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?

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

Week 2:

So soon, a challenge. A work trip to Myrtle Beach required eating out for lunch and dinner every day for three days. Of course, eating out kills a diet faster than an empty drive-through lane at McDonald’s. Temptations abound, and, although I don’t expect anyone to cry me a river, a job as a professional food writer requires me to do things like taste desserts. But I forged ahead. And I took that cold bath every morning without fail in my hotel. And I played Angry Birds and I gritted through it, literally.

The good news is that a 30-minute walk on the beach counts as a "POM," so getting exercise on the road was not a problem. The emergent issue: Khanna would like you to avoid drinking, and wine in particular. High in carbs. If you must imbibe, he’d like you to drink a vodka-and-soda, which has no added sugar and thus no carbs (Tito’s Vodka, handmade in copper kettles by Mockingbird Distillery in Austin, Texas, is an exceptional brand I discovered during this period). If you like to dine, you probably like to drink wine with your food to enhance the experience. I like to dine so much that I became a dining professional who tells other people where they might like to dine. And I really like to enjoy my food with a little wine because it makes it taste better and, frankly, it makes life better all around. So I had no wine at all in week one, but at Louis’s at Sanford, on Pawley’s Island, where one of America’s best chefs, Louis Osteen, cooked his brand of upscale Southern food for me, I had a little wine. And the meal was 12 courses. And I was a lucky woman to experience it. It’s not a matter of willpower to say to a chef who is fêting you: "I can’t eat your signature buttermilk fried chicken, your duck confit over grits, your veal and ricotta meatball slider sandwiches, because I am on a diet." It would have been the height of rudeness. So I was hospitable, grateful, and tried to take small bites and chew often so as not to overeat. And that was the best I could do.

Weigh in: -.5 pounds

Week 3:

Drinking coffee on a regular basis has never been in my routine. I don’t mind coffee, but I am a tea drinker. My body was not used to the harsh bitterness, the intensity, of black coffee. Chemically, coffee is a powerful stimulant. Scientists say that consumption of it increases the release of both the feel-good chemical dopamine and the energy-charging chemical adrenaline in your brain. Lots of studies show that drinking moderate amounts of coffee can be good for you.

As a non-coffee drinker, I began to notice by week three that my body began craving caffeine. An inveterate breakfast eater, I found that I no longer missed the food so much, but the second the alarm clock when off, I had to have coffee. It was Pavlovian. When the diet started I could only stomach about a cup of black coffee per morning, but by week three I could easily down three. I understood exactly what my body was trying to tell me: We are hungry, and all you’re giving us is this black coffee, so if that’s all you're going to give us, you need to give us more. In the mornings I felt racy: Heart pumping, head spinning, need-to-move-around… racy.

And I got annoyed with counting carbs. I don’t want to have a restrictive relationship with food. I love food. It brings joy to my life. If it’s true that I have overeaten and overindulged, if it’s true that I can benefit from losing some weight, I don’t want to do it by counting anything. Counting carbs on paper felt too much like filing reports against myself.

During this week I realized that having a happy relationship with my body is better than being skinny. And I know this because I have been skinny, and I have been fat, and I’ve been happy both ways and all ways in between. Counting carbs made me unhappy, so I stopped. Going forward I would make a concerted effort not to eat lots of carbs. And I did. So I didn’t know why this happened:

Weigh in: -.5 pounds



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