5 Diets, Week 3: A bumpy road on Whole30, Weight Watchers, Buddha’s Diet and more

Five Washington Post staff members have each embarked on a different 30-day program to change our eating habits. Three weeks ago, we each outlined our diet of choice, explaining the whys and hows — along with our expectations of the challenges to come. Since then, we’ve been sharing weekly updates on our progress, including the obstacles, stumbles and victories. We’re sharing daily food diaries and, of course, reports of any weight loss — if that’s what we’re after.

Whole30 | Weight Watchers | Buddha’s Diet | Souper ‘Cleanse’ | Offseason reset



This week went by in a blur, as I prepared for our upcoming move. So my plan to start experimenting with more recipes was a pretty big fail. I managed to rid myself of the pistachios I’d been overeating but replaced them with cashews — also a bad idea. (There’s a reason the Whole30 plan discourages snacking. Note to self: The new rule is, no nuts as snacks. At all.)

Still, with the Whole30 rules in place, I managed to easily pass up a wide range of free goodies at the office all week. Knowing Inauguration Day would be crazy near our office, I came extra prepared, and I’m glad I did. I was only slightly tempted by the Tate’s chocolate chip cookies sitting on a freebie table. (Love them!)

And when the weekend came around and I had a bit more free time, I used it to try a recipe I found on Realsimple.com, for Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry. It wasn’t a “Whole30-approved” recipe, but I was able to tweak it pretty easily, subbing coconut aminos for oyster sauce and omitting the peanuts and rice. It scratched that itch I’d had for takeout — although I would have loved to include some nice, fluffy white rice. I’d definitely make the recipe again, so maybe I’ll add the rice after the Whole30 is over.

And speaking of “after,” I’m starting to have my first twinges of worry about reintroduction. It’s a lot easier to say no to free cookies when I have a rule in place (and an audience!) saying I can’t eat them. This coming week, I’m hoping to come up with a strategy, because I need some sort of structure going forward. The Whole30 plan has a lot to say about how that might work, so I’ll get into that a bit next week.

— Kendra Nichols

Breakfast: Eggs, chorizo, ground beef, sweet potatoes, Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 Veggie Mix
Lunch: Leftovers from breakfast
Snack: Pistachios
Dinner: Chicken breast, Tessamae’s barbecue sauce, red potatoes, green beans, broccoli

Breakfast: Eggs, ground beef, zucchini
Lunch: Ground beef, broccoli, pistachios
Dinner: Chicken sausage, sweet potatoes, broccoli, green peppers
Dessert: Strawberries and blueberries

Breakfast: Eggs, Healthy 8 Veggie Mix
Snacks: Almonds, banana, clementines, pistachios
Lunch: Chicken sausage, sweet potatoes, green peppers, broccoli
Dinner: Ground beef, zucchini
Dessert: Cashews

Breakfast: Eggs, ground beef, Healthy 8 Veggie Mix
Snacks: Almonds, clementines
Lunch: Devon & Blakely salad with Tessamae’s balsamic vinaigrette
Snack: Banana
Dinner: Chicken sausage, sweet potatoes, green beans
Dessert: Sliced pear, cashews

Breakfast: Eggs, Healthy 8 Veggie Mix
Snacks: Clementines, banana
Lunch: Chicken sausage, sweet potatoes, green beans
Snacks: Two Lara bars (don’t judge, it was a long day!)
Dinner: Ground beef, Healthy 8 Veggie Mix, barbecue sauce

Breakfast: Eggs, ground beef, Healthy 8 Veggie Mix
Snacks: Clementines, almonds, cashews
Lunch: Chile Lime Chicken Burger, zucchini, barbecue sauce
Snack: Banana, 1 tablespoon almond butter
Dinner: Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry (subbed coconut aminos for the oyster sauce, omitted the peanuts and rice)

Breakfast: Eggs, bacon (“paleo-friendly” from Whole Foods), peppers
Lunch: Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry leftovers, cashews
Snack: 1 tablespoon almond butter
Dinner: Chicken thighs with barbecue sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans
Dessert: Banana


Weight Watchers

Bad news first: I didn’t lose any weight this week.

