Food makes me happy. Its converse is also true—which could be offered up as a lame ass excuse as to why I haven’t gone on a diet when I clearly should have earlier. I eat for taste and when I don’t get my fill, I get hangry (hungry + angry). It’s my biggest apprehension going on this diet that I completely overlook the willpower this enterprise demands.
Preparation for the experiment was very straightforward. I’ve seen a lot of my former officemates subscirbe to diet deliveries and it was simply a matter of picking the yummiest-looking one. That’s Pickle. (For context, I am a freelancer and don’t keep a regular schedule.) I reached out to them and soon I was on their site, signing up for a week. With their help, they determined that the low carb, high protein 1,800-calorie-a-day plan was best for me. They explained that this meal plan’s “general macronutrient split is 50 percent protein, 30 percent fat, 20 percent carbs” and works by creating a “caloric deficit.” It’s designed to help those who lead inactive lifestyles become leaner. Where my desk job people at? Early on, I knew I had to road test this in the face of a workout and a social life that involves alcohol—real things that dieters encounter everyday.
This is my food journal, detailing all my transgressions and emotions that are variations of hungry.
Breakfast: Honey Mustard Chicken with Mushroom and Broccoli
Snack: Fresh Fruits
Lunch: Fish in Lemon Sesame Cream Sauce with Chicaro and Mashed Potato
Snack: Coffee Jelly
Dinner: Pork Fajita Wraps with Cilantro garlic sauce, Carrots and Cucumber
The food arrives on time and it comes with guidelines. It is especially helpful for noob dieters like myself and tells me to eat in two to three hour intervals and drink lots of water among other things. I proceed with my normal habits. That means waking up around 9:00 a.m., skipping breakfast and going straight to lunch at noon. I notice there won’t be any rice for today. (I later find out that it will be like this throughout the workweek.) Thankfully, I’m not big on rice. The food tastes good and I feel happy about it. It doesn’t feel like I’m not on a diet yet. Plus, I cheat and have my afternoon snack (coffee jelly) for dessert instead.
Throughout the afternoon, I can’t stop thinking about food now that it’s consciously being limited. This ends up with me making coffee, because it's allowed as long as it's without sugar nor creamer. But resources are limited, so 3-in-1 is the next best thing. At 4:00 p.m., I feel actual hunger and have the breakfast portion as a “snack.” It tastes good and I forget that I don’t eat carrots. I tell myself I’ll need the energy for the indoor cycling class later that day anyway. And boy did I not know how much energy I was going to need for that workout!
I went to indoor cycling class thinking I’d already done this before. Halfway through the session, I felt so dizzy that I wanted to throw up. I ended up having to leave in the middle of it, something that has never happened before. The staff gives me a cold, too sweet sports drink that nurses me back to sanity. Water did not do the trick. Must be the electrolytes.
I am ravenous after the failed workout and immediately reheat the dinner as soon as I get home. I enjoy the food, but I'm not entirely satisfied by the portions. I deal with it by drinking water. After dinner, I head to a friend’s despedida where I end up munching on chips and sharing half of a frozen cocktail to combat the summer heat and my persisting hunger. At this point, there is no denying that I have failed. To make matters worse, I get a hyperacidity attack because of the alcohol. Way past the point of salvation, I stop for drive through on the way home. Darn it! But it’s okay, we made plans to run with a triathlete friend tomorrow.
Breakfast: Teriyaki Meatballs with Cabbage, Onion and Carrots
Snack: Fresh Fruits
Lunch: Grilled Pork Banh Mi with Jicama and Tomatoes
Dinner: Greek Baked Fish with Tomatoes, Onions, White Beans, Cucumber and Eggplant
I wake up hungry, so I have breakfast on time. The teriyaki meatballs are sweet in a good way and the vegetables are crisp. I add chili flakes and the whole affair starts to become a little more interesting. After eating, I leave to use a friend’s office as a co-working space to have a semblance of a normal life.
This office is temptation island. Everyone around me is having a thick cheeseburger while I stick to my lunch. I am relieved that the Banh Mi tastes as it should, even if it comes with a soggy slice of bread. I end my meal with a fruit cup. I’m not hungry, but I’m also not full. After a couple of hours of intense productivity, I feel hungry and reach for the turon. Yay, something that I’d actually have for merienda! This makes me feel less deprived.
By late afternoon, my hunger is uncontrollable. I gobble whatever snacks I am offered, but it isn’t a lot nor is it enough. I have to wait to get home before I can eat. During the ride, I am perceptibly hangry and have to consciously stop myself from being a grouch. Even if I’m not excited to eat the dinner, I heat it immediately. I’m not happy with my meal, but maybe that’s just my mood. As early as now, I can feel day two won’t go too well either.
At 9:00 p.m. I jogged! I cover a kilometer, which is something I haven’t done since I had P.E. in college. Feeling accomplished and vengefully hungry, I join my friends for (another) dinner. I order Korean beef stew with rice and bangus belly sinigang. The logical side of me knows I will regret this, but for now, I think only Erwan can regret a cup of rice.
Breakfast: Breakfast Sausage and Eggs
Snack: Fresh Fruits
Lunch: Oven-Baked Chicken Piccata
Snack: Glazed Whole Grain Popcorn
Dinner: Thai Stir-Fry Beef Noodles with Veggies
Today is salvation! I have breakfast on time and am back to being pleased with my meal, though I don’t finish all of it. By 1:30 p.m., my errands take longer than I expect and I feel hungry, thankfully it’s still the ignorable kind. I go to a coffee shop and grab a large iced green tea with no sugar and eat it with the snack that I had the foresight to bring. That, plus a lot of water is enough for now, since I’m not doing much except reading a book and waiting.
