Tuesday, April 13, 2021

My Stint with Cabbage Soup and Did Any Weight Stay Off?

You all know how I feel about having gotten to the point that I even agreed to do this diet despite the success the Mr had with it 30 years ago.  I will start this off by saying I am reporting my own experience with doing this diet mainly because I'd always brushed it off when the Mr would bring it up when he was frustrated.  I was equally, if not more frustrated, when he brought it up at the point he did and I caved.  I am not condoning, supporting or suggesting this diet for anyone.  I am not a doctor and if you choose to do it, you're doing it at your own risk and need to consult your doctor before undergoing such a radically low calorie diet.

Plenty of nutritionists/doctors will say this isn't the way to get any weight off and sustain that loss.  Because of that, I did tweak it slightly to make sure we got our nutrients in, which surprisingly wasn't too hard.  We always take supplements only for the vitamins that we are chronically low on despite eating a varied diet with fruits, veggies, grains, etc.  I tracked in Cronometer so I could see what we were getting and what needed supplemented.  Even though the rule is "eat as much as you want of the soup/veggies" or whatever on your allotted day, it all still has calories.  So if you're slamming down 6 bowls of soup a day and all you can eat anything, I'd be right back at what my original calories intake was anyway.

(Double double, you're in trouble. No turning back when the cauldron bubbles)

I noticed on the days that there was no meat allowed that iron was going to be dangerously low (not that I ever excel at that nutrient anyway but worse than normal.)  I got the lowest amount of iron pills I could find then cut those in half and supplemented on the days I needed it.  I also wanted to allow for a bit of a brain equalizer because we were still doing light strength workouts (30 minutes tops) to maintain our muscle.  We could have a hard boiled egg and 15g of walnuts before and after a workout on non-meat days.  I'm not fooling myself, it didn't make this any healthier but I wasn't willing to take the kind of liberties I saw other people do and 15g of walnuts do wonders to bring you out of some side effects.  I wasn't willing to cheat on it like I saw some people were like "I had a muffin and some ice cream but I still lost weight."  I'm either doing this or I'm not.  I think an egg and walnuts to replace 75% of what I burned doing a workout isn't a sin in comparison.  I feel like anyone doing this would be doing a major disservice by not taking a multi-vitamin if they're not tracking.  This diet isn't to be done for more than a week.  You can seriously screw yourself up if you do and we had side effects which I'll discuss later.

Here's the recipe I followed which also gives you an outline of the diet in her post.  The tweaks I made were I used low sodium chicken bone broth to amp up the protein (not that it helped much) and used red onion instead of yellow and yellow/red peppers instead of green.  The idea is you can eat the soup and whatever your specified food combo is for that day.  

(I doubled the recipe and this is what two batches looks like.)

Let's get to it.

Day one: Soup and fruit day.

(not pictured: 1 egg, 15g walnuts)

Cosmic crisp apple for breakfast and tea.  Lunch: 1 ½ ladles soup, 3 oz grapes, 1 kiwi, 3 oz strawberries.  Right before going down to workout, I got lightheaded.  We had 15g of walnuts.   Dinner was soup, 5 oz watermelon and 5 oz of cantaloupe then had a clementine for a snack around 9:30pm when the edginess started.  It was actually pretty easy.

Nutrients for the day with supplements:


As you can see, iron was really low as I hadn't gotten supplement yet but everything else looked good.

Day two:  Soup and (non-starchy) Veggie day.  (This one SUCKED and made me very pissy!  Correction: Pissier than usual.)  

(not pictured: 1 egg, 15g walnuts)

Garlic green beans and tea for breakfast.  Lunch was 3 oz carrots, 6 oz roasted broccoli, tea and soup which I didn’t season and regretted it.  It needs meat.  Or cheese.  Or ham.  Huh?  What?   Dinner was soup and a 13oz russet baked potato (that thing didn't look bigger than 8 oz tops!) with a 1 tbsp of butter which I'm pretty sure I made love to and my brain was happy for some actual energy.  They give you the potato because they know otherwise this is the day you will say 'screw this.'



