The Ideal Protein Diet - or How I survived on Space food
When what you do is not working...try something completely different
I am trying something drastic. My chiropractor, Dr. Rick recommended a radical diet called Ideal Protein. My “healthy eating” is not working and I shot up 8 lbs. since my last doctor’s appointment. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So I’m taking his advice, shaking it up, and trying something I never would have considered before; prepackaged space food – just add water. I need to drop at least 70 lbs. Can I make a commitment to such a crazy diet? On this day before my diet I didn’t really enjoy my eggs sautéed in butter & olive oil with a brioche onion roll. My joy in food has diminished with the increasing pain. Yes, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can because I am desperate. Pain has taken over my life and I want it back.
I am sitting in bed consumed by pain everywhere from my forearms to my calves to my lower back to my thumbs. I went to the doctor yesterday and she is checking me for just about everything. If there is nothing wrong with me I have to depend on losing weight to see if that helps at all. It will at least help the joint pain in my hips and knees by taking off the additional pressure. Apparently, every 10 pounds of body weight applies 40 pounds of pressure on your weight bearing joints.
I want to document my progress although writing is a painful proposition these days. If I write by hand my poor fingers throb and ache. If I sit at the computer my lower back and legs rebel. I decide to try sitting up in bed with pillows propped against my back and my aching legs draped over a folded bolster. I am crying as is usual when no one is looking. I want to accomplish so much. The prescription strength Tylenol should kick in soon and I’ll be able to bathe and get dressed. I’ll drive to Dr. Rick’s to get my first installment of Ideal Protein and my instructions.
The first day of the diet I wake up and switch my usual one strong cup of coffee with Coffee Mate to plain strong tea. I spent the last hour or so going over the Ideal Protein diet and shuffling little silver packets of space food. I am scared and excited although my body is not cooperating. I am weak and nauseous like a lot of mornings these days. I did manage to have, shall we say, a movement. Considering what I’ll be eating now, I’m a little afraid this may be the last time ever.
After reading the literature I want to believe in this. There is a passage about how a balanced diet will not result in weight loss. According to them, a balanced diet, as the word “balanced” suggests, results in weight maintenance. They say that in order to lose weight you have to reset your body and get it to shed fat instead of living off the sugars and fats a person takes in as nourishment. Your body must learn how to use the stored fuel. This makes sense to me since I want it to be true. I want to give my pancreas a break – it certainly deserves it. Although weight loss may have been natural when we depended on the seasons for food supply…i.e. 1016 A.D….most of us in the civilized world do not depend on the seasonal fruit. Whoppers are always in season and so is chocolate ice cream. Weight loss has now become an unnatural act that the body is supposed to perform. It is resistant and evolution has not caught up. I always joked about how I could live six months off the fat on my thighs but maybe Dr. Rick is right…maybe it will only take 21 weeks.
This is the kind of diet that I am almost embarrassed to admit that I’m on. That is why I refer to it as “The Space Food Diet” I am making fun of it. However, in South Florida everyone is on some cockamamie diet and I find this one less embarrassing than the cookie diet. I am a foodie and an excellent cook. I believe in organic locally grown food. I take “you are what you eat” very seriously yet I have opted for this radical diet. Again, I must say it is because I am desperate and convinced that what I have been doing is not working. My inability to exercise is partially due to my weight and therefore I cannot control my weight through exercise and the spinning wheel goes round and round. I looked up Ideal Protein on line and other people have been successful. My belief is if they can do it, so can I.
I am trying to imagine what saint I should call upon for strength. The patron of diets, prepackaged foods, hair brained schemes? I’ve got it! St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases. I know this is probably nonsense but as a species we do not know everything so I am willing to go out on a limb with petitioning saints. How can it hurt?
