Cooking · Dieting · weight loss

Variations on a Theme

Oh, it’s a classic, all right. Weight loss is the theme I’m talking about, and the variations thereon. Let me clarify and say the quest for weight loss, “going on a diet,” is a classic struggle for so many Americans, including yours truly. Lucrative for some, though; dieting and weight loss programs comprise a 60+ billion dollar industry. Apparently we (as a nation) peaked on “dieting” back in the early 90s, with 31% of people saying they were on a diet, compared to only 19% of people claiming the same these days. It’s really just the nomenclature that’s changed. People now say they are “eating right,” steering clear of that nasty 4-letter word that reeks of trial and error, failure and shame, sweats and ponytails.

There are so many diets and fads out there, and I’ve tried plenty of them. My first go-round was Weight Watchers as a teenager. I’ll never forget that time in Burger King when I ordered a burger with no bun, and all the assembly line people craned their necks to see who just ordered such a thing. In addition to Weight Watchers (on and off for decades), I’ve done South Beach, 17-Day, no-carb, good-carb, vegetarian, pescatarian, Fit for Life, etc., and guess what? They ALL work! If you follow them. But they ain’t easy.

A good friend of mine is looking slim and svelte these days, and I asked how she did it (as I ask everyone who has noticeably trimmed down, hoping to unlock some secret trick that I know does not exist).  She said she followed the Cabbage Soup Diet. While that was a new one on me, it’s been around for decades, coming and going in vogue more often than the jeans in your drawer.

It has lots of names and affiliations, from the military (borne of little resources available in WWI and making “soup” from whatever was on hand) to certain hospitals (to facilitate a quick loss for overweight patients facing surgery) though they have all disavowed any connection to it, to TWA flight attendants in the 70s (to pass their intermittent weight check-ins). Cosmo and GQ published it in the 90s for yet another 15 minutes of fame. It’s not a healthy or sustainable diet, and it was designed only as a quick start for seven days. Can I just say here that for this reason alone I prefer it over the 17-Day quick start?  Seven days is much more reasonable. You eat cabbage soup (recipe to follow!), fruit and veggies for seven days. Certain days you can have a banana, other days some protein, and on the seventh day, rest. I mean, rice.

So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day (not really, just a funny coincidence), I have subjected the family to living with my malodorous Cabbage Soup Diet this week. I followed the original recipe for my first batch but made some changes (like, not adding a whole bottle of V8 – ew) for the second batch and it was a great improvement. If for no other reason, following a strict regimen like this highlights the mindless snacking and nibbling I do ALL DAY LONG, one of the perils of working out of my home. Bonus points for me are 1) I love making and eating soup, and 2) it’s only for a week.


Here’s the recipe – super complicated and precise! Ha ha, of course it is not.

In a little bit of olive oil in a big pot over med-low heat, sauté:

  • 2 or 3 sliced onions
  • diced green pepper
  • sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • Italian seasoning or any other spice/herbs you wantIMG_8712

Cook for 10 minutes or so. Add water or broth (2-4 cups) and a big can of diced tomatoes (I like the petite dice). Chop up a head of cabbage (smaller pieces are easier to slurp) and add to pot. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Stir in some spinach or arugula and cook 5 minutes more.

The variations on this theme are truly unlimited – you can add any vegetables you like, any herbs, seasonings, etc. Just steer clear of peas, corn, and squash.

Warning for those who are prone to flatulence: You may find this cruciferous concoction a conundrum. Light a candle (or two).

So, I am five days in and I have lost a couple of pounds. I feel great, energized and I’m not really hungry, which is amazing to me. And although I do miss cheese and crackers, I’ve got a new lease on “eating right” and that makes me happy.

What about you, dear reader? Can you relate to the weight loss struggle? What are some of your highs and lows?


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