Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cabbage Soup Diet

Over the years I’ve come to accept what I refer to as middle-aged baby fat; where I glance in the mirror and say, “Oh baby! I’m getting fat!” It’s never been a big deal. The problem is easily solved by taking a couple of quick steps away from the offending mirror. However, in the ramp-up to my daughter’s wedding my wife and the bride to be decided a more active approach was required.

“We got a copy of a special, seven-day diet. With this diet, a person can lose up to fifteen pounds in a week if they don’t cheat. Even you can hack just one week of dieting, and you’ll have company, because we’re all going on it.” 

Their field manual for the “special seven-day diet” was a fuzzy, worn, two-sided photocopy. One side spelled out the regimen. The other side provided instructions and a little background.

Add 6 heaping cups of water for body

The regimen side listed, by day, what victuals were permitted. The core of the diet was a cabbage soup prepared with little more than a head of cabbage, a couple cans of tomatoes, green peppers, onions and a bunch of celery. For body, six heaping cups of water were added. The dieter was allowed to eat as much of the cabbage soup as they could hold. In fact, the dieter was required to eat a minimum of one large helping of the cabbage soup a day.

The instructional side proudly proclaimed the diet to be from the Our Sisters of Perpetual Infection Hospital. The claim being that the diet is used for overweight patients scheduled for heart surgery. Having experienced the diet, I would venture to say that it wasn’t used so much to reduce weight, but as more of a stress test and means of determining the will to live. If one could survive the stress of eating that cabbage soup day-in and day-out, it would be possible survive the small intrusion of someone splitting your sternum, prying it wide, and hacking away at a vital organ. 

Developed by the Sisters of Perpetual Infection Hospital

The information also promoted the diet as an excellent way to rid the body of impurities. The “total flushing” was touted as a way achieve “a feeling of well being as never before.” I had read similar descriptions written by people that had almost starved to death. Just prior to passing to the Great Beyond, everything seems just hunky-dory. Consequently, I was not surprised by the claim. A little further into the information, the quick reference to “total flushing” was elucidated.

“Because everyone’s digestive system is different, this diet will affect everyone differently. After being on the diet several days, you will find your bowel movements have changed.” 

Oh yeah, sure, and the Titanic’s maiden voyage wasn’t  heralded as a complete success, either.

The diet instructions stated, “eat as much as you want; stuff yourself.” Then the euphoria of that promising statement was crushed by restricting the intake to the cabbage soup, vegetables and fruits. 

Even the idea of eating just fruits and vegetables didn’t seem too daunting, so long as I could eat plenty. It was a simple matter of stuffing myself full of fruit for breakfast, soup for lunch and vegetables for dinner. Unfortunately, the rules of the diet allowed only fruits or vegetables on the same day. They couldn’t be consumed together. This caused considerable problems at the breakfast table on vegetable day.

“What do you want for breakfast?” 

“Oh, I dunno... how about a couple of broccoli spears over easy, and a side of toasted spinach leaves? Hold the butter.”

The first day went as well as could be expected, but by the middle of the second day things started to unravel. I think it was the cabbage soup for breakfast. I started viewing things in a different perspective. For instance, our little dog took on the appearance of a walking roast, and I found myself insanely jealous of the big dog as I filled his dish with dog food.

The dog won't notice if I take just a bit...
The true nature of the diet became clear on the third day. Right there, in large, bold letters were the words, “REWARD YOURSELF WITH A BIG BAKED POTATO.”

There is something morally reprehensible about considering a simple, dry, baked potato a reward. 

I wasn’t the only member of the family that was suffering. The diet did little to enhance civility around the house. 

“Hey! Who ate the last Brussels sprout? Mom, that was my Brussels sprout!” 

There is little that can match the viciousness of a cat fight over a Brussels sprout between two starving women.  

By the fifth day, just the thought of chewing my nails made my mouth water. Something... anything... that had to bleed and die before being thrown onto the plate sounded good. I even gave up fishing because the bait was too tempting. 

The sixth day of the diet was my downfall. On that day, we were allowed meat. In fact, we were allowed up to twenty ounces of beef. At the prospect of having some real food, I lost control and opted to take my beef in the form of five McDonald’s Quarter-pounders.

Shameless plug: This post is an excerpt from Of Moose and Men: Home is Where the Harm Is, available from the U.S. Amazon and also Amazon in the UK.


  1. Good for you because that wasn't a diet anyway. It was a form of mental torture to see how much you could withstand the smell of cabbage soup before telling the CIA everything you know about those damn spies.

    I'll have a quarter pounder in your honour, my friend.

    1. Oh, my friend, it was much more than just mental torture! There truly is such a thing as a fiber overdose! Should have known it would be brutal, if nuns were involved. ;-)

  2. Wonderful story - I love the baby fat joke to kick it off. I enjoyed having you try dieting so I don't have to - way to take one for your readers!

    1. Sacrifice, it's all about the sacrifice for the readers! Next, I'm trying the pepperoni sticks and beer diet.

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