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I’ve lost my mojo. I feel sluggish, and I’m carrying 10 extra pounds of baby weight. (My “baby” is eight.) I rarely eat breakfast. My metabolism has officially left the building.
I turn to Haylie Pomroy, author of The Fast Metabolism Diet. The American nutritionist’s book acts as a sobering warning to the various ways I’m screwing over my body’s natural fat-burning system. Being stressed out stimulates the production of cortisol, the “ belly fat” hormone. Skipping breakfast and scarfing down canapés hours later at a party is causing my body to hoard fat and launch nutrient-stealing hormones that rob my muscles of energy.
Pomroy evokes a strategy she dubs “Confuse it to lose it,” where you “cross-train your metabolism to heal itself.” This is done by eating, in three different phases per week, foods that assist in calming adrenal glands, reduce stress on the liver and support the thyroid to produce hormones T3 and T4—the ones that drive a fast metabolism. Apparently, the best way to rev things up is to eat often (five times a day, no calorie counting), drink a ton of water and exercise moderately. But (there’s always a but) caffeine, wheat, dairy, soy, refined sugar and alcohol are out.
The program consists of three food phases per week, repeated for four weeks. Phase 1, two days: Carbs like quinoa with lean protein, veggies and lots of fruit to stabilize sugar levels. Phase 2, two days: Strictly low-fat protein with tons of veggies. (The. Worst.) Phase 3, three days: All of the above, plus fats from foods like nuts and oils.
Week 1, Day 1
The caffeine comedown is kicking my ass. I have a pounding headache and a complete inability to concentrate on anything. Everyone is annoying me. Why revel in my tasty pasta (made from brown rice) lunch when I can be complaining instead?
Week 1, Day 4
During the low-fat protein-and-vegetable-focused Phase 2 of the diet, I have a working lunch at a fancy hotel downtown. A magnum of champagne and bottles of sweet, delicious wine sit on the table, like a rosé-hued elephant in the room. As soon as I meekly mention I’m on a cleanse, the topic dominates the conversation. While everyone tears into the bread basket, I am overcome with sadness—until a friend whispers she admires my mental strength. I sing “Hero” in my head while dessert is served.
Week 1, Day 6
“Mmm! Caffeine-free herbal tea is just as satisfying as a double espresso!” said no one, ever.
Week 2, Day 1
I spend hours cooking food for the week and freezing it. I feel like a 1950s housewife. My crisper is stuffed with green things. I use a slow cooker and bring my lunch to work. I don’t know who I am anymore.
Week 2, Day 3
After a particularly gruelling day at the office, I’m stunned by how difficult it is not to seek comfort in carbs, candy and wine. How often I seek refuge in these things bothers me almost as much as not being allowed to eat brie.
Week 2, Day 5
My social schedule has opened up. None of my friends want to hang out until “Fun Vanessa” can come out to play again. I can’t even feel offended: Who wants to be the person cracking open a Tupperware dish of kale and beef on the dance floor because it’s a protein day and you need to snack?
Week 3, Day 3
At my kid’s school fundraising BBQ, I break out a Tupperware dish of kale and beef. Enjoy your toxic hot dogs, losers!
Week 3, Day 5
I have started to get compliments about my glowing skin—this must be due in part to the quantity of omega-3s I’m eating. In Phase 3, which lasts three days each week, I eat tons of healthy fats like avocados and raw cashews. The scale shows a loss of seven pounds, which seems insane and only possible on a crash diet of nothing but lemon juice and Beyoncé lyrics.
Week 3, Day 6
At the National Magazine Awards, a minefield of an evening fuelled by booze and networking, I am hardly tempted. I’ve suffered too much to blow it all on a bread stick. I’m beginning to enjoy a sense of dietary superiority.
Week 4, Day 1
This is such a long time to be so focused—long enough, it seems, to rewrite my eating habits.
Week 4, Day 3
I think I’m suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. The thought of returning to the real world fills me with fear. I have visions of gaining weight, Nutty Professor-style, as soon as my lips touch a potato.
Week 4, Day 6
I have lost 12 pounds and haven’t eaten a single processed food or non-organic piece of meat for a month. I’m sleeping better. I feel like a boss. I celebrate with a decadent meal at the Four Seasons Café Boulud. Don’t judge.
5 months plus
The weight I lost has stayed off. I eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up, take my lunch to work and always have a healthy snack in my handbag so I never go hungry. I dabble in dairy and caffeine from time to time but eat gluten-free whenever I can (wheat belly, be gone!) and never count calories.