A few years ago, the Hollywood Grapefruit Diet hit the scene with ads screaming how you could lose 10 pounds in two days. Who could resist? But long before the Hollywood Grapefruit Diet, there was The Cabbage Soup Diet, with claims of dramatic weight loss as well. Does it work? What does it contain? What else should you know?
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The Real Skinny on The Cabbage Soup Diet
This is a short-term diet, intended to be followed for one (maximum of two) weeks. The general premise is that you consume unlimited quantities of a soup made of a variety of vegetables, primarily cabbage and other extremely low-calorie high-fiber veggies, every day. You also get a few other specific foods that you are allowed to eat each day, but these vary day to day.
The overall idea is that your body burns the calories in the other foods, and they provide a bare minimum of sustenance and nutritional support to sustain you while you are on the soup diet. The soup in itself provides you with something to eat, and if I may put it quite bluntly, helps clean out your system quite effectively. Read more on that under side effects, below.
What Is & Isn't Allowed?
This is a specific diet, like the Atkins Diet, where specific items are included and others are not allowed at all. Substitutions within a food group are allowed; however, you must eat the soup every day and you must consume some of the other items each day. Since each day has a different list of "allowed" items, it's important to review the list before beginning the diet. For example, on day one, you can eat all the fruits you want. Watery fruits such as melons are encouraged, as they help flush your system out; bananas are not allowed.
The variety of alternate items each day provides your body with some of the nutrients (and calories) it needs to sustain itself. The soup itself is extremely low calorie, and frankly by about day four you won't want to eat much soup anyway as it tends to be less appealing as each day goes on.
Calorically, you will be extremely low on intake most days. It's almost impossible to eat too many calories of watermelon (when I first went on this diet in about 1980 I believe that the first day was listed as watermelon only, today its been generalized to "fruits"). On the beef and tomato day you may fare better, although again by this point your body is weakened and the extra protein is desperately needed.
Effectiveness of the Cabbage Soup Diet
Of course the bottom line is, does it work? Well, honestly, I am sad to say that it does indeed work. I say "saddened" because this is a short-cut diet. It does not force the dieter to change their lifestyle, nor does it provide any lasting effects. Depending on your activity level and your starting weight, you will probably lose between 4 and 10 pounds on this diet in the first week.
Does the weight stay off? Of course not -- this is not a lifestyle change. You're basically starving yourself (literally) with just enough intake to sustain your body's most basic needs for seven days. The net result is that you flush out a lot of excess water, and at the end of the week you have literally cleaned out your entire digestive system. You've also probably dropped some weight -- but if you splurge on a pizza and beer on day 8, and then return to your normal diet you are definitely going to gain all of the weight back, and quickly!
What Else Can I Expect On This Diet?
Are there any side effects? Yes -- several, including significant flatulence and loose bowel movements in most people as the soup flushes out your system. My sister used to call this The Cabbage Poop Diet, and she wasn't far off! The cabbage and other leafy green veggies are also used in other diets that are detoxifiers -- that means, they clean out your digestive system extremely effectively.
You'll notice as you review the diet below that there is a minimum of complex carbohydrates, with a lot of low-calorie high-fiber vegetables, and watery fruits. If you know anything about nutrition at all, you'll realize that this means there is very little to bind up your digestive system. Bottom line? Camp near a toilet when you're on the diet, and try to avoid quiet public places due to the potential for embarrassing flatulence.
You won't go hungry on this diet. There is a decent variety of foods to eat; unfortunately not all on the same day. You'll get plenty of vegetables, fruits, and even proteins and carbs. If you find that you're still hungry, you can of course eat another bowl of soup... although I will say that by about day four or five you'll probably be getting sick of the soup. You may get bored, and irritable as occurs (at least with me) on almost every diet, but in general hunger should not be a problem.
You also may find that you feel light-headed, especially if you are very physically active. You should definitely not try to extend the diet if you experience any dizziness, nausea or other serious side effects. Also be sure that you are eating all the fruits and beef as these provide carbohydrates and protein that your body needs -- trying to "cheat" and increase weight loss by eliminating the protein and fruits will definitely hurt you in the long run! As with any diet, I of course recommend that you talk to your doctor before beginning the Cabbage Soup Diet.
A Few Other Thoughts
I wanted to add in a few other thoughts and tips for anyone considering this diet.
• Drink at least 6-8 large glasses of water per day. This will help flush out your system as well and will help get you used to drinking water more regularly. One good tip is to fill a large glass of water and drink it first thing in the morning, with your vitamins and when you brush your teeth. This gets your body started and it's one less glass you have to remember to drink later.
• Take a good multi-vitamin every day on this diet. That's sound advice for any dieter, but especially with the nutritional deficiencies in the Cabbage Soup Diet your body can use all the extra help it can get!