The upside, and the reason for the plateau: There’s a restaurant I’ve fallen hard for, and it serves a cuisine that’s in short supply in Washington. Let’s just say the menu includes arepas — the original hot pockets, cooked on a griddle — and some of the best desserts I’ve come across this year. I’m teasing you with this information, because the food at this yet-to-be-reviewed restaurant was so thrilling, I ate back-to-back dinners there, something I rarely do. Any discipline I had disappeared over the weekend, like actual facts from Sean Spicer.

On Sunday morning, I shared the temptations of my job with Eve S., my California-based Weight Watchers coach, during a catch-up session over the phone. I’m bummed for two reasons: The previous day, I burned through 60 food points — on a diet that allows me 36 points a day.  Worse, I ate 10 chocolate-covered pecans the night before, more because I was tired than hungry. After-dinner snacking remains my Enemy No. 1. On the other hand, I tell my coach, I tried to offset the splurges with stepped-up exercise, including three brisk 30-minute walks on Saturday.

Eve surprises me with her response. “That’s a pretty big win,” she cheerleads. Despite the rich food, I hadn’t gained weight, she says (I’m 6 pounds down from where I started), and was I aware of one of Weight Watcher’s features? While the program wants you to exercise for a sense of well-being, she says, it allows members to swap FitPoints, a measure of activity, for food points. So I’m less in the negative than I believed. Eve also shares her go-to snack with me: plain Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries or cherries mixed in. Before I can ask why a Californian uses frozen fruit instead of fresh, she tells me that frozen berries give her the sensation of eating a frozen ice cream treat. That, and protein (in the yogurt) tend to give her the greatest sense of fullness.

Me, too, and I’ve been relying on protein (in moderation) for breakfast. My mainstay at the moment is turkey chili, prepared from the new “Food, Health & Happiness” (Flatiron Books) by Oprah Winfrey, the leftovers of which were frozen in single-serve portions that I can microwave at work. Later in the week, I’m waking up to another hit from the Weight Watchers cookbook, a rousing chicken entree that lets me use some of the spices I picked up on a December trip to Kerala in southern India.

Heat, I’ve discovered this month, is a useful dieting tool, possibly because spicy food tends to slow the pace of eating and signal the brain that I’m satisfied sooner. Better still, capsaicin, the ingredient that sets the tongue on fire, has been shown to increase a person’s ability to burn calories.

In the week ahead, I’ll be thinking spicy at every meal.

— Tom Sietsema

Breakfast: Clementine, turkey chili
Lunch: Almonds, chicken salad
Dinner: Restaurant review involving samplings of sardines, mashed potatoes, steamed clams, bread pudding, two glasses wine

Breakfast: Clementine, chicken salad
Lunch: Apple, turkey chili
Dinner: Pork piccata, red wine
Snack: Reduced-fat corn bread

Breakfast: Low-fat Greek yogurt, turkey chili
Lunch: Salmon sushi, clementine, almonds
Dinner: Restaurant review involving samples of paella, churros, glass red wine
Snack: Apple, reduced-fat corn bread

Breakfast: Almonds, clementine
Lunch: Almonds
Dinner: Restaurant review consisting of samples of lobster roll, crab cake, rockfish, hopping’ john, cocktail

Breakfast: Turkey chili
Lunch: restaurant review involving samples of spinach omelet and avocado toast
Dinner: restaurant review involving samples of oysters, crudo, Peking duck, biscuit, cocktail

Breakfast: Apple, grilled chicken breast
Lunch: Greek yogurt, turkey chili
Dinner: Restaurant review involving samples of arepa, plantains, shredded beef, ham steak, pistachio custard, cocktail
Snack: Chocolate pecans

Breakfast: Indian-spiced chicken
Lunch: Almonds, cottage cheese, Spanish rice
Dinner: Restaurant review involving samples of a Cubano sandwich, ravioli, grilled chicken, braised tongue, chocolate dessert, two glasses wine


Buddha’s Diet

“Congratulations, you’ve done it,” the authors of “Buddha’s Diet” write. “You are what Buddha might call a sottapana, a ‘stream-enterer.’ It is now only a matter of time before you reach your weight-loss goal.”

