I’ve never been on any sort of “diet” for this length of time. I’ve almost stopped missing food, but I miss meals something fierce. Humans are designed to break bread with each other, share sliced meats, divvy up the vegetables, refill the wine glasses, and make yummy noises together. I’m ruining the meal aesthetic with my liquid substitute in an oversize plastic cup. Drinking your dinner—unless that means wine accompanied by bits of cheese and crackers and sausages—just isn’t social. Frankly, it makes me feel like a jerk.
About 219 people have asked me why I’m doing this/torturing myself/dieting at all. At first, it was to slide the scale back for an upcoming oncology appointment. Now, it’s really about willpower. Can I eat only one meal a day for 30 days? Will I be able to navigate cocktail parties and (let’s be honest) chilly, dark school nights without a glass of Cabernet? Is a shameful, furtive, late night potato chip binge inevitable? This diet feels like a hair shirt, and the old Catholic sensibilities have kicked in. I’m starving and I’m offering it up. No lie.
I have cheated. A little. Teddy requested teeny, spiced cupcakes for his birthday (cream cheese frosting), there’s a HUGE candy bowl (Almond Joys and 3Musketeers!), and I’ve been to six different cocktail parties (an occasional glass of Prosecco). But my restraint has been LEGENDARY. I’m wildly hungry, headache-y, and occasionally dizzy. Brodie wants to know the difference between this powdery meal plan and an actual eating disorder. I have no good answer.
And now it’s Day 26. I’m lithe and slim and fabulous—that is, if those adjective also mean “look exactly like I did in October,” which is what my kids tell me. Either they are doltishly unobservant, or they’re right: I was actually fabulous then, and remain unchanged. However, my skinniest jeans fit right outta the dryer, which is how all women gauge their weight no matter what the scale says.
Happily, as I enter my fourth week as an ascetic, the scale has budged. But it’s probably not because these liquid meals are magic. It’s because I’m not drinking them. After the first few attempts, I just couldn’t gag down powdered milk mixed with water. I cannot. I will not. I refuse. I’d honestly rather starve, and have chosen this option. How anyone incorporates a whey protein “shake” into her daily life eludes me. Had I known I’d have to drink all of this reconstituted milk, I would never have signed up. First of all, I really do love food. But more importantly, I really really really hate milk.
Remember when President Bush declared, “I’m the leader of the free world and will never eat broccoli again,” or something like that, and then banned it from the White House kitchens? That’s me with milk. I can’t even watch you drink milk. The very idea of someone tipping the bowl to lap up, sweet, chunky, stagnant cereal milk makes me dry heave. And Teddy does it all of the time. I have to look away. It’s my bugaboo. And as Tony used to say when challenged about his limited palate and inability to eat food anyone else had touched, “I reserve the right to be irrational.”
To be honest, what feels really irrational right now is any sort of maintenance on this “system.” I did appreciate the two cleanse days avoiding all food and just drinking an ersatz Gatorade, effectively hydrating my cells and shrinking my stomach. An occasional fast? Redemptive suffering comes naturally (though never easily) for those of us who were raised in the Catholic tradition. But I’ll never swap a fake shake for a real meal ever, ever again.
Four more days, friends. Sauvignon blanc is chilling.