Author Topic: The Zero-Willpower Plan: I Spent Two Weeks On Chelsea Handler's Diet  (Read 2799 times)

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The Zero-Willpower Plan: I Spent Two Weeks On Chelsea Handler's Diet
Posted Apr 21st 2011 at 6:00AM by Kara Wahlgren

I'm not a dieter. I'm the opposite -- I pride myself on how much I can eat. I watch Man Vs. Food on TV and think, "Yes please, I could go for a six-pound burrito right about now." Luckily, I'm one of those people who is blessed with a fast metabolism -- or at least I was one of those people, until this year, when my body got the memo that I was 31 and my metabolism came screeching to a halt.

While pregnant with my firstborn last year, I gained 55 pounds and promptly shed it all within three months. Then I got pregnant again, gained 55 pounds again, and promptly, 40 pounds. That was almost a year ago, and I'm still stuck at 15 pounds over my pre-baby weight.

Recently I was in the gym locker room and the woman next to me said, "Aww, look how cute you are! When are you due?" It was the third time I'd been asked that question in a week.

So a few hours later, when my editor asked me to test-drive a weight-loss program from Venice Nutrition creator Mark MacDonald, I couldn't say yes fast enough. Bonus: She told me it was Chelsea Handler's diet, and I figured that if Chelsea could stick to it, so could I. After all, she's not exactly known for her superhuman self-discipline.

In the foreword to Mark's book, "Body Confidence," Chelsea says, "After spending an hour with Mark, I realized how little I knew about food, and how many bad habits had been formed from my childhood in New Jersey." Talk about hitting close to home -- I grew up in South Jersey, surrounded by Philly cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, and panzarottis. (The latter is a deep-fried calzone. Don't judge!)

I may not share Chelsea's fondness for vodka, but I have my own vices -- like my daily bowl of ice cream, and my ability to polish off an economy-sized box of Goldfish crackers in a week.

So I signed on for two weeks of healthy eating. The diet's basis is pretty straightforward -- eat around six meals a day, and try to make each meal consist of 40 percent protein, 35 percent carbs, and 25 percent fat. Mark calls at the outset and cheerfully assures me that it'll be painless.

"People hit their tipping point -- their clothes are too tight, their energy's not good -- and they panic and cut everything out of their lives that they enjoy," he says. "We get quick results, but then everything comes back, because we never made it part of our lives. So we'll make adjustments according to your lifestyle, your food preferences and your objectives, and hopefully in these two weeks, we can get it so it's something you can really work into your world." Sold. Let's do this!

Kara WahlgrenDay 1
I fill out a form on Mark's website with my favorite foods (and my forbidden foods -- no mustard, onions or cottage cheese for me, thanks!). Mark calls a few hours later to give me some basic guidelines based on my preferences. I knew that Chelsea had nixed dairy, and I warn him that I don't want to.

"Dairy's fine," he tells me. "We took dairy out of Chelsea's diet because of her alcohol. We had to make her food as clean as possible when she's on-plan, to compensate for when she goes off-plan."

Whew. Inspired after our phone call, I whip up a small wrap for lunch with pre-cooked grilled chicken, a tablespoon of guacamole, and some pineapple salsa on a whole wheat tortilla. It's way better than my usual frozen pizza. I could get used to this.

Day 2
My first speed bump: My mom visits and wants fast food for lunch. I'm tempted, but I suggest the local Chinese place instead, which has a sushi bar. I order a salmon roll. Crisis averted!

Later that afternoon, I head to my local gym (free day care for members, which is a lifesaver). Normally I plug away on the elliptical, but Mark has recommended high-intensity intervals: one minute of explosive exercise with two minutes of recovery. For once, I'm actually exhausted (in a good way) after a workout. I realize that my habit of reading Lucky magazine on the elliptical probably wasn't the ideal fitness regimen.