They’re referring to the final phase of this diet, when followers are to restrict all their eating to a nine-hour window. For me, that has mostly meant delaying breakfast until 10:30 a.m. so I can have until 7:30 p.m. to finish all the day’s chewing — a schedule that gives me a fighting chance to have dinner with the SO most nights.

Not that it’s easy. I still find myself in a scramble more evenings than I’d like. One night I leave work at 6:45 p.m., figuring I had enough time to get home and throw together dinner. But D.C. traffic had other ideas. Soon I was changing gears and planning to stop at a favorite taqueria on H Street NE instead. When the traffic clogged even further and the Waze GPS app was showing I wouldn’t even make it there until about 7:25, I detoured to another, closer cafe. I’m plenty used to deadlines, but not like this.

Even stranger, once I got home, I made dinner for my boyfriend, who often doesn’t get home until 8 p.m. or even a little later, without a crucial step: tasting anything. Fine enough when you’re following a recipe you know you can depend on, but when winging it? I had to trust my instincts.

Sometimes even the best of plans went awry. On Friday, I had plans for a restaurant meal with my visiting sister, so I waited to have breakfast until noon, figuring I’d need until 9 p.m. to finish dinner. But the restaurant meal was a little more leisurely than expected, and desserts weren’t served until about 9:15. It would’ve been a bust, but I realized that I hadn’t yet had a “cheat” day, allowed on the diet, so this would be it.

Between the second half of my trip to Los Angeles and my sister’s visit, I cooked and exercised much less than usual this week, so I worried that the weight would stop coming off. But the power of Buddha’s Diet must be strong, because I made mostly good choices in restaurants, didn’t stray a bit from the restricted time window — and lost about 1 1/2 pounds, putting me 4 1/2 pounds under where I started.

Am I indeed entering the Buddha’s Diet stream? It feels like it. I might even be able to keep this up.

— Joe Yonan

Breakfast (10:30 a.m.): Fruit samples, falafel collard wrap (ate the falafel and left the rest), passion-fruit agua Fresca at Hollywood Farmers Market
Lunch (2 p.m.): Mock-chicken sandwich without the bun, fries, a few pieces of fried cauliflower with dipping sauce, iced tea at Veggie Grill
Snack (5 p.m.): Glass of white wine at Avalon (concert)
Dinner (8:30 p.m.): Laffa bread, dips, cocktail at Redbury Hollywood hotel (concert after-party)

Monday (day of travel back from Los Angeles)
Breakfast (10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern): Caffe latte w/skim milk, “skillet” with 2 eggs, potatoes, parsnips, spinach, salsa verde
Lunch (1:30 p.m. Pacific, 4:30 p.m. Eastern): 3 vegetable tacos from Wahoo’s at LAX, eaten on plane
Snack (3 p.m. Pacific, 6 p.m. Eastern): Tangerine, two guavas
Dinner (7 p.m. Pacific, 10 p.m. Eastern): Bibimbap bowl with vegetables and tofu from Seoul Spice through UberEats

Breakfast (8:30 a.m.): Matcha latte, yogurt, Ezekiel cereal, maple syrup
Lunch/snacks (1-3 p.m.): Tastes of chard and white beans, plus a few other dishes for recipe tests
Dinner (5:30 p.m.): More chard and white beans, with rice

Breakfast (10:30 p.m.): Matcha latte, yogurt, Ezekiel cereal, maple syrup, orange
Lunch (1 p.m.): Leftover Armenian cheesy rice, chard and white beans
Snack (3:30 p.m.): Apple
Dinner (7:30 p.m.): Chickpea soup, vegan samosa, kombucha mocktail at Calabash Teahouse & Cafe

Breakfast (10:30 a.m.): Matcha latte, yogurt, Ezekiel cereal, maple syrup
Lunch (1 p.m.): Sweet potato, tempeh in black bean sauce, spinach, tamari
Snacks (3-5 p.m.): Apple, orange, small bites of two bakery pastries at the office
Dinner (7:30 p.m.): Smoked mussels, Worcestershire-glazed seitan, sauteed kalettes (Brussel sprouts/kale cross)