At 4:30 p.m., I finally get home and eat. The chicken tastes like something I had yesterday. I’m not thrilled, but I eat it with no complaints. By dinnertime, I am so hungry! The Asian flavor feels familiar and comforting. As early as now, I can tell I can keep today’s record clean if I sleep early. But that’s alright, because I already feel tired. I eat the fruit cup and retire to bed at 8:30 p.m. That’s four hours earlier than my usual bedtime. Little did I know, this was the start of my unshakable energy gap.
Breakfast: Baked Fish in Cream Sauce with Onions, Herbs, Baby Potatoes and Cucumber
Snack: Fresh Fruits
Lunch: Japapese Beef Curry with Corn, Green Peas and Eggplant
Snack: Mango Tiramisu
Dinner: Pulled Pork Pasta with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, Green Peas and Zucchini
I wake up earlier than usual and notice my right thigh spasming. My legs have not recovered since Monday; this is quite unusual. I have breakfast. The fish tastes familiar again—like the chicken yesterday. I figure this must be their default; I call it Pickle’s signature black pepper seasoning. Thanks to the different vegetables, it tastes different enough that I’m not tired of it yet. I get to work, chasing after a very close deadline.
By noon, I am already spent so I take a nap. Two hours later, I wake up from a strangely vivid and dark dream that kept pulling me back to sleep. That said, I’m now feeling hunger, having had to battle the dream just to get up. Lunch looks promising because of the big container. But the curry is low in sodium and for the first time since I have started, I’m craving rice. Halfway through the meal, I get up to grab some salt and crackers. I don’t finish the vegetables, so I still feel famished. I eat both snacks and feel a bit happier thanks to the sugar.
Two hours later and I feel so drained again that I could use another nap. Cue the Milo energy gap jingle for real. I consider sleeping or having more sugar, but I stop myself from doing either. I power through the afternoon’s workload at a sluggish pace. Despite how wiped out I feel, I don’t feel hungry at all. So I leave to attend a work event that happens to fall around dinnertime without taking a single bite. I’m fine. A tally of what I consume at said event: two Negronis and a meal’s worth of fried finger food. Looks like I won’t be eating the dinner that Pickle has prepared. By 11:00 p.m., I suffer from a headache that I know is caused by drowsiness. My energy reserves are completely empty! I drink water and call it a night, making sure to wake up late the next day.
Breakfast: Rosemary Chicken Salad with Olives and Tomatoes
Snack: Fresh Fruits
Lunch: Fish in Garlic Herb Butter Sauce with Garbanzos, Green Beans and Red Bell Pepper
Snack: Wheat Cookies
Dinner: Beef Stroganoff with Mashed Potato and Asparagus
Rejoice, breakfast tastes new today! Today’s agenda: Holiday hang at a friend’s pad. I get there and plop down on the sofa. Having no energy of my own, I can’t stand their enthusiastic greetings. They promptly notice my apparent lack of energy, and I am handed a cup of cold brew, which brings me back to life. When it’s time to eat, I notice I grabbed the dinner portion by accident. She doesn’t have a microwave so I eat it cold. Not so bad, even if the sauce has congealed. I don’t finish it though, because we gorge on apple pie, carabao milk ice cream (my absolute favorite!), and white wine. This results in a food coma.
Late in the afternoon, my friends and I are roused by our collective hunger and we continue to destroy the sweets that we had for dessert earlier. I finish the rest of the beef stroganoff too, but not the vegetables. Wrecked. I cancel my cycling class, because my legs still hurt. And because the siren song of sugar is too hard to resist. Let me just sit back down on the sofa.
For dinner, I join a different group of friends at a family-style restaurant, but I bring my food with me. It’s the last day after all, and the best I can do is show some commitment. I subtly plate my baon as soon as the orders arrive. The first thing I smell when I open the container is bell peppers. My most dreaded spice! This won’t be a happy meal for me. (In hindsight, I should’ve just informed Pickle that bell peppers are part of my “dietary restrictions.”) I force myself to at least try whatever else is on it. I order a Coke Zero to assuage my guilt and make myself feel better. I still feel hungry, but I don’t touch anything they are having so I can see how long I can last.
When I get home, I see yesterday’s dinner in the refrigerator and treat myself to a second dinner. At least it’s healthy food—and it tastes amazing! Like something that I could get from a fancy restaurant. I am happy and satisfied. By 11:00 p.m., I’m just glad this will all be over by the time I wake up tomorrow. For now, sleep.
CONCLUSION (a.k.a. What to Expect)
In five short days, I’ve felt my stomach capacity decrease. Rice seems to be a little more filling than it used to be, and a large cup actually makes me feel just a little bloated—but definitely not enough to stay away from it entirely. But the most surprising part is that I lost 7 pounds! I honestly expected to have simply maintained my weight because of all the cheating I did while on the diet. It’s very encouraging to see results like that. Plus, it’s a great way to add structure to one’s eating, whether or not you adhere to a strict schedule or not. The hardest part really is just keeping that mouth shut and going to bed early to avoid gatherings that involve sugar and booze.
TMI warning: Bowel movement, as warned, was affected. While on the diet, my stool turned liquid. And I was gassy after I quit.