Kara Wahlgren
Day 4
My hubby is on a low-carb diet, and today is his cheat day. Uh-oh! But I'm determined to stay on-plan, so I cook a light lunch (plantain burritos) and snack on carrots and hummus. I'm feeling saintly, but Mark points out that I've skimped on protein. The good news: He says I can fix most "bad" meals by adding some lean protein.

When I mention my addiction to Breyers vanilla ice cream, he says, "You can eat the Breyers with some egg whites and actually get close to a balanced meal." Sweet! I'm reminded of one of my favorite Mitch Hedberg quotes: "That would be cool if you could eat a carrot with an onion ring, and they would travel down to your stomach, and the carrot would say, 'It's cool, he's with me.'" Who knew that was sorta true?

Day 5
The diet is starting to become second nature, and I'm lovin' the late-night snacks (Mark wants me to eat an hour before bedtime, to keep my blood sugar from crashing in the night). I've become obsessed with the heat-and-eat honey garlic chicken bites from Target, and there are two dozen hard-boiled eggs in my fridge.

But today we're headed to my in-laws' house for lunch. My mother-in-law is Italian, a.k.a. an amazing cook with a penchant for pasta and olive oil. Luckily, she calls and asks if I want macaroni or chicken. Chicken, please! But we wind up staying longer than planned, and dinner is macaroni. And sausage. And banana nut muffins. Eek, this is definitely an "off-plan" meal!

Day 6
Tired of my usual eggs and spinach, I ask Mark for some quick breakfast ideas. He suggests eggs and toast, or string cheese and an apple, or Greek yogurt. I can do that.

It takes a few attempts for me to like Greek yogurt, but I finally settle on Chobani Strawberry Banana. It's no vanilla ice cream, but it's a good no-time-for-a-real-meal meal. And I'm actually feeling "in shape" enough to attempt a circuit-training class. I definitely take more rests than the other gym goddesses, but I make it through. Success!

Day 8
It's weigh-in time, and I've lost three pounds in the past week! And I realize a few things:

1) No one has asked if I was pregnant -- or even cast a curious look at my belly -- all week.
2) I'm not sacrificing or starving. On the contrary, I feel like I'm eating all the time. But when I look over my food diary from the past week, there are days where I clocked in under 1200 calories. I used to put that much back at dinner alone!
3) I haven't had a single Goldfish cracker in days -- and I'm not really craving them. (My boys are happy that they don't have to share.)

Day 9
Mark checks in with me over the phone, and I mention that the carb allowance has been a big factor is helping me stick to the plan.

"Our nervous system lives off sugar," he says. "Everyone craves carbs. When you avoid them, you look amazing, you can strip down weight, but you just feel horrible."

The point of his system, he reminds me, isn't to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time, but to change your eating habits forever. So basically, you're always on a diet, but you're never on a diet.

Day 13
The past few days have been a repeat performance of my usual egg whites, chicken bites, apples and wraps. But today I'm running errands with my kids and miss my mid-morning snack, so I grab an iced coffee and fries at the drive-thru. I figure it can be my "off-plan" meal for the week.

But ... ugh. After almost two weeks of eating clean, I feel bloated and a little greasy. It's crazy how quickly my body got used to eating good food.

Day 14
I expected to celebrate the two-week mark with an all-out binge, but I'm actually kind of in the mood for egg whites again. Seriously -- I'm just not that hungry. When I have trouble finishing a bowl of soup at Panera, my husband laughs and asks, "Who ARE you?!"

One bummer: Even though my fat jeans are starting to fall off, I haven't lost any more weight since last week. But Mark tells me not to worry.

"When Chelsea started the program, she put on two pounds -- but then a week later, she dropped three and kept dropping," he says. "You lose body fat, then you lose weight."

And when I tell him that I think I've found my eating philosophy, he says, "That's everything. That's why I created the program."

He sounds legitimately stoked, and I'm optimistic that I can actually become one of those healthy eaters. Now if only I can muster up the willpower not to eat the entire bag of cider donuts my mom just dropped off from the farmer's market. Sigh!