Friday (cheat day)
Breakfast (noon): 1 slice sunflower rye bread, almond butter, banana jam, matcha latte
Snacks (1:30 p.m.): Apple, tangerine
Lunch (3 p.m.): Brown/wild rice, beans, spinach, slice of pepperjack cheese
Dinner (9:30 p.m.): Rye cocktail, shot of cauliflower soup, roasted cauliflower steak with toasted quinoa and peanuts, beets w/feta and pine nuts, burrata w/citrus, olives, poppy seed gougeres, sunchokes, raw/roasted fennel and citrus salad, chocolate pudding, blood orange/creme fraiche sorbet, pear strudel (and probably more I’m not remembering) at Garrison

Breakfast (11 a.m.): 1 slice sunflower rye bread, almond butter, banana jam, matcha latte
Snack (2 p.m.): Apple
Lunch (3 p.m.): Brown/wild rice, beans, spinach
Dinner (7 p.m.): Smoked hummus and bread, squash with bread crumbs, 2 smoked mussels, roasted shiitakes, 1 piece orange olive oil cake, scoop of vanilla ice cream


Souper ‘Cleanse’

My grocery bags are heavy this week! I’m carrying home a whole chicken, parsnips, carrots, leeks, onions, potatoes, celery, fresh dill, limes and Soupergirl salads. I’ve still got a good supply of her soups, now frozen, left over from the first two weeks. My planned diet evolution calls for some cooking at home, not just heating up soup in a pot. Looking forward to it, as well as de-souping one meal per day.

(I’ve picked up a bonus bit of knowledge, becoming fully versed as to which soups take better to conventional reheating — the ones with bits and pieces — and which soups can withstand microwave treatment — purees, 2 minutes 50 seconds, stirred halfway through, paper towel on top. No burned roof of mouth yet.)

The holiday weekend affords me a day to try a different method of making chicken broth, and the result is especially golden. Some of it goes for a potato-leek soup, and the rest serves as the base for chicken noodle soup. I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a bowlful as much as I do, for lunch.

I am surprised, although I shouldn’t be, at how much more full I feel with the uptick in solid foods, and the chicken. Is that a good thing? I’m feeling something between mild guilt and outright recidivism. It’s not like I went all out with steak + bake. But I end up doing just that on my second day off of the week; at a friend’s house, meat and potato is what’s on the menu for the family dinner. And that’s after a field-trip lunch to slurp oysters on the Rappahannock.

I decide to experiment, to modify old behaviors as I take a rear spot in the buffet line: From a nicely grilled T-bone I carve a piece of meat that harks back to portions of ye olde diet days. I reckon it’s no more than four ounces. I take half of a smallish baked potato and spoon a bit of sour cream on top and serve myself modest amounts of salad and baked beans and warm bread.

There’s Carnegie Deli cheesecake for dessert. I cut a small piece and savor each creamy bite. I’m not a huge cheesecake fan, but I know this is a good rendition. I could have skipped it, right? I hope the soup-diet wheels aren’t falling off. The next day, I buy a bathroom scale.

— Bonnie S. Benwick

Breakfast: none
Lunch/snack: Chicken noodle soup, Soupergirl sweet potato hummus w/Belgian endive
Dinner: Citrusy Carrot Sweet Potato Soup, black tea

Breakfast: Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili, black tea
Lunch: Salad bar salad w/half hard-cooked egg (oil and vinegar drizzled), 2 clementines
Dinner: Winter Vegetable Soup, black tea

Tuesday (day off)
Breakfast: Chicken-noodle soup
Lunch: Tasting spoonfuls of recipe tests: Apricot Carrot Casserole, Salted Cardamom Drinking Chocolate, Deconstructed Italian Easter Pie With Wheat Berries; black tea
Dinner: Curried Red Lentil Butternut Squash (pureed) with a little grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, black tea