What do I wish for on this first day? I hope the food will not taste horrible. I hope my ornery body will cooperate and listen to my higher self and understand that this will be so good for it that it will eventually thank me…like being a good strict parent to my own body. I hope to be in less pain and have more energy. I hope my morbidly obese body will reduce to a healthy weight. I hope to wear things I like instead of camouflage that tricks the eye into not looking too closely. I hope to remain attractive to the only man I have ever really wanted for the right reasons. I hope that the claims of this diet to reduce cellulite are not just blowing smoke up our collective cottage cheese buttocks. I hope to live out the rest of my life in a size 12 or smaller and never have to contemplate going into the chubbett department again.
I am also going for blood work tomorrow. The blood work is to rule out autoimmune disease and a bunch of other conditions with Latin and Greek sounding names. Personally, I theorize that my pain is due to toxins stored in my fat just like chemicals are stored in animal fat. That’s why I always buy organic butter and cheese. I am sure my own fat is rife with toxins. I certainly have taken in enough over an ordinary lifetime of alcohol, drugs, and rock and roll. Unfortunately for me there is nowhere for the toxins to go… I am one of those people who just does not sweat. That old back handed compliment applies to me; for a fat girl I sure don’t sweat much.
Today I will try to survive. I will stay resting and go sit in nature. I have been having dizzy spells and nausea lately so I didn’t want to take any chances that I would make those symptoms worse by exerting myself on a day that it is likely I could pass out from hunger. I am scared but I am excited about the possibility of taking action and being well, thin, and feeling like Paula again.
So breakfast is “crunchy cereal.” The package says “add 3.5 ozs of very cold water.” YUCK. I’m concerned about the small amount of cereal and to make it look like an actual serving size I use a very small glass bowl. I dump the space food packet into the bowl, add my very cold water, and stir. Sure enough, something resembling milk appears in the bowl as the matrix to my “crunchy cereal.” They look like Rice Krispy’s but it is an infant size serving. I sit, propped up in bed with my little bowl of cereal and eat very slowly. I am surprised that it is sweet and palatable. I am surprised that I am satisfied. There is always the option of eating some vegetables between breakfast and lunch. However, I didn’t really need to. Not that I was “satisfied” in terms of how I normally define that word but my stomach was not screaming at me for food.
I ate my big meal at lunch since Greg and I were going to spend the day at the park resting. I brought the full eight ounces of chicken breast, cut up red bell pepper, cauliflower, and cucumbers. Eight ounces of meat is a lot! It took hours to eat and I was not hungry in the least when I got home.
In the evening I made myself “Vegetable Chili.” Once again, it is dump the contents of the silver space food packet into a bowl and add very cold water. It reconstitutes into something vaguely resembling a chili like product. The serving size is a bit more generous and I am once again satisfied in a way that would not inspire a long telephone conversation about the amazing dinner I had. These products are not really what most people would call food. However, they are palatable and if you look at this as medicine and know you are going to be better for it in the long run…you can do it.
The last thing I ate that evening was the “Chocolate Pudding” which was weird beyond belief. Nowhere, except perhaps on the space ship to the moon would anyone call this pudding. It was fluffy and kind of sweet but there was no comfort level after consumption.
The surprising thing is that I did not crave anything all day long. Not even fruit of which I normally consume at least four servings a day. I expected to go through fruit withdrawal. I felt a sensation of hollowness but it was not like you might imagine pangs of hunger.
This was the first day of my diet and the first day of my novena to St. Jude. You have to know that I am a lapsed Catholic. I’m not even sure if I believe in God, I certainly don’t believe in a God as portrayed by any classic monotheism. St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless cases. I am on a path that I am not afraid to ask for the help of spiritual hocus pocus type forces. The least it can do is to help me garner some strength.
I’m ready to make this sacrifice of my pallet to my health. However, there is a component to this diet that is not strictly about health. There are times that I catch a glimpse of my reflection and don’t recognize myself. I am ready to be thin. I look around and see clothes I want to wear…and sew! I want to sew day dresses from vintage patterns in gorgeous patterns and colors. If I wore those clothes now someone would design a reality show around me…something like, “How to make yourself look like upholstered furniture.”