As you can see, iron was a little higher due to that potato which gave me 21% of my iron for the day. (Supplement hadn't arrived yet)

Day 3:  Soup and Veggie/Fruit day

(not pictured: 1 egg, 15g walnuts)

Breakfast was a cosmic apple and tea which tasted amazing and I was full after half an apple.  (But I still ate that mofo!  Glad I did too because I was starving by lunch)  Lunch was soup, 3 oz carrots, 3 oz strawberries, 5 oz cantaloupe and 3 oz grapes.  Dinner was swill in a bowl, 10 oz roasted asparagus and lemon juice and 6 oz of green beans with garlic and sprinkle of nutritional yeast (1g).


Got the iron supplement but didn't feel I needed it.

Day 4:  Soup and Banana/Skim Milk day.  

(not pictured: 1 egg, 15g walnuts)

I really looked forward to this day but honestly, it was not great.  I would say this is as hard if not harder than day two.  Breakfast was a 5 oz banana and raspberry yogurt which we saw quite a few people were allowing that day in updated versions.  We thought one yogurt wasn't going to spin the Earth off of its axis.  Lunch was soup, a banana and 8 oz of skim milk and dinner was the same with walnuts thrown in beforehand and an egg later for good measure.  I did take half an iron supplement (50% requirement) since it would've been low otherwise.


Day 5: 10 to 20 ounces of beef or skinless chicken/soup day.  

(I didn't figure you needed to see a bowl of swill with the burger by now.)

It was a gift from the coincidence gods that this fell on our normal high cal day and also the kitchen delivery day that they botched so hard I was ready to slam my face into a Reese egg in the basement.  We don't eat breakfast on Saturday's anyway unless one of us has a headache so lunch was 8 oz of 85% beef wrapped in iceberg lettuce for a bun and soup.  Dinner was a 10 oz chicken breast with some salt free hot seasoning and watermelon/cantaloupe.  We're not a tomato household so that didn't apply but since we had a potential of 420 calories of tomatoes we weren't eating, we skipped the soup for dinner and had 12 oz of watermelon and cantaloupe.  (Gasp!!  FRUIT!  But it's mostly water and a fruit like a tomato just with a wee bit o' natural sugar, so I'm not going to clutch my pearls over it especially since we're saving just over 300 calories on the tomatoes.)


Day 6:  "All the beef or chicken and vegetables you want"/soup day.  

(Not pictured: 15g walnuts)

Obviously, I'm not going to go this far just to bomb it with meat sweats and eat a hog on a spit because a typed piece of paper circulating from the 60's told me I could.  We did a salt free fiesta lime 8 oz. chicken breast over brussels sprouts and a salad with a squeeze of lemon juice.  Snack in between was a bowl of soup.  Dinner was a 6 oz steak on cauliflower rice with steamed broccoli and a ladle of soup.  Both meals kept us super full the whole day on just over 800 calories.  


Day 7: Brown rice (or quinoa), unsweetened fruit juices, and vegetables/soup day (aka- thank you Jesus, it's the last day!")  

We don't do fruit juices so we didn't have any of those.  Man, I really had to choke down the 1/4 cup quinoa for breakfast since I couldn't add milk or anything to give it a bit of sweetness since the ginger and pumpkin pie spice didn't help much.  (Pumpkin is starchy so couldn't use that.)  I wasn't in the mood for savory quinoa either so it was two bites with a hot tea chaser.  Repeat.  Lunch was a ladle and half of soup, 1/2 cup (cooked) quinoa which I put in the soup, 1/2 bag of roasted broccoli, and 2 oz carrots.  Dinner was the last of the soup with 1/2 cup of brown rice and brussels sprouts with garlic.  I thought I was going to yarf.  I really reached the end of my tolerance with the soup and we both gleefully poured the leftovers in the disposal.


Here's our summary of our experience.

Side effects:  

Day one: about an hour after lunch and my body realized what was up, I got lightheaded.  I had my 15g of walnuts which helped about 15 minutes later then the egg after our workout which helped keep me even the rest of the night.  I didn't experience any gastro distress because it's not too far off from what I normally eat (sans soup) but the Mr was peeing like a racehorse.

