The Land of Oz

Like most women, there are few diets I haven't tried for the sake of feeling or looking my best. The Zone, Atkins, South Beach, you name it. I've been on and off Weight Watchers so many times I can't look at any food or drink without impulsively calling out its point value. I do realize that I need a long-term eating plan and not a short-term weight loss program, so I usually just live by the mantra, "All things in moderation." I exercise, I eat fairly healthy, I treat myself occasionally and this has proven to be a sensible strategy. Until I turned forty. That's when my metabolism decided to go on strike and my body demanded that I work out twice as much and eat half as much just to sustain the same weight. As if turning forty wasn't traumatic enough.

            So this year I resolved to do something dramatically different. I decided to pre-empt the holiday poundage by starting my traditional spring training in December. The week after Thanksgiving I literally went cold turkey. I got out the workout videos and put away the junk food. I traded my salty snacks for unsalted almonds, replaced my crackers with crudités, and substituted my turkey bacon for two tablespoons of protein powder. I became a human tornado wiping out anything packaged in a box or a bag and eliminating all sugar, gluten, alcohol, caffeine and dairy in sight. When the dust had settled, I scanned my refrigerator and pantry and realized I wasn't in Kansas anymore. That's because, like Dorothy, I had unexpectedly arrived in the Land of Oz.  Dr. Oz, that is.

            It all started when I ran into my cousin Amy last month and noticed she was eating a bag of celery. I immediately asked her what she was up to since no right-minded person eats celery without spinach dip, wings or a Bloody Mary in sight. She confessed that she was on the Dr. Oz Two-Week Rapid Weight-Loss Plan. Although it doesn't take a genius to realize that seldom does anything meaningful or long lasting result from something with the words "rapid weight loss" in it, I was intrigued for two reasons - our family beach vacation was in just two short weeks and Amy had been doing the program for more than six weeks already, insisting she never felt better. I was in. Within the hour she had texted me the link to the site and I had spent a small fortune at Whole Foods on products I never knew existed. I just hoped this Dr. Oz was as great and mighty as Amy contended.

            The easiest way to explain the first few days of this two-week plan is to imagine how someone on a deserted island must feel after a few days of eating limited rations. You start to imagine that carrots are Doritos, that green tea is really a Grande Mocha Light Frappuccino (four points) and that roasted Brussels sprouts are really French-fried potatoes. You start dreaming of carbs and sweets and wake up in a cold sweat, only to realize that the salty perspiration on your lips is probably the only sodium you'll ingest all day.

            By day four I was finally over the severe headaches from caffeine withdrawal and was way over the tasteless organic low-sodium vegetable broth that was on the menu. This had to be Oz because I could feel myself turning into the wicked witch of the South.

            But on day six I had a surprising breakthrough after successfully negotiating my first public challenge when I attended a birthday lunch for a friend. After ordering the grilled salmon salad with dressing on the side, I was immediately confronted and questioned by my friends as to why I was being "so good."

            "Just trying to make better choices," I responded. They looked at me suspiciously. "And I have to get into a bathing suit in eight days," I quickly added. This seemed to satisfy them.

            On day seven I had lost three pounds. By day fourteen I had lost another two. More importantly, in just two short weeks I gained a new perspective on food. Now, after twenty days and counting I am more conscious of the choices I make, less inclined to eat processed foods and looking forward to a new year without regrets, shallow resolutions, or low-sodium organic vegetable broth.

            And even though I know I can't live in the Land of Oz forever, at least I have learned a lifelong lesson: There's no place like a healthy home.