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.

Week 6:

The single individual who benefited most from this diet weighs nine pounds and seeks near-constant affection. Her name is Pippi, and she is my miniature Dachshund. One solid morning walk and some time on an outdoor deck is what she’s typically needed and gotten of all of her life. For almost six weeks she’s gotten at least twice if not three times as many daily walks, and each at least twice as long as usual. So that’s been a net positive: A daily outdoor walk is good for desk-bound types, and that has improved the quality of my life. Conversely, I’ve done much less "working out" in terms both of the regular classes I attend at the gym and the intensity of my workouts. Taking Pippi for a one-hour walk has taken the place of a hardcore hour’s worth of "bootcamp" including push-ups, burpees, crunches….and I have to wonder if that’s good, bad, or a push. The walks? Good. Replacing those workouts? Probably not good. Plus I liked them, despite the fact that they were hard.

Dieting, losing weight, maintaining an ideal weight: It’s all about choices. It’s all about how you take your "hard." Would you rather deprive yourself of a piece of birthday cake every year on your birthday and on the birthdays of your loved ones for the rest of your life, or spend two hours a day in a workout room (which is what Gwyneth Paltrow told Self magazine she does) every day for the rest of your life? Would you rather skip breakfast or have a muffin-top? (In that last case, neither is easy — and I’ve tried them both.)

I thought at the beginning of this journey that experimenting with a diet might lead to 20 pounds less of me (hot!) at an easy price, and that’s the promise of all diets. Instead I’m limping home here in the final stretch, really wanting to tell Khanna where to stick it and thinking a lot about spaghetti. But I persevere, half-assedly.

Weigh in: -1 pound.

The End of OMG

Seven pounds in six weeks is not "OMG." Khanna promised "up to 20." I am convinced I could have lost seven pounds in six weeks if I’d just made a concerted effort to only have one glass of wine every day and to stop eating after 7 p.m.

I’ll never have my six weeks back and we’ll never know. One thing we do know is that the day I quit drinking the black coffee, the day the diet was over, I drank some black tea with honey, and ate an English muffin for breakfast. I felt great. By about 2 p.m., though, I felt out of balance; my ceiling fan bothered me, the way a television documentary I was watching for work seemed overly jerky in the way it was filmed; it took me a minute or two to focus my eyes on an object after I turned my head.

By evening I was having a full-blown attack of vertigo. Two of my closest friends thought this term meant "fear of heights." It doesn’t. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is when a person experiences a sudden sensation of spinning of the head. It’s caused by a disturbance in the inner ear, sometimes brought on by a virus. Mine lasted about five days. Does drinking black coffee, skipping breakfast, and taking cold showers give you five days of vertigo? Not usually, and some groundwork had already been laid: I may have some vestibular scarring from years of sinus problems, blockages, and infections; I may have a genetic factor (my grandmother had "dizzy spells"), and then again I may have been overstimulated from caffeine and dehydrated from weeks and weeks of consuming nothing black coffee for hours at a stretch, which was a shock to my system. The vertigo was very painful but it passed; recurrences are common but not always as severe. The good news is "benign." But that, dear readers, is OMG.  

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