Day two:  On cue, about an hour after lunch, I got lightheaded and brain foggy.  Concentration was a little hard which I didn't like at all.  I literally looked at the remote and didn't know how to use it for a solid 20 seconds.  My brain tingled.  I can't describe it any other way and the Mr experienced the same the next two days.  That is a screwed up feeling.

Day three:  Cravings for meat or any kind of food with substance kicked in.  (This was likely because as I was checking emails, things popped up like a Chinese restaurant (which I rarely crave) and a meatloaf sandwich from a restaurant I know screws it up every time.)  Thankfully that didn't last all day and I only got mildly dizzy after our workout (light band workout) and ate an egg and it went away after dinner.  Today is the day the Mr's brain fog kicked in though.

Day four:  Pretty rough on the lightheaded front.  I woke up feeling great and was looking forward to some variety with the bananas but it didn't help much.  Both of us felt like crap when we'd get up from the couch.  We knew this is the last truly depriving day before starting to add back in something that would actually not screw us up from being too low.  I felt better after lunch on the dizzy side but then a little cramping kicked in after having a banana for a snack after lunch (3rd banana of the day.)  I didn't feel like I could exercise this day so we skipped.  (You're not really supposed to anyway)  What I also didn't like was since this was the highest calorie day thusfar, I really felt like I "should" exercise which was exactly the numbers obsession I was not looking forward to but knew would happen before starting it. 

Day five:  This was botched delivery day so I'm sure my anger at their ineptitude was heightened by no food since everything was in coolers.  This was the first day neither of us had side effects after eating though.  Score!

Day six:  No side effects today at all.  

Day seven:  Pure joy that it's almost over!  It wasn't too bad overall but I was surprised this day was as hard as it was.  I did get some shakiness in the evening.


There were a few things I expected but didn't materialize.

What I was surprised by is the main side effect everyone who has done it said would happen never did.


I actually farted LESS than I usually do.  Most people have the gas because they're not used to fruits and veggies but I eat those every day.  So actually, that was a weird bonus.  On the down side, I expected to crap like I was being paid (like the Mr was most days) but nope, same horrid BM schedule which was 3x week.  (I don't have an issue, it's just my system.  Always has been.)

I also thought that I would be dry heaving to get that soup down but I think the fact I made the version with bone broth and not the sodium bomb version with dry onion soup and tomato juice went a long way in that department.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't craving it but the fact I wasn't holding my nose and swallowing it without chewing was surprising.

I was surprised at the energy I would initially wake up with which was a plus but it was very short lived and within an hour or two the lightheadedness would set in so I enjoyed it while I could.

Our joints felt better almost immediately which was unexpected.  

I was surprised I didn't wake up hungry.  I ate at my normal time which is late, 10:30-11am on the days I ate breakfast.

Some undies I ordered 6 months ago that always fit weird and were relegated to the "someday drawer", fit by day 3.  I consider it a win because they still fit a month later.

The morning after the final day (Tuesday) we both weighed in.  Here are our totals.

March 23rd

The Mr:  -12 lbs
Me: -8 lbs

His reaction:  

When I weighed in and saw that I had lost 12 pounds total I was happy but I have to admit a little disappointed that it wasn't something more eye-dropping like when I did the diet 30 years ago and lost (if memory serves) 21 pounds. I was hoping to see 15 or so at least but again, 12 pounds is nothing to sneeze at either. The interesting thing for me is that I now have more insight into how starving myself compares to how I was eating before the diet. I was eating the right foods and had just started doing a little better about tracking before this but now it has motivated me to track even more accurately and weigh ALL the food as I prepare it, not just eyeballing it. I hope to keep that up as it will be an added benefit, for me personally, from doing the diet and in a weird way that makes it just as worth it to me as the weight I lost on the diet. I know a lot of detractors say fad diets don't teach you anything but I do believe it reminded me of some of the extra attention I was no longer giving my day to day lifestyle eating before. I do recall gaining similar insight 30 years ago when I did it and that insight is what helped me lose more and keep it off until I basically just stopped about a year and a half later.

