The Coffee and Cold Bath Diet

An unlikely-sounding regimen invented by a minor British actor promises weight loss of OMG proportions — but does it work?

A six-week diet of just coffee and cold baths.

Here’s what a day in the life of this diet looks like, in its most basic form (note there are more kicked-up ways, too):

Wake up
Drink water
Take a 10-minute cold bath
Drink black coffee
Exercise for at least 30 minutes
Fast for at least 60 minutes and try to build up to 180
Eat "a big chunk of protein"
Wait 3 to 5 hours (You can drink coffee, water, or green tea)
Exercise for at least 30 minutes. Wait 15 to 30 minutes.
Eat again. "Keep the protein up"
Wait 3 to 5 hours
Exercise again for at least 30 minutes
Waiting 15 minutes

And here's what it's like to actually follow the thing:

Week 1:
For my first cold bath, I did exactly as Khanna prescribed: I bought a waterproof floating thermometer for my bathtub. The object is to take a bath that is between 59 and 68 degrees. While running the coldest water I could coax from my pipes, I only got my tub down to a little more than 70 degrees. This was going to have to be good enough. When you step into a bathtub that is just a little more than 70 degrees, your body yells. GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT. You may tell yourself, "Calm down, we want to be skinny, remember?"

I worried, what if this bathtub is so cold that the mere act of getting in and getting out too quickly actually causes cardiac arrest? I’m not the only one worried. "It’s best to let your body adapt slowly," Khanna warns. He says 15 minutes is long enough "for the body to react and boost your metabolism for hours later. Longer times are not needed. It’s potentially dangerous. And it’s definitely boring!" In my experience, nothing is boring about a freezing cold bathtub. Excruciating, yes, but never a dull moment. Khanna advises immersing yourself in the tub in stages: stand for two minutes to acclimate, sit down so you’re in waist-deep with your legs straight out for five, and then lean back and fully submerge for the last three. You are supposed to get slowly for the same reason. "If you’re still cold and shivering, stay calm. Keep your focus and get out of the bath carefully. You may be shaky…Don’t have a warm bath or shower right after a cold one. This stresses your body to breaking point, and could cause you to faint," he says. After the final three-minute submersion stage when my timer went off, I jumped out of that bathtub like my life depended on it. My logic: If I died it would at least have been while doing something I really, really wanted to do.

Two words describe the one way that I got through the cold baths: ANGRY BIRDS. The game is compulsively preoccupying and yet requires no real skill. It was almost distracting enough, but I had to remember to try to keep my body as still as possible while playing so that my body-heat warmed water would stay around me and the ice-cold water couldn’t circulate. (Khanna wants you to do the opposite, of course, and stir the cold water around you.)

I stuck to the diet faithfully all week except for the fact that it’s very difficult for a working mother of two young boys to carve out even one consistent "moving around" time a day, let alone the three Khanna prescribes. I almost always got two in (the second being a half-hour dog walk around lunchtime) but I almost never had the time to do the third "period of movement" (which Khanna calls POM). I had to fit the rest of my life, my kids, and my job around this diet. If I didn’t lose as much weight as I could have because I didn’t have enough time to exercise three times a day, so be it.

Khanna doesn’t want you to count calories but he does want you to count carbohydrates, and he doesn’t want you to have more than 120 grams of them, on the high end, per day. This was pretty easy, because it still allows some carbs — the ones in broccoli and blueberries and other "good for you food" foods.

Weigh in: -2.4 pounds

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