Breakfast: Garlicky White Bean, black tea
Lunch: 1 piece whole-grain toast w/avocado, 2 spoonfuls Skyr
Dinner: Creamy Carrot Soup, black tea

Breakfast: Split Pea Soup w/crispy fried shallots, black tea
Lunch: Soupergirl kale salad, banana
Dinner: Carrot Almond Soup; handful dark chocolate-covered almonds, black tea

Breakfast: Haitian Pumpkin Soup; black tea
Lunch: Soupergirl quinoa-butternut squash salad, 3 Firehook Bakery Hummus Crunch crackers
Dinner: Potato-leek soup; handful salted cashews; black tea

Saturday (day off)
Breakfast: Banana, black tea
Lunch: Roasted and raw oysters, grilled sourdough bread (1 piece) with pesto, 1/8 s’mores doughnut
Dinner: “Deck o’ cards”-size piece of grilled steak, 1/2 small baked potato, 1/2 cup baked beans, 1 cup green salad, 1 slice warm sourdough bread, 1 small piece cheesecake, black tea


Offseason reset

For the second straight week, I ended with by breaking some of my own rules. My brother came into town on Saturday night. On Sunday, I traveled to Atlanta to cover the NFC championship game. Both presented ample opportunity for betraying my diet, and on a couple occasions I happily succumbed.

I’d like to think, in both instances, I splurged the right way. At home, I went out to one meal with my brother, and at Bar Pilar I avoided any fried foods and ordered grilled calamari as my entree. I did cheat by eating white bread smothered with burrata, but I limited myself to one slice. The biggest damage probably came through several glasses of white wine, which followed a cocktail.

Sunday presented more dieting challenges. I arrived in Atlanta before breakfast, so I had three chances to eat out. I started strong. I had steel-cut oatmeal with coffee and a little fruit for breakfast, and at lunch I ate grilled salmon with salad and lemon vinaigrette. To satiate myself during the game, I drank water and munched on almonds.

The streak ended over dinner with a group of fellow sports writers. There was more wine — Spanish red. I tried to order healthfully, but I’m pretty certain I still violated some of my tenets. The kale salad to start was probably good. The roasted hen, I’m not sure about. It came with a celery root puree that seemed packed with cream, and covered in a sauce I assume was sugary. I could have done worse — I passed up the fried chicken and gave the goat cheese croquettes on my salad to a friend. But the meal definitely illustrated the perils of eating out.

So, despite those dining misadventures, I still feel really good about where I’m at overall. I’m down about 11 pounds (5 more this week), right on pace. It would be foolish to browbeat myself for a couple circumstantial missteps, especially when they were far from disastrous and I could have made far worse choices. In a way, the week provided a positive template for how to eat when I’m not trying to cut weight: Allow for some indulgences a couple days per week, but otherwise keep focused on healthy options.

— Adam Kilgore

Breakfast: Ancient grains cereal, 2 percent milk, blueberries
Lunch: Kale salad with almonds, tomatoes and avocado
Dinner: Turkey meatballs with chickpea salad and roasted butternut squash

Breakfast: Fruit and nut cereal, 2 percent milk
Lunch: Spinach salad with veggies, hard-boiled egg, avocado and chicken, and oil and vinegar
Dinner: Whole-wheat pasta with homemade tomato sauce

Breakfast: Wheat cereal, 2 percent milk, blueberries
Lunch: Spinach, olive oil, avocado, almonds
Dinner: Turkey sloppy Joe — ground turkey, crushed tomatoes, spices, onion; sweet potato

Breakfast: Ancient grains cereal, 2 percent milk, blueberries
Lunch: Spinach salad with almonds, avocado and Greek yogurt
Dinner: Turkey sloppy Joe, whole wheat pasta

Breakfast: Wheat cereal, 2 percent milk, blueberries
Lunch: Spinach salad, avocado, almonds
Dinner: Turkey sloppy Joe, whole wheat pasta, spinach

Breakfast: Ancient grains cereal with 2 percent milk and blueberries
Lunch: Kale salad, avocado, almonds
Dinner: Panko-breaded chicken breast cutlets, mushroom-caper-white wine sauce, baked sweet potato, sauteed spinach


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