My reaction:

I'd be lying if I said I was less than pleased with those results given the claims of practically 'guaranteed 10 lb loss' and you figure with exercising in there to maintain muscle (even though it was minimal) that it should be more than than.  (I was also seriously regretting doing our hardest strength workout the night before weigh in because I was sore where I wasn't with any of the other workouts so I know there was inflammation that likely kept me 3 oz from being in the next set of numbers down.)  So yeah, wasn't a totally happy camper with my results commiserate to the amount of sacrifice and screwed up side effects I was having for a few days.  I was, however, grateful for the looser legs, slightly decreased gut girth (lost an inch).  I think I was also back down to pre-Vermont weight.  Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for the loss that would've easily taken me 2-3 months to get off given past history but that is assuming it stays off.


We went back to our typical eating and full on exercise habits for the week.  (1500-1600 cals for me/1800-1900 for him)  I was interested to see if weight would immediately come back on as the calories increased by a 300-600 or not since everyone always says "it's water weight".

March 27th ( Usual Saturday weigh in after 4 days of our typical food)

The Mr: +1
Me: +1/2

I know I should be happy with that but I wasn't.  I kept my calorie intake over the next four days 1425-1525 calories.  My calorie allotment for the day to lose 2 lbs on paper is 1535 before exercise.  Plus there was exercise in there between 300-400 per day.  Nothing crazy or slamming to the joints that should've produced any major inflammation either.  This is where some people are giggling.  "See, fad diets don't work." 😝 Anyhoo.   

I also know that with burning off 400 from 1450 average, that means I'm netting 1050 calories which is way below what is acceptable.  I also didn't want to overwhelm my body coming off of 800-1100 calories per day so that'll be adjusted the following week and we'll see if that really blows sh*t up for the worse

The Mr was also disappointed there was a small gain after only 4 days but feels, at this point, that it did help him more than he was able to do on his own before.  That remains to be seen.

One of the first big tests would be a full week of our "normal" way of eating.  We did a high cal day with a 3000 calorie cap the first Saturday off the diet.  That is under a pound gain on paper and before anyone recoils in horror at that number, here's an example of how easy it is to reach it.  Let's say you skip breakfast since you know you're having a bigger lunch.  If you get McDonald's medium quarter pounder value meal with drink and a few ketchups for your fries, you're at 1150 calories.  For dinner, you split half a small pepperoni pizza from a place like Papa John's and a 12 oz soda.  1050 calories.  Then if you satisfy your sweet tooth with one cupcake from a chain cupcake shop that you work on throughout the day for 800 calories.  These are for mediums and smalls which are not what many people get so you can see how easy it is to hit that 3000 calorie cap.  (This isn't what we had, just an example.)  If you're eating at a sit down restaurant, your burger alone is 1000+ calories and the fries are 600+.   But we wanted to see what it would do, so we did that then went back to our normal healthy eating throughout the week.

April 3rd

The Mr: stayed the same
Me: stayed the same

11 days after going off of it, we did not gain any significant amount of weight back and that was with a high cal day involved.  In the full week after going off of it, my calories were 1700-1775 all week, 64 oz of pure water (which you guys know how hard that is for me) plus tea, and exercise every day with calorie burns between 300 - 450 most days and 600 one day.  He calorie cycled between 1800-2200.

April 10th

For me the following week would be the REAL proof in the pudding to either declare cabbage soup a total waste of time or not.  Easter was involved.  One thing we (I) go completely overboard on are Easter baskets and we already had our stuff bought well before the thought of the diet was put into my head so I thought that would be the true test because with ham and all of the sodium laden traditional food and the basket, we're usually an easy 1-2 lb gain and that's without having come off a fad diet.  Here are what I consider our "final final" results.

The Mr:  +1 (which is exactly what he would've likely gained in the past or actually a pound less)
Me: -4  (It was period week which always nets me sometimes my only loss for the month but yeah.)

