What it’s REALLY like to go 1 week without caffeine, dairy, wheat/gluten, sugar, alcohol, or red meat
List of day, after miserable day:
I’ll admit it. I’m a skeptic. Friends have tried this limited diet before and regaled me with how great they felt…but I needed to conduct the experiment to see for myself. For me, this plan is not for weight loss or detox (that is SUCH a misnomer…anyone heard of these great organs called Liver and Kidney?). Instead, it’s an experiment in how we feel – how what we eat affects our moods, energy levels, and ability to think with a clear head. Needless to say, I was able to rope Zero friends into doing this with me, but my husband has agreed to try it.
On this initial day, we feel quite accomplished when visiting a healthy diner for breakfast and ordering a veggie-egg sandwich (no cheese!) and decaf coffee (OK, there is a tiny bit of caffeine in there, but shuttup – there was no milk or sugar at least). Later in the day I try a soy-decaf-sugar-free-latte-with-truvia. Tastes terrible. Much later in the day we realize the damn egg sandwich had wheat (it was a nice whole-wheat English muffin, no butter…but it’s against the rules). Day 1 is a bust, so to prevent future failures, tomorrow is dedicated to meal-planning and shopping for proper groceries.
We sprinkle the day with large coffees and lots of cheese to mentally prepare for tomorrow. Well, not really…we still eat normally – I have a chicken flatbread and green smoothie for lunch, we have Thai curry for dinner. We get groceries for the week, to supplement what we already have at home: sugar-free almond milk (tastes much better in coffee than soy), gluten-free crackers, edamame dip, a whole chicken, rice, quinoa, fish, mayonnaise (its just egg!), vegetables (baby bok choy, spinach, mushrooms, sprouts, napa cabbage, leek, scallion, shallot, onion, fresh garlic, carrots), gluten-free pasta, decaf coffee beans, dried nuts and berries, canned cannelloni beans, fruit (oranges, grapefruit, apples, grapes), low-sodium chicken stock.
This is basically our usual shopping list sans the no-no items listed above. (This answers the question I keep getting: so what CAN you eat? Like…there are no other foods except dairy, sugar, steak and bread?)
Day 3 (AKA: Official Day 1)
The day begins successfully by lugging a container of almond milk and some Splenda packets to work. I’ll be “enjoying” decaf coffee all week. First coffee tastes good, but I am exhausted at 11AM and nearly nap on my keyboard. Must persevere. Luckily, one of my regular lunches (salad bar with chicken) already fits the meal plan, so I’ll have that. At home, we enjoy the rest of our Thai curry and rice for dinner. Day 3 (aka: official day 1) is a success.
Kristy’s Massaman Curry
You’ll need cooked chicken and canned or frozen unsweetened pineapple to add to this dish (optional: cooked potato). Sautee peppers and onions in some grapeseed oil, and when nearly finished add seasonings: garlic powder, ginger powder, five-spice powder, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, salt, pepper (optional: curry paste, tamarind paste, fish sauce – for greater depth of flavor). Add 2 parts chicken stock to 1 part coconut milk, stir in to spice/pepper mixture. At the end, add the chicken, pineapple, peanuts, tomato and cilantro and let simmer a few minutes. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. (This tastes much better the next day, too!)
Day 4 (AKA: Official Day 2)
I CRAVE a latte so much that I dream about it…but I continue with the decaf/Splenda/almond-milk routine. Today will be more difficult. Lunch would normally be a free slice of veggie pizza at seminar, but not today! No veggie/chicken/cheese flat bread sandwich with my lunchtime coffee, either. Instead I have chicken, vegetables and rice from the Chinese lunch-counter. Dinner is going to be even more challenging. We’re meeting up at a pub with an old friend from school. Normally, this would mean beer and pub food while we reminisce…. We do cave and order a beer, but our meal fits the diet – chicken springrolls in a rice-wrapper, catfish, green beans, rice.
I ask my husband what he had for lunch. Gluten-free chicken pie, is the answer. This has dairy. Clearly, he is cheating on this plan.
Day 5 (AKA: Official Day 3)
Today we will bring lunches and make dinner at home! Much better. The whole chicken was cooked earlier in the week, and now we have chicken salad and tuna salad to eat with gluten-free crackers and fruit for lunch.
