Money Diet, week 23: Trying out the despicable three-day diet

It's day one, and I'm famished. And it's all my fault.

A few weeks ago, one of my editors and I decided we'd take a break from a weekly update of the "Money Diet" and make it a sporadic feature. After all, I'm losing weight at the speed of molasses (yum, that sounds good), and we just thought it might be more interesting to occasionally, vs. every week, see how my diet is going.

The Money Diet is something I concocted at the beginning of the year. I thought that if I added up the money I saved every time I want to buy snacks or junk food but don't, then after awhile, I might have more money and less weight. As it turned out, I did lose about twenty pounds, but then I kind of stalled out. So I didn't feel so bad about taking a break from writing weekly about my diet misadventures and was still happily not snacking and not eating junk food and not losing any more weight until a few days ago when my editor emailed me and asked if I could try "The Three-Day Diet."

I stupidly agreed.

According to WebM.D., which has written about this diet but doesn't endorse it, this particular diet has been around since 1985. But I've found other, various types of three-day diets referenced back in newspapers from the 1920s. Clearly, there's something appealing about doing a diet that lasts just three days.

And apparently, at least judging from what folks are searching for on the Internet, the three-day diet's been getting popular again, perhaps since it promises you'll lose 10 pounds if you follow it. Sounds good to me!

This particular three-day diet diet has a very strict menu. Skim the following guidelines in horror (or maybe you'll see nothing to complain about), and I'll continue this when you're done.

Day 1

Black coffee or tea with one to two packets of Sweet & Low or Equal
1/2 grapefruit or juice (and, no, there's no indication of how much juice or if it needs to be grapefruit juice)
1 piece of toast with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter

Black coffee or tea with one to two packets of Sweet & Low or Equal
1/2 cup of tuna
1 piece of toast

3 ounces of any lean meat or chicken
1 cup of green beans
1 cup of carrots
1 apple
1 cup of regular vanilla ice cream

Day 2
Black coffee or tea with one to two packets of Sweet & Low or Equal
1 egg
1/2 of a banana
1 piece of toast

1 cup of cottage cheese or tuna
8 regular Saltine crackers

2 beef franks
1 cup of broccoli or cabbage
1/2 cup of carrots
1/2 of a banana
1/2 cup of regular vanilla ice cream

Day 3
Black coffee or tea with one to two packets of Sweet & Low or Equal
5 regular Saltine crackers
1 ounce of cheddar cheese
1 apple

Black coffee or tea with one to two packets of Sweet & Low or Equal
1 boiled egg
1 piece of toast

1 cup of tuna
1 cup of carrots
1 cup of cauliflower
1 cup of melon
1/2 cup of regular vanilla ice cream

You're also allowed to have four cups of water or noncaloric drinks daily.

Day One
As I'm nearing dinner. I find that I've amazingly done pretty well so far. I substituted coffee for diet soda, since I'm just not a coffee drinker (unless I can add cream and sugar). Otherwise, I followed the diet exactly, even eating the grapefruit, a food I despise. Well, maybe not exactly. In the mid-afternoon, all I could think about was how great a pizza or a hamburger would be, and I couldn't concentrate on writing. So I had a fiber bar, figuring that if I'm going to cheat, that was a pretty good way to go.

In any case, while dinner sounds kind of filling compared to what I've eaten so far, I can't imagine doing this for two and one-third more days. But we'll see.

Day Two

Last night, I broke down and hastily slapped together a cheese sandwich, then this morning, I was quite discouraged when my wife, who was nice enough to scramble an egg for me, served me breakfast. It looked so pitiful, this little egg on toast. But I had to admit, as the morning wore on, I wasn't as hungry as I thought I might be.

That is, I wasn't hungry until lunch, when I found myself putting more cottage cheese on my plate than I probably should have and eight crackers suddenly became 12.

When dinnertime came around, I actually skipped the carrots, forgetting they were in the microwave. I had to scarf down food between interviewing someone for an article and taking my six-year-old daughter to a school-related cheerleading uniform fitting. Naturally, I didn't forget about the half-cup of ice cream, which I had when we returned. Still, overall, I feel like I did pretty well, and I'm kind of psyched. A little hungry but pleased with myself.

Day Three

Last night, after I wrote the above, I really broke down. I had more crackers in the evening and much later -- sheesh, I hate admitting this -- a cupcake. It was three in the morning, and one of our dogs wanted to be let out to do her business in the backyard. Pacing in the kitchen, hungry, waiting for the dog to be done, I just suddenly gave a deep sigh, reached into a box of cupcakes reserved for the kids and munched away.

That may help explain why this morning, I just kind of gave up, making an egg sandwich (two eggs, two pieces of bread) and for lunch, had some frozen lean pizza meal that was in the freezer. I'm not sure if I'll return to the diet for dinner or if I'm done with the diet. I guess I'm done.

So obviously the question is--did I lose any weight?

Yes--but not much. I'm sure if I had managed to stick it out a third day, and if I had been completely faithful to the diet during the first two days (not having a fiber bar that first day, for instance), I would have lost more, of course. But as it stands, I probably lost three or four pounds.

I had gained a few pounds back since last reporting my weight two weeks ago, so the results for me aren't too dramatic, but as it stands, here are my weight stats:

My weight when I began trying to lose at the beginning of the year: 264
My weight two weeks ago: 245
My weight this week: 243

The diet itself cost me about $30. It would have been more if I had bought organic or fresh carrots and green beans, instead of purchasing them both in a can. I didn't buy any peanut butter, since we had that at the house already. I didn't buy coffee, since, as noted, I substituted it with diet soda. My guess is that most people, if they had to buy all the ingredients, might spend $35 to $40 on everything, and a little more, if their tastes veer to the more expensive (i.e., organic, fresh vegetables instead of those in a can).

I'm totally cool, though, with not following through on the diet and cheating. As the aforementioned WebM.D. article says, "Because the three-day diet is so low in carbohydrates, it's likely the initial weight loss is primarily water weight, as carbohydrates encourage your body to retain water. As soon as the dieter goes back to consuming a normal amount of carbohydrates, the water weight comes back."

Maybe since I wasn't completely faithful to the diet, maybe I won't re-gain my weight back. Hey, one can hope.

In any case, it was kind of a fun diet. My daughters went shopping with me, and we bought food items that we simply don't ever buy -- like grapefruit -- and that we don't buy enough of -- like the melon. So it's a diet that, even though my daughters didn't follow, exposed them to some good foods. It also got me thinking more about portion sizes.

This diet, in many ways, is crazy because the portions are so small, but arguably, plenty of my portion sizes are equally crazy because they're so big. Clearly, if I could choose portion sizes somewhere in the middle, I'd be better off for it. I'm not a health expert and have zero credibility to endorse any diet, but it seems to me that a food plan that encourages you to think about portion sizes and eat a variety of healthy foods has something going for it.

On the other hand, this is also a diet that discourages exercise and encourages overeating.

What do I mean? Well, on the evening of the first day, my daughters spent the night at my grandmother's, and with my free time, I'd planned on taking a long walk, but I didn't, knowing the exercise would just make me more hungry at a time when I was supposed to be following a strict menu. And what have I been daydreaming about doing as soon as this three-day diet is over?

You guessed it. I see a pizza or hamburger in my short-term future.

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the book Living Well with Bad Credit.

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