What I need to learn is how to make the food I am allowed to have palatable. I have to find sauces and dressings that have no fat, no carbohydrates, and no sugar. There is a line of products called Maple Farms that fits that criteria but I need to find a reliable source to purchase them locally or order a bunch online. I can use some salsa but products that are legal on this diet seem to be few and far between. I can eat sugar free Jell-O but I know eventually I will turn a weird color from all the dyes in that product.
The second day I had to go for blood work and I needed to fast. My appointment was at 10:30 so I left the house without so much as a plain cup of tea. The blood tests were being done due to my symptoms of pain, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and exhaustion. I was almost hoping for a diagnosis so I could get something to make me feel better. When I got home at 11:00 I ate the crunchy cereal. I then prepared some food for the future. I roasted zucchini, steamed broccoli and I prepared more chicken breasts. I wasn’t sure how to prepare the chicken without wine or any sauce…I just roasted it with some onions (cooked onions are not allowed on this diet) and some celery.
For lunch I prepared a “soy burger” which I can only compare to a rock made of soy products. Maybe I overcooked it. I have another one of these babies left and I think I will prepare it loose and hope for the best. This diet reminds me that in desperate times people have eaten dirt and leather to fill their stomachs so that they did not starve. This diet was conceived and created in France. How is that possible? French people eat as an art form. The French will not even eat low fat cheese. This is eating to live not living to eat. It is strictly maintenance for staying alive. That is why I have to figure out how to make the real food I can eat more palatable.
For my snack I had “Lemon Soy Puffs” which, when compared to everything else, were completely delightful! I do suggest that you refrigerate them so they are a little cold and not so sticky. However, they are on the high carb list which means I can only eat them once a day. Damn! I was coming up with a diet of my own, the “Soy Puffs Diet,” featuring soy puffs three times a day with one low carb, low fat meal.
For dinner I couldn’t get myself to eat 8 ounces of that chicken. It was bland and weird without any good rich sauces. I ate 5 ounces and roasted zucchini.
I have noticed something odd. I have no appetite. What I define as appetite is when you think to yourself, “Ooooh, I would REALLY like to have (fill in the blank), that would hit the spot.” Instead when it’s time to eat I get a little lightheaded and my stomach feels empty without desire. I am in suspended hunger animation. I also have to take vitamins three times per day. My own personal preference is to take them all at one time but I am doing this as prescribed because this diet is a very expensive proposition for me. I’m not in a good financial place right now and paying for the packaged food is a hardship. I am saving money on drive thru's and other types of food so there may come a balancing point. I do have to buy meat and I am one to buy organic which is why I have not really been eating a lot of meat. There is always fish but most of that is not cheap either. This is necessary…I need to do this and therefore I shall. So, if I am not following this diet to the letter, shame on me. I am only cheating myself.
If I can say anything about my experience so far it would be that it’s interesting. The most interesting aspect is my relationship to food. I feel like I am divorced from food. Food and I had a GREAT time together for many years but our relationship became toxic. Maybe in the future we can become friends and spend quality time together.
I’m a little worried about looking like an unstuffed leather couch after losing all the weight I need to lose. One of the claims of this diet is that the high level protein will maintain muscle mass while getting rid of fat. Would I blame the cosmos if, after all the body abuse I have inflicted on myself, I ended up looking like a Shar Pei? No, I guess not…I’ve got it coming to me.
