You may remember me mentioning that I was going to try a new diet for a couple of weeks. Today, after having completed the 14 days (and including one additional day as punishment for a cheat day last Saturday), I'm here to share the results.
To recap, I began the ABCDE Diet – nothing but variations of recipes that included Almonds, Broccoli, Chicken, Vitamin D and Eggs – just after New Years, as a way to detox after a few too many holiday treats. I also wanted to experiment with how my mind and body responded to such a limited allowance of food options. After a few days, it became clear that the diet was a bit too restrictive, especially when dining out, so I added Fish and Greens and rebranded the diet (at least, to myself) as the ABCDEFG Diet. Adding those two additional letters was a great decision – it truly opened up the creative recipe options and made eating out a breeze, since many restaurants generally have a salad or fish option. I had several other interesting findings on this diet, all of which I've broken down into categories.
Over the two weeks, I have to say that I felt really great. I had a consistent level of normal to high energy each day, sometimes so high that it was hard to fall asleep at night (I generally start to snooze as soon as I hit the pillow). I had a cup of coffee each morning, and never felt like I needed any more caffeine throughout the day. It just goes to show how processed foods and refined sugars can really tank you. I also got most of my Vitamin D fill by walking my dog, Pixel. A simple 30-minute walk outside has a crazy way of recharging your mood and energy.
I was surprised not to get too many carb or sugar cravings, as many comment that they typically get bad headaches when giving up those foods cold turkey. (I did have quite a hard time forcing myself to avoid red wine – I love me a good glass of Pinot.) I believe my ease of surrender was due to the fact that I already ate limited quantities of refined carbs and sugars prior to the diet, so I had a bit of a head start. Giving up dairy was also fairly manageable, especially since I already had a strong liking for almond milk. I substituted it in for dairy when needed (ex: coffee, etc), though I did have to cheat at times when I purchased coffee at Starbucks or other coffee chains, since they don't offer almond milk. Instead, I chose soy milk to keep things dairy-free.
Not surprisingly, I didn't lose a massive amount of weight (the total was 3 lbs). I believe this is because I'm already at a pretty healthy weight and my body wants to stay there. I've been this size for most of my adult life (give or take a few pounds), so I consider 125lbs my "happy weight." And I'm just fine by that. What was surprising, though, was the fact that I lost an inch around my waist. Though yes, it may have been due to my participation in the Five Minute Plank Challenge, I've historically seen that my waist trims down noticeably (at least to me) whenever I cut the carbs. Once I add the carbs back, it's "Hello, Love Handles!"
So, what did I eat? Out of all the foods, oddly enough, I ate eggs the most. I never get sick of them, plus there are so many ways to make them. I experimented with a few new recipes, including the Alm-lette (an Almond Omelette, made with sliced almonds and egg beaters, and then stuffed with whatever you like), which is one of my new favorite foods.
I also made my breakfasts more interesting by coming up with the Inside Out Egg Sandwich. I cooked two eggs over hard, or as I like to call it "Egg McMuffin Style," inside of a circular aluminum cookie cutter. Once cooked, I warmed up some sliced chicken breast and made up a small sandwich. The yolks were hard enough so that things didn't get too messy once I picked it up and bit in.
On the salad front, I tended to stay pretty simple. During the first few days (sans Fish and Greens), I often chose to make a broccoli salad with sliced chicken breast and almonds. Instead of dressing, I used a little olive oil and lots of spices. Once our good friends F&G joined the mix, I was able to make real salads with lettuce, and generally fixed them up with sliced of salmon or chicken breast as well as almonds or hard-boiled eggs. Photo.
Dinners mostly consisted of chicken or fish, most often almond-encrusted or rubbed with various spices (I found a great Mesquite Chicken Rub spice from Safeway that was delicious) and then baked. Below are recipes I followed (sans bread crumbs) from Martha Stewart and Southern Living.
For my sides and snacks, I would often roast green veggies like broccoli or brussel sprouts, tossed with a bit of olive oil and pepper. I have to admit that I cheated a little on the brussel sprout front. After roasting and adding sliced almonds and balsamic, I felt like the dish could be so much better with a pop of color and sweetness, so I added a cup of pomegranate seeds to the mix. I don't care if I cheated – it was SO worth it. Pomegranates FTW.
I also decided that Asian-inspired foods fit well into this diet, so long as you avoid the rice. I treated myself to edamame and sushi sashimi on more than one occasion. I also followed this recipe for chicken, broccoli and almond stir fry one night, which turned out to be delicious. Lettuce wraps filled with ground chicken breast were a hit for easy lunches (source). Note: Always go easy on the soy sauce with Asian foods – it has a ton of sodium in it that can make your body bloat up like a balloon.
If I had more time to experiment with new food dishes, I would have tried things like BBQ chicken deviled eggs, creative spins on stuffed chicken breast, stuffed green peppers, and various tuna salad recipes. In the end, I found this diet to be a great guidebook for how I want to try to eat on a regular basis. After all, I've always been a firm believer that a diet should be more of a lifestyle than a temporary thing. Though I'll likely always say yes to a glass of red wine and a few nibbles of a cookie (and/or anything else that we may happen to post in our Food section), I'm planning to make a point of continuing to avoid as many refined carbs and sugars as possible. Here's to a 2012 of healthy eating.
Have you tried any new eating styles lately? I'd love to hear how things are going. Leave a note in the comments below or find me on Twitter.
**Disclaimer: Please remember that I am not a certified dietitian or doctor. My thoughts and ideas are my own and you should only proceed with this diet at your own risk, or after your own health practitioner approves.