Joco Opinion

Lori Allen: My 10-day diet lesson

Dear Cheese, I love you and I miss you. Please come back into my life. And if you could bring your friends Bread and Wine, I promise not to abuse you.

It was the long drive home from Atlanta after Thanksgiving that did it. We like to read aloud as we cover the miles and I pulled out the Kindle to offer some choices. I can’t quite remember why I had downloaded The Blood Sugar Solution 10 Detox Diet by Dr. Mark Hyman, but there it was. Though not exactly the fun road-read we normally enjoy, our Turkey Day Bingefest must have fueled our interest.

I had noticed that my diet had gone from the occasional sweet treat indulgence to routine cookie cravings at bedtime. The scale was trending upward and I was feeling bloated. I had gone from making careful meal choices to eating a bucketful of Topsy’s in one sitting. The bountiful Thanksgiving meal was still heavy in my mind (and elsewhere) as we buckled in for the next 13 hours. Trapped in our seats, we began reading about how we have been manipulated into making bad food choices.

I know weight loss/diet columns and ads don’t usually start appearing until January. But maybe I picked up enough tips during my 10-day journey that will save you from signing up for that gym membership you’ll never use (listen to the Planet Money podcast on fitness gyms) next month.

Ten-day detox? I can handle anything for 10 days, I naively thought to myself. The plan outlined in the book is essentially a no caffeine, no sugar, no alcohol, no breads/grains/potatoes, no dairy diet. Plus 30 minutes of walking daily. Piece of (sugar-free, dairy-free) cake.

I confidently decided to start early and cut out caffeine the day before. I’m not a huge coffee drinker — maybe two cups a day and an occasional cup in the afternoon. But apparently that’s all it takes to develop a dependency. The next morning I cowered in a ball in bed with a headache that threatened to break open my skull and made my stomach churn. I was certain I had the flu and would die from it. When my husband came to check on me he whispered, “it’s 8 o’clock.” From under the quilt I asked him to please stop shouting and would he check my calendar. I don’t schedule meetings on Monday so I figured I was safe. “You ring the Salvation Army Bell at Hy-Vee this morning.”

That was Day One. I haven’t had caffeine since. When I drive by that mermaid with the ubiquitous white paper cups I no longer feel the pull to get myself a “treat.”

At our holiday party that week I walked by the cheesy mini tacos, the cheesecake cookies and the cheese ball. (Lord, must every appetizer have cheese?) I passed on the wine and looked down at my plate. Carrots, cauliflower and hummus. It wasn’t bad. I focused on the good company.

We went to the movies and instead of popcorn and Twizzlers, we brought a baggie with a quarter cup of roasted pumpkin seeds. Again, not bad.

Every morning the whir of the blender meant our breakfast of frozen cranberries and blueberries (no sugar), nuts and almond milk was ready. Lunch was a big bowl of mixed greens, chopped veggies, 4 ounces of protein topped with balsamic vinegar and oil. Dinner was whatever the plan said; fish, chicken, and one night we even enjoyed a small steak.

In the end, I lost 10 pounds, most of it in my brain I think. I never felt the extra energy that was promised and the fog-head was ever present. I usually felt like I had been smoking the hemp seeds that I was supposed to be eating.

I learned a lot from the book but I don’t recommend the diet. Skip it and do this:

1. Cut down your caffeine intake. Try to get down to one cup.

2. Cut down your sugar. Make yourself aware of all of the sources — ketchup, syrup, sauces, wine, candy, cookies, etc.

3. Eat your vegetables. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, etc.

4. Limit processed foods. Look for whole foods at the party buffet, snack on veggies.

5. Eat your protein. This is the hardest one for me. Nuts are better than chips.

During the 10 days we dreamed of what we wanted to eat most when we were done detoxing. Our first stop was for my cheese pizza and a glass of wine. My husband was next with a visit to Johnny Cascone’s for spaghetti and meatballs. This is probably the number one reason that I discourage anyone from the 10 day detox. Sure, we lost 10 pounds in 10 days. But by Day 11, we were miserable and didn’t have our usual energy. Through the diet, the biggest lesson to be learned: Limit, don’t eliminate.

Freelance columnist Lori Allen writes in this space once a month.