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I first heard about the 21-Day Meal Plan – a $ 20 USD downloadable diet plan has caused a lot of attention lately. Last month, when we talked about helping a woman lose 120 pounds in less than a year. What is this magic? I said to myself. I needed to know more.
The plan, as it turned out, was written by Tiffany Elizabeth, the blogger behind My Adventure to Fit and it helped her lose over 85 pounds in person. After seeing the amazing transformation photos, I felt motivated to try it for myself. (Related: The 1
Before I got married in September, I ate well and exercised regularly. I had a healthy weight and felt pretty good. But then I went on honeymoon to Italy (and ate a lot of pizza and pasta) and after that was the holiday season. Even after a month of trying to avoid restaurants, I was not completely satisfied with my position. I wanted to find out if a particularly restrictive plan can help me eat better and lose weight.
About the 21-Day Meal Plan
This plan contains some pretty bold claims, as it "eliminates water retention" "increases energy and improves mood," and "improves the skin condition." And I was pleased to see that there was only one rule: eat ONLY what's on the list. That's it! There are no calories to count, the gym to hit (if you do not want to) or macros or points to track. (Here's the main reason to stop the calories)
At that point, however, the excitement stopped.
The list of "approved" foods is extremely limited – and does not always make the right sense. You can only eat lean meat, eggs and low sodium veggie burgers. Berries, lemons and limes; non-starchy vegetables (no potatoes or maize); Legumes, quinoa and brown rice. One of the hardest parts: No added spices or spices. The only dairy allowed on the plan was a cup of low-sodium cottage cheese or low-fat Greek yogurt a day. As for snacks, things like almond butter, unsalted rice cakes, and almonds were compliant (but there were portion limits.)
Since sugar and salt are so limited, the meal on the plan was not an option (and me …). I just finished it for a month!) And things like lemonade, desserts and alcohol are also not allowed.
What I ate
Normally, my breakfast foods include avocado toast with sea salt and olive oil, smoked paprika, and some cayenne pepper. Since bread was not allowed according to the plan, I tried to prepare my usual concoction (without salt) with an unsalted rice cake.
It was so boring that I almost gagged.
After that, I stopped being creative at the basics. Most of the morning I ate scrambled eggs with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with berries and almonds. The breakfast was probably the easiest meal of the day. At lunch and dinner, I had to search Pinterest and Youtube for recipe inspections. And it was still very hard! I enjoy cooking very much. Heck, I write for a food website! I'm used to seasoning my food. It was really hard to cook without it.
I think I got so used to salty dishes that if the food was unsalted, it was horrible for me. I had to learn to lean on bolder spices that I do not usually cook with – like garam masala, chilli powder, and cayenne pepper – to put on meals. At the end of the program, one of my favorite sauces I sprinkled with proteins was low-fat Greek yogurt mixed with curry powder.
For lunch and dinner, I usually ate lean meat, a large side of vegetables (often roasted) and sprinkled with nutrient yeast) and either quinoa or brown rice. At the beginning of the week, I made large amounts of grains and vegetables to put meals together, which definitely helped.
I opted for light proteins like black beans and eggs when I was in a time crisis and kept raw vegetables on hand for snacks to take away. About once a week, when I inevitably wanted noodles, I mixed brown rice noodles, cottage cheese, and lean ground beef into a comforting dish.
How healthy is the 21-day diet?
A The concern with this meal plan is that Elizabeth, the writer of the plan, is neither a nutritionist nor a doctor. This is just the plan that worked for her personal weight loss journey. To make sure I got enough nutrients and met my minimum calorie needs, I followed my food in MyFitnessPal in the first few days.
The good news is that while I've definitely consumed less sugar and salt than normal, I'm getting more than enough calories, fat, nutrients, and fiber. Most days, my sodium was between 800-1000 mg (which is less than the recommended daily value, but still meets the minimum of 500 mg that the body needs for proper function, according to the American Heart Association)
Me Asked our dietician Brierley Horton MS, RD, what she thought about the plan, and she said: "Returning sugar and salt is almost always a good thing, because most of us frankly eat more of these than The approach of whole foods to this diet is both healthy and can help you lose weight, especially if you rely on meals in the restaurant, take away or on many prepackaged foods, but why some foods are excluded and others – such as Almond Butter Compared to peanut butter or strawberries vs. blueberries, there does not seem to be much sense and reason. "
How I Felt  Here's the good part: This diet is easy to follow and I was never really hungry. It was helpful to have an accurate list of foods that I could or could not eat because literally there was room for error. I just had to stick to the plan and that was it.
Here's the bad part: I live to cook and eat. It gives me great pleasure to cook and taste food and it is a big part of my self-image. I enjoy dining in restaurants and the communal nature of eating with others.
I strongly believe that there are people who eat, and those who simply eat to live, and this diet is definitely made for the latter group. Without salt or sugar in my cooking arsenal, the food became stranger and less enjoyable. With no opportunity to occasionally enjoy some cheese and a glass of wine or a square of dark chocolate, my evenings with The Bachelor or the afternoons that worked on Cooking Light were noticeably less enjoyable.
I also like to cook. But cooking every single meal has been exhausting. There were days when I worked late in the office and just wanted to order takeaway. At those nights it was so hard to stick to the plan, and sometimes I got emotional (which is kind of embarrassing.)
At a particularly low point in the diet, I got into a big fight with my husband. We had run errands and were starving, but we had a sink full of dishes in the house and the last thing I wanted was to cook. I was getting angry and since he is the sweet man, he suggested going to dinner or getting a roast chicken from the grocery store. This only got me into another rage because I did not have any of those options, and I took it against him. Not cool, Jaime. Not cool.
Here's the thing: I have a problem with the emotional food. Whether I had a hard day or I had a nice day and want to celebrate, I turn to the food. I know that it is not always healthy, and I need time to recognize this as a problem and deal with it. Because this plan removes ALL emotions from the food, it hit me harder than I expected. And that way I think I needed that.
Eliminating sugar, salt and processed foods and adding whole foods to my diet would not hurt me (in fact, it was probably a good reset for my body), but it made me seek a soul to get to the root of WHY, WHY it bothered me so much. I think I ended up missing the social aspects of eating – lunch with my colleagues, dinner with my husband and cocktails with a friend. And since I'm the extroverted I, I need those interactions to thrive and recharge when I'm stressed.
Apart from the negative aspects, I have definitely noticed some positive physical aspects. I broke a stubborn weight plateau and lost 5.6 pounds (in 21 days!). I also feel less bloated (my jeans are definitely a bit looser) and I have more energy. And now that I'm able to consume sugar and salt again, it's going a bit far, so I can do without it while cooking. Although I will definitely treat myself with ice cream today (I deserve it!)
This plan definitely works for weight loss and has many good elements – like prioritizing plants. Foods, whole grains and lean meats, while processed foods, extra sugars and sodium are cut out. However, I do not believe that this could work as a sustainable lifestyle. Never eating in restaurants or eating anything (or, um, even a bowl of oatmeal) is not feasible in the long run.
Horton says, "For some people, it's not the only way to enjoy it. You can follow a diet, and for others, the occasional pampering or the opportunity to mate with socializing is the only way to stick to a healthier diet plan or a restrictive diet to adjust to what works and works for you, because the best diet is the one you can stick to. "
This story originally appeared on CookingLight .com by Jamie Milan.