He calorie cycled and thinks maybe 2200 might be too high so he'll cut his back to 2000 next week.  I think the fact that he didn't gain like 5 lbs means that the weight lost from cabbage soup is actually going to stay off since we're obviously not doing Easter every weekend.  (We even got out and walked a few laps for 600 calorie burn on the high cal day and we usually don't workout that day.)

I drank my water, poo'd like a champ (but I am on antibiotics so who knows) and my calories were between 1500-1700.  Workouts were butt kickers on strength days and pretty low key cardio like walking or a shorter modified Beachbody workout.  Four pound losses never stick around for me so it'll be interesting to see if that stays or not.  I almost always gain a pound back but hopefully my body will throw me a bone.

So.  There you go.

You may be asking yourselves...

I would not be totally against it, particularly if we're coming off of a vacation and the scale was done gifting our sodium weight loss and was stuck for a few weeks after getting back to normal.  I certainly wouldn't look forward to it but I would at least know that I need to have more non-starchy veggies for the second day to be able to make it through.  I would also need to make sure we hand picked the bananas for banana day because the jerk who picked ours basically gave us ripe ones to begin with so then they were 4 days overripe by the time we got to them. (I actually had to throw one bunch away.)   So yes, while it's not healthy, I think maybe doing it once a year if we feel like we need to as long as we supplement and plan better instead of ordering random crap during a crying jag is acceptable.  (But that isn't the goal and I don't plan on it because I don't want to screw up my metabolism.)  I would likely take the higher cal days on the diet and tweak those to fit in and maybe calorie cycle before going back to this.  At this point, I just wanted to try it once because I've heard about it from the Mr for 30 years now and wanted to be able to bash it with authoritah.  Right now if you told me I had to do it starting tomorrow, this about sums it up.


I will say this, it did inspire me to work in a lot more vegetarian meals into our diet and look up a lot of volume eating recipes.  If nothing else, I have to say it has given us a renewed sense of enthusiasm and inspiration to get out of our typical food rut.  We already have some new favorite vegetarian recipes we've made more over their meat counterparts.

What about him?

Right now I feel like it was worth doing because it did give me the boost I needed to get out of what has felt like a long pandemic plateau. It really boosts your willpower seeing results like that even if it is also a major drain on your willpower to make it through. I also find that it puts everything in perspective again too, in a way. What I mean by that is when you are eating healthy but have cravings for things it is easy to talk yourself into extra calories here and there and those add up. But when you go through a day like day 2 on this diet where you find yourself eating green beans for breakfast instead of perfectly good breakfast foods in your fridge then you know you can avoid any craving if you keep the right mindset. It also forced me to eat slower because you cannot eat that soup fast along with most other things.  

I will say that the adjustments the Mrs. made to the soup made it way more palatable every time I ate it than it ever was when I did this before. The chicken broth alone is a huge improvement. Also, adding in the walnuts and egg option helped a ton with side effects and I believe helps protect from muscle loss as well as the strength training we did. 

But would I do it again? Honestly I feel like I never want to do it again now that it is done but given the results, I feel like it could help in the future after a vacation or another plateau potentially so I won't say I never will do it again. I am just so relieved it is over now and want to relish in the fact that it is done.

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  1. Pretty much sums it up for me. I hope others can gain some insight into this and make an informed decision for themselves.

  2. Thank you for sharing this! Something we need a reset

  3. Very interesting. Thanks.

    I may have asked you this before, have you tried fish oil? My GP had me start taking it daily for something else, but it caused me to bm too much. (Which is why I was wondering if you have tried it.) I kept it in freezer so there was no after taste.

  4. I'm glad you both came away from the experience with a good feeling that there was benefit to the diet as well as the tweaks and things you learned in case you want to do it again at some point. It sounds like it was manageable, if not desirable, and wasn't as horrible as you thought it would be. Congrats on the pounds lost that you guys have maintained too! You felt better physically so it might have just been the kick start your bodies needed.

  5. As much fruit as you want, except bananas one day. Up to 8 bananas another day. Who made up those rules? lol. Any idea what happens to my digestive system if I eat more than one banana a day? Actually the soup doesn't sound bad though. I can definitely see the attraction of this as a kick start/reset.


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