• Don't Continue the Diet -- this is NOT a lifestyle diet. The diet is laid out for seven days, and that is the recommended duration. I have heard recommendations that you can repeat the cycle once (meaning, stay on it for two weeks) but I would advise asking your doctor about this and making sure that you do a self-check half-way through. I know one gentleman who went on this diet and liked it so much he stayed on it for a month -- and ended up in the hospital with serious problems. One week is plenty, trust me. If you want to repeat the diet, my advice is to wait four weeks inbetween cycles and eat a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet for the time inbetween.
• Don't Cheat -- As I said above, don't try to shortcut the diet by decreasing or eliminating the fruits or beef from the diet. If you hate beef, substitute broiled skinless chicken or fish instead, but your body needs the carbs from the fruit (and potato on day two) and the protein from the beef. Cheating to try to expedite weight loss will only hurt you in the long run, and probably make you dizzy and even more irritable!
• Consider Other Healthier Options -- there are other kick-off diets that you might consider if you want to lose a couple pounds quickly, or if you're kicking off a major diet. The one I like best is the 4-Day-Wonder-Diet, which is similar to the Cabbage Soup Diet but provides a variety of proteins, carbohydrates and fats each day in a fixed menu and also helps you flush out your system, in a more balanced way than the cabbage soup diet.
• Spice Up the Soup -- you can add spices and herbs to the soup to make it more flavorful and keep it interesting. One friend said she chilled her soup and blended it and drank it like a juice. I've used cilantro in mine, and other seasonings to make it more interesting. Don't quit eating the soup, though, as this is the core of the detox-flushing and also provides a significant amount of water to your body. If you find that you just can't eat another bite of the soup, it's time to quit the diet.
You may be surprised to find that I actually do recommend this diet, overall. This is a relatively effective short-term diet for people who want to drop 5 pounds before going on a vacation, or who are facing their high-school reunion, etc. and want to feel a little better. It does work, but the main thing to remember is that weight lost on the Cabbage Soup Diet will not stay off unless you change your lifestyle!
I would recommend this diet as a kick-off to someone starting a lifestyle-change. If you need to lose 30 pounds or more, and are going to go on an overall general diet, watching fat and calorie intake, this may provide you with a head-start and a little motivation to continue. I would recommend talking to your doctor or a nutritionist before beginning any diet, though, and making sure you have considered all aspects of your health.
The Cabbage Soup Diet
3 large onions, diced
1 large green pepper, diced or sliced
1 head celery, chopped
One half green cabbage, chopped
One can diced tomatoes
1 pack onion soup mix
3 vegetable bouillion cubes
8-12 cups of water (or more if desired)
*Optional - 1 8 oz. can V-8 juice
*Optional - 1 cup mushrooms, washed and sliced
*Optional - 1-2 cups washed fresh spinach leaves
*Optional seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic powder, cilantro, parsley, basil, oregano, etc. (to taste)
Place washed and chopped vegetables in large stockpot. Add water, stir in soup mix, bouillion and tomatoes. Stir to mix. Add more water if needed to fully cover all vegetables. Cook over low until vegetables are soft. Cool, store in refrigerator. Make soup as often as needed during the week.
Day One: All the soup you can eat, plus all the fresh fruit you can eat, except bananas. Watermelon and other high-water fruits are encouraged. You can drink unsweetened cranberry juice on day one as well.
Day Two: All the soup you can eat, plus all the fresh vegetables you can eat, except potatoes, corn, beans or peas. Try to eat mostly green and/or leafy vegetables if you can. For dinner you can have a baked potato with butter.
Day Three: All the soup you can eat, plus fruits and vegetables as outlined in day one and two, but no potato.
Day Four: All the soup you can eat, plus up to 6 bananas. You may also drink skim milk on day four.
Day Five: 10-20 oz. of beef plus up to 6 large tomatoes, plus all the soup you can eat. Be sure to drink plenty of water.
Day Six: Combine Day Five and Day Two, but no potato. All the soup you can eat, with plenty of water.
Day Seven: All the soup you can eat, plus brown rice, unsweetened fruit juice and vegetables as in day two (but no potato).
Other Rules: You may drink coffee or tea, unsweetened, and water. No carbonated drinks (not even diet) or alcohol.
If you are interested in losing weight, please check out these other reviews for comparison:
The Atkins Diet:
The Hollywood Juice Diet/Grapefruit Diet:http://www.epinions.com/well-review-7719-BB8FDE7-39E4EA27-prod1
Healthy Weight Loss:
Risks of Diet Pills:
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Approximate Monthly Cost (US$) 40
Food Variety Restrictions A somewhat varied menu
Restrictiveness of Portions Gorge all you like