Scary Stuff

This is the month you’re expecting to read about Halloween, but I’ve got something truly scary to discuss with you.

On September 7, my husband and I began Phase 1 of the Liquid Amino Diet—a strict 30-day detox/eating regimen. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that this first stage of the plan is targeted at fairly rapid but healthy weight loss, as well as detoxing your body, balancing hormones, maintaining muscle mass, and eating totally clean. You consume quality calories mostly comprised of proteins, vegetables, and fruits. No artificial sweeteners. And most importantly, no alcohol.

See, it’s scary? Right?

We started out great. Both of us dropped over five pounds in the first three days. We slept well and drank copious amounts of water. We kept up with our regular workouts—Matthew with running and cycling, and me with tennis.

Now before you jump ahead thinking that it was all bogus and we’ve gained everything back, rest assured we have NOT. I’m writing this on Day 16 out of 30, down about 10 lbs; hubby is down about 11. The diet does work. Well, if you can hack it.

That’s the problem.

We lasted 7 days before we started “cheating” in some way or another. We were desperate to get out of the house and sit somewhere together and have a drink. (Remember, we both work from home, so we are always there, smack in the middle of chaos.) So it started like that, a furtive two-hour stint at the bar at Red Dog Right, not touching the popcorn or any other food. Sticking to our calorie count, but allowing ourselves a grown-up beverage and some much-needed sanity out of the house. We made a plan: We’d give ourselves one night a week to get out. No eating, just a few drinks, never to excess. That would make the plan more livable.

That lasted about 20 hours. The next day, we talked ourselves into another glass of wine. And the next. Pretty soon, we’d just decided that as long as we stayed within our calories, we’d be okay. And we were still losing weight and feeling good. No harm, no foul.

Then the next week, we added the popcorn at Red Dog. I am a SUCKER for popcorn. A few days later, after failing to eat our five daily massive bowls of roughage—amazing how quickly one can tire of vinegar as your only dressing and plain mustard on soggy Boca Burgers—we were ravenous with no time to prep anything. We were out at Red Dog again with our laptops, working on deadlines (we love the free wifi and getting out of our home office), and we caved and had the chips and queso. We just needed something that didn’t involve lettuce and vegetables.

And then, the downfall. After a morning camped at Starbucks finishing more work for a client deadline, I succumbed to the big temptation. Mi Cocina. I’d skipped breakfast to make a morning meeting, and there it was, right across the street, taunting me. I texted Matthew and twisted his arm (without much twisting required). He drove over and joined me. We went a little crazy. We got ALL UP in that queso blanco and the margaritas and the tacos… Oh, the shame. And the very next night, despite saying we would be good now that we had it out of our systems, we fell for a pizza craving and went to Coal Vines for our favorite regular pie with jalapenos and olives. AND IT WAS SO GOOD.

I’m not writing this as a form of confession, and I’m not advocating any diet plan. I’m just chewing over the reality that we all know is true, but that is so often difficult to accept: Everything in moderation.

I honestly thought we could handle 30 days of anything. I thought we’d be like Morgan Spurlock, doing his 30-day experiments for the greater good. And I guess, if you were to stick me on TV like Morgan, or put a gun to my head, or offer me a million bucks, I still could do it. (I’d actually do it for $100,000, if anyone’s looking to pay me.) But short of extreme motivation, and living my daily reality with work and kids and volunteer commitments, I cannot function in a vacuum. That kind of deprivation made me a lunatic. I thought I needed to have my vices totally restricted in order to change my lifestyle. As if prison would somehow set me free. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

In the guidelines for our diet plan (which you can read about here:, the doctor behind it all said that food was just fuel for our bodies. That was its only purpose. I guess at face value, that’s true—but in the real world, food is a whole lot more. So is drink. For me and my husband, these are critical elements of socializing, spending time together, even expressing ourselves. I know that’s not true for everyone, but that’s just how we are. When we couldn’t go out to eat or drink with friends, we felt isolated—not detoxed. When we couldn’t invite friends and family over for the Sunday football game and a spread of food that matched the coming fall season, we felt a bit lost. We love to cook and entertain. That’s not to say food and drink must be decadent. But there is enjoyment in cooking and eating together. And you can cook and eat healthy food without it being so limited. I can’t imagine a world where I ranked food next to gasoline. And I don’t want to try.

The long and short of it is that this diet both works and doesn’t work. From my experience so far, parts of it are very doable and definitely make sense. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Lay off the starches and processed foods. Pay attention to sugars. But I’ve realized that if the point of doing this detox/clean living thing was to make behavior changes, I’m better off with a long-term game plan. One I can live with—not just for 30 days, but beyond.

That being said, we are going to do our best to finish out our 30 days on the eating plan, for the most part. We said we’d do it. Plus, we’re a little hooked on our protein shakes, our roasted tomato soup, and the fun of our new Kitchen Ninja blender. But I’m done with total restriction. If we indulge a bit in moderation, the world won’t end. I know, this is obvious stuff. But it’s honestly eye-opening when you test the theory.

Here’s the cold truth, folks: I survived a Southlake Women’s Club luncheon without touching the chocolate cake, and I made it through book club drinking only club soda. But I’m going to have REAL dip with my veggies during the games this Sunday. And you’re going to catch me on Facebook checking in to the Ginger Man at Monday’s opening. (And maybe a couple times after that.)

By the way, we planned our 30 days to end just in time for the last day of Oktoberfest and the Carroll Education Foundation’s big Culinary Celebration. I am counting the minutes…

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