Winter brought its usual dilemma. The months dragged while I sat at the computer thinking about what I would cook for dinner. Normally I succumb to my “Oregon Five,” the five pounds I manage to gain while sunlight is absent and I’m sitting in a funk.
But this year I challenged myself to accomplish what I anticipated would be a grueling bootcamp, six-week stint of semi-starvation, an HCG diet with its 500 per day calorie requirement. A protein, three cups of veggies that one normally trims off for the chickens and a piece of fruit from a limited list. An eyedropper filled with hormones that come from pregnant women. Best not to dwell on that part. I had passed up the diet when two friends suggested it, but when Rob, my health food naturalist guru pressed the information into my hand, I finally took the bait. I needed a plan and this offered one. I bought the little bottle, took the fifteen pages of tips and headed home.
The diet demanded little of me in terms of choices beyond a protein, three cups of veggies and a fruit for each meal. Since I am at heart a skeptic and I want to hang on to all the muscle tone I still possess, and since our hens had started laying again, I cheated and had three eggs a week, which made everything easier. Three times each week I sautéed a mound of beet greens in a skillet, added a beaten egg and some green onions, bell pepper or whatever, and called it an omelet, even though the egg was scarcely detectable in all the greenery. But it met the criteria and took away the hunger, for which I was grateful.
I began to appreciate food in a new way. Each meal was a celebration. I set the table with fresh flowers, a cloth napkin and my favorite dishes. I obsessed over each bite, making tiny cuts and chewing twenty times.
I made it through my six weeks, and I lost weight. Not 30 pounds like the diet hinted that I might, but half that. My body incinerated fat cells 24 hours a day. My husband took great enjoyment in my progress, which was lovely.Hopefully I didn’t lose too many brain cells or muscle tone. In the early weeks I managed a respectable number of minutes on my exercise bike each day and managed to make it to the gym. In the later weeks I had the energy of a sloth. I think I swam and tread-milled a few times, but maybe that was hallucination. In the last week I sat under a blanket and watched my dust bunnies dance.
A word of warning—the plan suggested that one should cease all medications, with physician’s approval. Of course I skipped this step, anticipating that my doctor would try to talk me out of my course. I ceased taking my thyroid pill for two weeks before I came to my senses, but I got busted when my annual physical came around in the middle of the diet and my lab test revealed lower levels. When I confessed, my doctor said I had sabotaged my weight loss.
The take-away lesson from all of this is a new relationship with food. Sugar isn’t worth it, and bread seems unnecessary. There are entire aisles in the market that I don’t have to walk down. I shop with a smirk of superiority when I see what other fatties are buying. One night I allowed myself two cups of plain popcorn and ate kernel by kernel like thin girls in movies when they are talking to a boy and don’t want to get yuck in their teeth. I eat my grapefruit, segment by segment, while voicing attributions about the sweetness of the fruit and my gratefulness for each bite. When I eat a boiled egg, I set it in an egg cup, crack the top and dip my spoon into the yoke, fully present to the miracle I am experiencing.
I used to scoff whenever a diet ad came on TV because I didn’t need advice about how to eat. It’s not like I gorge on potato chips and moon pies. But a 500-calorie diet made me rethink portion control. Early on, I dropped a handful of shrimp into a skillet to stream. Curious, I read the package and had to pluck seven back out when I realized my idea of a serving was roughly double the allowable portion. Now I read labels for everything and I am almost always over-portion.
I drink copious amounts of herbal tea to chase away the hunger beast, but I do love my teatime snack. Today I planned to eat something chocolate. When the hour arrived, I reached into a bag of dark chocolate chips and counted out exactly 16—the serving size on the package. I scattered them onto a white saucer and made them last all afternoon.
In ten weeks I’m going back on the HCG program again. But that will be the last time. I agree that sudden weight loss isn’t a good thing. HCG Dangers It’s just that the diet works for me, and that’s a compelling argument. Until then you’ll find me sitting at the breakfast table, dipping toast spears into my coddled egg.