Day 4: I am sitting in bed with a cup of coffee with creamer…I simply cannot deny myself everything and the coffee acts as a catalyst to regularity…sorry, but this is just a fact of life. I was in agony yesterday. My stomach ached from hunger and I was weak as a kitten. I cried and bemoaned my fate – cursed the fat on my body and my own biological need for food. I thought about quitting and maybe trying Atkins or the Zone where you get more choices but I feel thinner already. I cannot yet see it in my face but I feel it in my mid-section and I looked slimmer in profile when I caught a glimpse of myself naked in the bathroom mirror. I must be going through carb withdrawal. I am weak, sweaty, nauseous and very negative. I am beating myself up about my lack of will because I feel like I’m starving. On the second day I was not feeling hunger. I could walk past a dish of cookies without pining away for them. I really thought I was past the worst of it. That was before the initial days of ketosis. For those of you who do not know, that is the stage where your body decides, quite begrudgingly, that it will tap into the fat stored on your body as a source of energy. By day three on the way home I was so crazy with hunger that the prospect of my bland chicken waiting at home and nothing else that I stopped at Publix to buy some kind of sauce for the chicken and I grabbed the individual portions of sugar free Jell-O. By the time I got to the car I was so desperate that I sucked the Jell-O right out of the little plastic cup like an anteater. That was only 10 calories but it took the shaky weak starvation feeling away. I know I’m going to probably have to feel like this for a time while my body gets used to living off the stored fat. However, it’s not fun…it’s not comfortable – but okay, I got myself into this by too much fun and comfort, delicious food got me here. If you want to play you’ve got to pay. Honestly, I don’t know how humans endured that in ancient times. That feeling of dissatisfaction is disorienting.
I want to understand the biological process but if a body is actually not starving because it is eating the stored energy then why should that body feel like it’s starving? That's what I call a bad biological design. The only thing that kept me from quitting was a conversation I had with one of my doctoral students, Jeff. He was complaining that so many people in his first class gave up and dropped out. He was saying that he didn’t understand why someone would not complete what they set out to do. I felt like I was supposed to have that conversation so I could garner strength from it. I decided to make some changes. I will measure out the 8 ounces of meat per day and keep 5 ounces for dinner. The rest will come with me to work so I have emergency food so I can survive.
Day 5: That morning, I crawled into bed with Greg and cried. My stomach hurt from being empty. I don’t want to suffer to be beautiful as my mother always said…I just want to be beautiful. I thought that maybe this was not the diet for me. And then I reasoned that if I can get through this for one month maybe I can switch to something less severe. My stomach will shrink, I’ll drop some fat but right now I feel that this is not doable. My brain is saying I can but my body is saying “Are you f*cking nuts?” I keep rationalizing that there must be pain involved. I suppose it is even taking my mind off my severe hip pain. I just need to relax and breathe. I need to have the 3 ounces of emergency protein. So what do I want, I want to feel better to give meaning to my remaining years. I want to look better and not be hiding behind the camouflage of my clothes. How much do I have to lose to feel that this is all worth it?
Day 6: I turned a corner. I am feeling stronger and my stomach no longer aches. I am no longer dizzy or nauseous and I have a little energy even though I still have unbearable pain. I decided to allow myself coffee with creamer.
I am on day 7 of the diet and my novena to St. Jude which I can continue for two sessions just in case. The prayers just make me feel better…no rational explanation needed. Perhaps just thinking that I have help from beyond makes me stronger or, beyond logic, it all might be true. I am willing to believe just not quite able. St. Expedius has helped Greg and me with our finances and St. Anthony has found things for me over and over again. St Francis saved my cat George at the airport yet I am still a skeptic. Yet I keep coming back over and over. I must believe in all this somewhere in my thickly padded scientific head.
Day 9: I plan to wear the same clothes so that there is no discrepancy in the scales. My current jeans do not feel loose but I do feel thinner in my mid-section. I have not felt weak or dizzy or nauseous for several days and my thinking seems a little clearer. Maybe I had a protein deficiency? I don’t think about protein I think about dairy, glutton, and fiber. The only think I miss about bread is the variety it lends to food.
I think I really have to make a change forever. I have to rethink how I eat because I am too old for this. Just recently, before the diet, I would have such strong cravings for carbs that I had to go through a drive through to have an ice cream cone at McDonalds or stop at Fresh Market for pastries. I could not control it. All I’ve been is an armchair nutritionist…knowing the rules and pretending to follow them while sneaking pastries in when no one was home or eating a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s and blaming my hormones. If my brain is supposed to be the smart part of me why is it always listening to my body and letting my body win?