Kristy’s Chicken Salad:
Cooked chicken (shredded), mayonnaise, salt, pepper, garlic powder, diced pickles (half-sours), chopped onion, chopped celery, fresh (or dry) tarragon
Alternate recipe: UK Coronation Chicken – chicken and mayo as above, salt, pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, fresh diced mango (normally would be mango chutney), lime juice, fresh herbs like cilantro or basil, chopped nuts of your choice, golden raisins. Optional: hot peppers)
Kristy’s Tuna Salad:
Best quality canned tuna, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried cranberries, diced apple, diced grape, dill
Alternate recipe: sun dried tomatoes (diced), roasted red peppers (diced), olives (diced))
For dinner, its protein (fish or lean meat) and my oniony-egg pasta recipe (gluten-free pasta! See recipe below.). For starters, we have pickled herring and rice/nut crackers. After dinner I CRAVE a small piece of chocolate…probably I crave its caffeine. My husband saves me by blending up fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, almond milk and frozen pineapple, blueberries and strawberries. Totally diminishes the craving. (And this is a winner of a smoothie recipe!)
I notice the cereal boxes have moved around the kitchen and are lighter…someone (ahem – my husband) has been eating cereal that has both wheat and sugar! And I thought I would be the one with the weak determination…
Kristy’s oniony-egg-pasta dish (that really needs an actual name)!
– Use gluten free pasta of some sort…boil pasta. While pasta is boiling, heat some grapeseed oil in a sautee pan and add 2 onions cut julienne, 1 tbsp chopped garlic, 2 chopped shallots. Let brown a bit, for that deep caramelized flavor, then add 2 chopped leeks, 4 sliced mushrooms (whatever you have on hand), and the bottoms of 4 scallions (save the green tops to garnish when the dish is done). When this veggie mixture is done cooking, add 2 raw eggs to a large bowl and stir in hot pasta and veggies. This will cook the eggs and create a creamy sauce that seems like it is full of cheese and cream, but it’s not.
Day 6 (Official Day 4)
Today goes a lot like Day 3, lunch is a green smoothie and some nuts from the store, as well as the free fruit at work today (Scientists, with our long days and low salary, take every opportunity to grab free food.)
List of other free food at work today that I had to turn down:
- caffeinated coffee
Every time someone walks by me with a coffee I feel like pouncing on that aroma. Otherwise, I think my moods, energy level and brainpower are the same. No negative OR positive effects yet. Tonight I go to meditation with a friend and then we meet another friend for sushi…will have to ensure my soy sauce is wheat-free (Tamari works, but it’s a $3 charge…for that price I could have bought the bottle!), and that the tempura is rice flour, otherwise it’ll be smooth sailing. I slightly miss my glass of wine, but I still have a great chat with my friends.
Day 7 (Official Day 5)
Today is Saturday, and tonight we have a dinner party with friends. Normally this would mean a feast, interesting cheese/wine pairings, perhaps a nice dry-aged steak with farm-fresh vegetables…. Instead, we have my friend’s delectable Moroccan chicken, another friend’s tandori-cauliflower, and my Middle-Eastern rice. No wine. No beer. And it’s delicious. Earlier in the day, while cooking, I enjoy my terrible caffeine-sugar-dairy-free coffee, with some rice crackers and leftover chicken or tuna salad, and I eat some carrot sticks in the baba ganouj (have to test it!).
Kristy’s Middle Eastern Rice:
Put some saffron in some hot water to start releasing the flavor. Cook an onion, garlic, shallot in a pan with a bit of oil, and add chicken stock (and the saffron/water), let boil. Add basmati rice and cook about 25 min. Meanwhile, create a spice mixture with pomegranate molasses (ensure it has no added sugar, and thin it out with some of the stock), sumac, cumin, salt, pepper, allspice, and dried thyme. This becomes the topping sauce for the rice.
Grill or otherwise cook 2 large eggplants, remove skin, and chop into a blender, add lemon juice, garlic, tahini – blend until smooth. Garnish with olive oil and sumac (SUMAC is my new best friend in the spice cabinet! It’s made from a berry, and is a key ingredient in Zataar spice mixture, which I also love).
Day 8 (Official Day 6)
I have lost all energy and the will to move around. Today is a waste of a day and nothing gets accomplished, but I do eat rice and an egg dish, sticking to the plan. I reminisce fondly about the caffeine-filled days of last week, oh – so much was accomplished!
Day 9 (Official Day 7)
That’s it. I’ve had it. Caffeine is added back today, a day early. I am so AWAKE, and today is very fruitful in the lab and in the office. Otherwise, we’ve decided to keep the plan going for an additional week, adding back just dairy next week. Aside from the sleepiness (and granted, a better night’s sleep as well) which I can surely attribute to the caffeine, I find no changes in energy level or clear-headedness. We’ll see how week 2 goes, but for now, I remain a skeptic.