When my employer, Tammie Toriglia decided to bring the Ideal Protein weight loss program into our store as an extra service we would offer, I was mildly interested. When she asked me to try the program myself, I was surprised and slightly embarrassed, but mostly curious in an academic way. I approached it as an experiment with me as the subject. Luckily we were able to hire a coach who already knew Ideal Protein and Jenn taught me what I needed to do. I started Phase One of the program in the middle of January 2015 and found it was easy to follow the instructions; I just did what I was told and did not cheat. Keeping a logbook and checking in for weekly weighting, measuring, and coaching were important to keep focused, but it was not difficult to lock in to the routine of eating as instructed. Mostly I just went on with my life. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the numbers and didn’t get too invested in the changes that were going on. When I went below 200 pounds for the first time in over 10 years, I took notice...
I kept at it until late May and was 45 pounds lighter by the time I decided to go on to the Maintenance Phase before a conference in Boston in June of 2015. I had not reached my weight loss goal, but was ready for a break and wanted to be off Phase One for my trip. The summer was spent enjoying moderate, mindful, low carb eating, with occasional beer with my brothers at the cottage and happy hour martinis before Sunday dinner at my Mom’s. I gained 5 pounds over those 5 months on the maintenance phase and went back on Phase One as planned for October and November to finish off the last bit of abdominal fat I had to lose. During those 2 months on Phase One, I lost another 15 pounds with ease. Being back on the strict phase of the program again was not difficult at all, in fact it was like riding a bike. I just followed the instructions like before and did not cheat.
Overall, I found the whole experience easy and fun. The fat I had been lugging around in storage was used up just by doing my daily chores. I didn’t have to add extra exercise or other activities. The only challenge was having enough vegetables cooked and ready to bring to work for lunches. I found that I had to eat in a more regimented way than I’d been doing; I would normally think nothing of occasionally skipping breakfast or dinner if busy with meetings, eating snacks and lunches whenever time allowed, or overdoing the evening nibble. The strict routine of Phase One was beneficial because, of course, we all know we should be eating earlier and more frequently than we often do.
The whole experience was not all easy and fun, however; there were moments of introspection and self-observation as well. Having a degree in psychology and a great interest in personal growth and human potential, I was able to apply some of my knowledge to the psycho-social aspects of the process. I’m the type who’s been journaling my thoughts and dreams since my teens and have been charting my cycles since my twenties. This weight loss journey has been rich with insights and affirmations about my cravings, my triggers, my truthfulness, and my commitment. What does it mean to nurture one’s self? What is temptation? What constitutes comfort food? When is an indulgence actually some sort of ritualistic self-harm? These questions should be explored by everyone going through radical change in their diet and lifestyle whether it’s quitting smoking or reducing drinking or changing eating behavior. Personally, I’ve got to admit that my absolute compliance was a surprise to me. I certainly intended to follow the method correctly, but I would not have been surprised if my arrogant inner know-it-all had decided on my behalf that a modified version of the program was OK for me (being special as I am, after all). The fact that I was able to stay compliant and obey the program was partly because I was being watched by my coach Jenn, my boss Tammie, my coworkers, clients, and customers and I felt a certain obligation to everybody to do it properly and not half-assed. I think the science nerd in me also wanted to keep the experiment clean so that results could be properly assessed as well. Sure, I could have talked myself into a mild little bending of a rule here or there, but I knew it would set the process back and skew the results.
I think that dieting with Ideal Protein is a unique method because Phase One is so very strict that it forces absolute compliance. Ketosis is a metabolic state that cannot be toyed with. There are profound alterations going on with blood sugar and insulin that cannot be interrupted. The pancreas is being allowed a major break that must be ended correctly to gain all the benefits of the process. Once people understand this, they will not be willing to cheat by just having a little bite or sip of this or that. Ideal Protein dieters understand that they cannot succumb to the insistence of friends to “just have a taste”. I walked past plates of cookies, declined offers of drinks and treats, gazed at ice cream cartons in my freezer, and breathed in the smells of other people’s lunches. In each situation, I was able to refrain by telling myself that those things will still be available when I am done with my diet. I joke that “bottles of red wine will still exist in the future”, and you can bet I’ll be cracking one open for Sunday dinner.
As for changes in my body, adapting to new clothes, people’s reactions, and seeing myself in the mirror, I will say that for me the transformation is less surprising than for those who’ve only known me for the past 10 or 20 years. To them, I look very different because they have only known the heavy version. But to me, I look similar to the way I did in the 80’s. When I look in the mirror, I see the 30something city girl I used to be. It’s less like a surprise and more like a reunion with a dear old friend.
On the personal level, the Ideal Protein Weight Loss Program has been a surprising gift that fell into my lap because my boss asked me to do it and I was curious enough to agree. As a health educator and consultant, I can say that the Ideal Protein Weight Loss Program is far more than a way to achieve one’s target weight; it is a process of learning and introspection. While stored fat is being used for fuel and our bodies are changing, we are transforming in other ways that could not have been anticipated. The coaching, journaling, stabilization, and maintenance parts of the program help us navigate these changes in self-care and nurturance. Surprisingly, these changes turn out to be more profound than the changes in dress size.