.

We needed a kick in the backside, or “kick start” or “cleanse” or “wake-up call.”  Mister suggested a fast.  I am newly fascinated by the concept of periodic and judicious near-fasting after seeing Michael Mosley’s special on PBS (link to information about the show is here – it’s really interesting: http://video.pbs.org/video/2354483548/), but I need to do more reading and thinking before I plunge into a lifestyle change like that.  Plus, the radical nature of a temporary, insane crash diet is oddly appealing to me.  Something off-the-wall that, in B-movie parlance, is “just crazy enough to work!”  So we turned to the granddaddy: The Cabbage Soup Diet.

Put down the torches, people.  Don’t take away my Champion For Healthy and Balanced Living card.  Hear me out.

Part of what I learned from Atkins – which I followed at the very beginning of my Weight Loss Journey, chronicled elsewhere on this blog – was how to say NO.  Cutting out an entire food group is not sustainable and not supportive of actual life, obviously, but for a short time it served to rewire my brain and put me in the habit of thinking before I ate.  Making good food choices most of the time and controlling portions are the ultimate secrets of lasting weight loss, but I’m not very good at having just a taste/bite/glass of something decadent.  I can do it, of course.  I’m an adult and I’m the boss of me, the food is not the boss of me.  So there.  But I respond, at least initially and for a brief, finite period, to severe restriction.  It takes out the guesswork.  Like boot camp.

No bread or alcohol for a week?  Fine.  Nothing but bananas, skim milk, and cabbage soup on a Friday in August?  Insane, but fine.  This week of Extreme Restraint will bring me back to my groove.  At this point, give me an inch and I’ll take a mile, despite being fully cognizant of how much I’ll hate myself the next day, how much I’ll have set myself back, and so on and so forth.

If you’re not familiar with the Cabbage Soup Diet, it’s out there on Google and on recipe websites.  As you might infer, the seven-day plan relies on a cabbage soup that one eats several times per day, every day.  Each day designates certain other foods that one is “allowed” to eat as well.  Nothing else.  No alcohol, of course, and no added fats, oils, sugars, or salt.  Dairy is allowed on one day.  Herbs and such are welcome.  Drink a ton of water, and stay away from artificial sweeteners.  One day is fruit only, but no bananas (and soup); another is fruit and vegetables but no corn and no potatoes (and soup); another is vegetables only with one baked potato (and soup) … and so on.  The looniest day is Day Four, Bananas and Skim Milk (and soup) day.  Protein emerges toward the end of the week, as does brown rice on the last day.  The original iteration of the diet calls for “beef” on Days Five and Six, but in these more enlightened times, we allow as how one can have chicken or fish or whatever.  Probably not a kielbasa.  Although it would jazz up that damn soup … Another “modernization” – and I hesitate to use that word – is that while any fruit or vegetable is permitted, other than the couple of noted no-no’s, one is encouraged to minimize the super-high-glycemic-index ones.

All it is, is an extremely low-calorie diet.  That’s the point.  Not many calories, and a ton of fiber.  I told Mister that the different stuff you’re “allowed” to eat each day is, at least in my mind, a gimmick.  I read on one site that the banana/milk day is meant to curb cravings for sweets, and that there’s more method to the madness – but I am not convinced.  The diet is about slashing calories for one week, and no more.  If it’s to be repeated (then you are a MASOCHIST), then it should be repeated only after two “normal” weeks.  On a serious note, if you are considering repeating the diet that soon, then you might benefit from some soul-searching regarding why you feel the need to crash diet once a month.  I’m not qualified to give counsel on these things, but I can say: don’t hurt your body or break your mind.  Nothing is worth that.

It’s the Cabbage Soup Diet, not the Cabbage Soup Lifestyle Plan.  Nobody thinks it’s a long-term solution.  It’s ridiculous in so many ways: you shouldn’t exercise much when you’re on it (too few calories); it’s a crash diet that relies on cabbage soup, for God’s sake; a lot of the weight lost is water weight; and some of it will come back.  But if we don’t return to our Bacchanalian ways and use it as a springboard for getting back on track, then the weight won’t all come back, and we’ll be on our way.

I also don’t mind the diet because the soup and other foods are real foods that you cook yourself, as opposed to powdered food that you buy (I’ve done that, too).  There’s nothing processed this week, no danger-zone carbohydrates (pasta, bread, cereals), nothing from a box or a can – unless you add onion soup mix to the soup, which is in some of the recipes but isn’t critical.  The soup can be high in sodium, but leave out the soup mix, use no-salt-added canned tomatoes (or fresh if it’s that time of year, which it is at the moment), and use low-sodium V8.  Don’t smother your stir-fried (in broth) vegetables on Day Seven in soy sauce.  Hell, don’t do that anyway.

So there you have it.  Me, on the Cabbage Soup.  Updates to come when the week is over … assuming I don’t flip out.

Even though it’s Day Four, today is still Square One, my friends … make it count!

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