Today, as promised, is my first day on the legendary cabbage soup diet. I’ve been meaning to try it for many years, but somehow the time was never right (translation: I was able to find excuses). It’s a short-term crash diet, based on eating unlimited quantities of a cabbage-based soup which costs more calories to digest than it provides, so you can eat enough to feel full but keep losing weight rapidly.
The diet is augmented by different added foods on each day. You eat as much of the soup as you want, and as much as you want of the other foods for the day – in my case, Day 1: Fruit (except bananas). In theory the selection of additional foods is carefully chosen to maintain your levels of vital chemicals so you don’t get sick. I’m told the diet was originally developed by doctors to cleanse the system and reduce weight before heart surgery, but I haven’t been able to find evidence or a listing of the “original” diet. There are a whole bunch of variations floating around on the basic recipe and schedule.
So this morning I went down to my fantastic Italian greengrocers, and came back with a carrier bag stuffed full of green things. After a lot of chopping, peeling and simmering, here’s what it looks like: The bulk of my diet for the next week.
Actually, it’s not bad at all. With loads of onion, celery and tomato in, it’s got the base of a good stock mixture (and some of my own vegetable stock cubes in for a boost), and it’s well seasoned with thyme, basil, bay and black pepper. It’s really pretty tasty, although I’ve quickly found myself adding a bit of salt to each bowl or it really is bland.
Obviously there’s not much in the way of effects today, although I have felt a bit up and down energy-wise, particularly as I missed breakfast (since I didn’t have anything allowed by the diet in the house to eat) and then ate a lot at lunchtime. With heavy-digesting foods like this, it’s important to spread them out through the day rather than eating big meals, as anything hard to digest brings your energy levels down for a while (the reason why people get sluggish in the afternoon when they eat big lunches).
My brain is already at work trying to screw things up, and I keep imagining that I’m craving chocolate or meat, very unlikely since my last “normal” meal was last night and that’s really not time for your body to feel deprived. I have been enjoying the fruit enormously, experiencing the intense flavours and sweetness much more than I normally would, but I think that’s largely psychological too. I’ve been drinking a lot of water and green tea, and the digestive workout seems to be making me quite thirsty. Otherwise I feel as good as ever, really. I’m even looking forward to a supper of fruit tonight when I settle in to watch a new episode of House.
Obviously, a crash diet isn’t a longterm solution to weight loss. Right now my normal diet is pretty good – I’m mostly off the overprocessed rubbish foods, I eat a fair bit of veg and fruit, very little out of the freezer (except things I’ve cooked and frozen myself) and I’m reasonably good about sweets. Week on week I am losing a little bit of weight. It’s just that the mountainous task (and stomach) ahead of me are making me feel pretty demotivated. Hopefully this quick boost will help me feel more motivated to be strict with myself and stick with the exercise.
The version of the cabbage soup diet I’m using this week. There are various other versions floating around.
Mark Hewitt is an English foodie, cook, philosopher, geek, shaman and writer. At the start of 2007 he sold or gave away almost all his possessions and left on a backpacking journey round the world, the purpose being (at least in part) to figure out why he would want to do such a thing. You can follow his journey and find other articles at: [http://www.scadindustries.com/sael/journal.html]