Now that I’ve been on the diet for 8 days I feel refreshed. I don’t feel depressed or exhausted. So, if this is what it takes to feel good this is what I have to do. In the future when I have to widen my food horizons I need to take it slow and carefully. Just like when I quit drinking I have to be very cautious about re-introducing foods back into my life. Will I need to overindulge if I indulge at all? Can I control this in the same way I now control my alcohol intake? Six drinks a year sounds reasonable…but six slices of bread does not. I need an attitude adjustment because I know there is no such thing as one slice of rye bread with butter. Just like there was never just one bourbon Manhattan. Why should I expect that my body would respond differently to other addictive substances? Alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sugar…sugar is a drug and I’ve know that since the 1980’s…I just never thought of it as a serious problem because I was never this fat before. Now I can go out and have one or two drinks…get a little giddy…but I am not compelled to drink until I become drunk as I once was. Will I ever be that way with carbs? Even though the alcohol made my body sick, my body still wanted to be drunk…just like this…even though I feel sick when I eat too much unhealthful food my body still wants it. What the hell is wrong with this mortal coil anyway?
Even when I would eat ice cream it would trigger my reflux and I would end up with the weird elevator in my esophagus that only goes up. Yet my damn stupid body still wanted it…what a masochist! Was the rush from the carbs worth that much? When I stopped drinking I had to find a whole new group of friends. Now, I think what I need to do is find another way to feel good. Something else that gives me that rush of endorphins I get from carbs. Unfortunately, exercise is not an option because of the pain. Maybe I should take up chasing storms or peeping into other people’s windows or shoplifting…just kidding, but I do need an outlet. Maybe I’ll get some drums. I have to substitute something for the food. Something that will make me feel as good as chocolate, as pastry, and rolls with butter. But I have to remove myself from their company…so I can reeducate my body to think about food as nourishment for my body only. My body is so addicted to carbs that I was actually in denial. My body learned that early on. All those people who taught me how to eat are all gone…heart disease, diabetes, stroke…can I learn THAT as deeply and completely as I learned to depend on the wrong foods for a chemical high? So how do you eat? What is the right way? Can I ever be normal? Can I ever be satisfied with a reasonable portion and not leave the table so uncomfortable that I can’t move? I’m afraid of food right now and it’s not where I want to be. I have to purge and reintroduce foods slowly. This is a time of discovery. If I drank every day I would have been addicted to alcohol and maybe unable to stop drinking. I have over indulged in carbs every day of my life so I’m starting from a much weaker position with food.
If I get weighed in and I have not lost weight I’ll have to rethink my strategy. I’m worried that the coffee with Coffee Mate will throw me off. Don’t get me wrong…although I feel better I am still in crazy pain. My hips and left leg are painful no matter what position I assume. I have shin splints on both calves because I am trying to maneuver through life without the use of my hips…hips are the prime mover of the body and something happened to mine when I fell in Phoenix and they have never been the same. I have fat everywhere except my hands and my feet. I actually have back fat…what will my body look like when all this is over? I am worried about falling prey to diabetes. There is a genetic component for it in my family although my immediate family has avoided it even though none of us are what you might call slim.
I just got back from my first weigh in and I am down six pounds. Of course, because I am neurotic, I am now thinking that this is that classic “water weight” loss and I will not lose next week. That negative thought did not dissuade me from buying another week’s worth of food. On weight watchers I had a tendency to loose pounds every other week and stay level the in between weeks. I am on track and I still believe. It’s time to work toward health and I’ve got powerful mojo on my side. I’m sticking with this for at least a month. I’ll share my review of the foods and some tips for how to prepare them including the results of my experiment of stuffing mushroom caps with the soy burger next time. Wish me luck.