We Tried It: The UltraSimple DietPosted on Jun 16th 2010 11:00AM by Kristen Seymour
On those grounds, the UltraSimple Diet sounds promising -- by its name alone, one would assume it's easy enough, but it also offers variety and choice. The diet's book, written by Mark Hyman (who also wrote The New York Times bestseller "UltraMetabolism"), claims you will "kick-start your metabolism and safely lose up to 10 pounds in seven days."
As I read the book, I was bombarded with stories of people who had lost seemingly miraculous amounts of weight and inches within a week of being on the program. Their aches and pains were gone, they felt and looked better than they had in years, and they owed it all to following this diet. I stuffed my skepticism in the (now off limits) cookie jar and started to get pretty excited.
The UltraSimple Diet is based on the premise that most weight issues are caused by two things: Toxicity and inflammation. The seven-day diet plan removes the toxic foods and common food allergens we all consume -- sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gluten and more. It also addresses the effect that stress has on our ability (or inability) to lose weight.
As you surely know, it's hard to gauge whether a diet is effective or not until you try it out, and that's just what I did. I journaled the whole week, something that's recommended by the diet anyway, and here are some of the highlights.
I brought the book and the shopping list (all five pages) and hit the natural foods market nearest to me, where I was promptly flummoxed. While the list is certainly comprehensive, I was totally confused about how many of each of the veggies I actually should buy because I needed some to make the UltraBroth and some to eat. I filled my cart with a wide array of yummy, fresh vegetables, some of which I knew (spinach, carrots) and some that were new to me (rutabaga, dandelion greens).
Finding the supplements was tougher, as this is all pretty foreign to me. Fortunately, the market's employees were knowledgeable, helpful and, best of all, didn't raise an eyebrow when I asked for advice on which herbal laxative they recommended.
(Side note: There are pages upon pages in this book about going to the bathroom. More specifically, about what to do if you can't have a bowel movement. There are five steps for you to follow if you find yourself constipated, which, apparently, is a big issue on this diet for some people. Without giving you too much information, let me just say that this is not normally a problem for me, and it was not a problem for me on the diet.)
I skimp on some of the items, buying some organic items and saving with non-organic on others (the book says to go entirely organic). Also, I shopped for some of the more common items (beans, brown rice) at my regular grocery store to get a better price. Still, when all is said and done, I put down more than $200 on my initial shopping trip. (Over the course of the week, I spent about another $40 on fresh fruits, veggies and more supplements).
One Day Before Start
I spend more than three hours making the UltraBroth and decide this diet is anything but simple. The diet recommends you start cutting things out of your diet a week in advance, but don't plan that far ahead -- caffeine was cut a couple days back, but this is the first day without sugar or flour, which makes me slightly cranky. Today, I take the suggested herbal laxative and am really thankful I work from home. I'm also thankful I just bought a new magazine.
I take my measurements and do my official weigh-in, and get pretty darn excited to start. At a height of nearly 5-feet, 9-inches, my BMI measured 25.44, and even though I have a stocky, athletic build, that's definitely heavier than I'd like to be. What if I really lose 10 pounds? Even if much of it is water weight, that would give me a lot of motivation!
Day 1 (Saturday)
I wake up early and follow the enhanced program, which includes drinking olive oil and fresh lemon juice (not so bad), taking buffered vitamin C and doing yoga before leaving the house. I make a double serving of the UltraShake because I know I'll be out and about until after lunch, so I take the second portion with me. I make the shake using my favorite frozen fruits and almond nut butter, among other things, and find that I actually really like it.
I attend two parties and manage to stay strong -- I don't snack on the sushi, the Mexican layered dip or the birthday cake. I don't have a sip of alcohol, either -- I just sip on my tea and guzzle water like there's no tomorrow. It helps that I eat before going to the party, and I really enjoy my dinner of steamed fish, veggies and rice with fresh herbs and lemon juice. By the time I head home, I'm feeling somewhere between crabby (I want cake!) and ridiculously smug (I didn't eat any cake!). I even take the recommended UltraBath, which isn't too bad, but I'm not a bath person and just keep thinking about how often I'm going to have to clean the tub if I do this every night. Also, my tub is tiny -- I had no idea before now. I feel like Gulliver. Thank goodness nobody can see this part.
Day 2 (Sunday)
I sleep in until 9 a.m. -- not a normal occurrence, let me assure you. I weigh in to find I've lost 1.1 pounds, and I nearly break my arm patting myself on the back so hard (good thing I didn't have any cake!). Since I didn't spend more time than normal in the bathroom yesterday, I assume it's not entirely water weight, so, yay!
Today is far easier because I don't have anywhere to be. I take a nap in the afternoon (recommended on the program), but even with all the rest, I find that running that evening is difficult and my legs tire easily.
Between all the UltraShakes, the UltraBroth, lunch and dinner, I feel like I'm either prepping food, eating something, or cleaning dishes all day long, so while it's a bit time consuming, it's easy not to cheat during the day. I find it's really hard for me to not have anything after dinner, however, and when I find myself starving at 8 p.m., I make another small shake, which, other than the fact that I'm not supposed to eat at night, is not off the program.
Day 3 (Monday)
I have a hard time waking up even though I got plenty of sleep, but I'm down another 1.1 pounds, which lifts my sleepy spirits. This is my first day working while on the diet, and it goes more easily than I'd anticipated. The biggest challenge during the day is setting aside time to actually make my lunch. Steaming rice and veggies doesn't take long, to be honest, but I'm so used to grabbing a lunch that takes five minutes or less to make that this feels like forever.
For dinner, I make a delicious dish of sauteed onions, fresh garlic, cannelini beans and broccoli seasoned with rosemary. I'm feeling more confident about relying on the flavors of these fresh ingredients instead of my go-to pre-made seasonings and marinades.
I do a BodyPump class at the gym and feel pretty weak, and opt to spend 30 minutes in the sauna instead of taking a bath, which is nice.
Day 4 (Tuesday)
The book tells me that the benefits should be starting to increase today, but that is not the case. I'm totally exhausted, I've gained back a fraction of a pound, my face looks like a mountain range. Seriously, I haven't broken out like this since, well, ever, actually. I'm hideous. And I'm so emotional that I actually check the calendar to see if it's my "special lady time." It's not. My head starts to hurt midway through the afternoon and I actually take a 30-minute nap to get some relief.
Day 5 (Wednesday)
I wake up refreshed for the first time that week, but my face is still covered with bumps (not exactly acne, but not quite a rash) and I've gained back 1.3 pounds. What the what?
My day is absolutely nuts and there's no opportunity for me to plan ahead for my lunch. Since I'm on the road for a few hours, I don't get a chance to eat until almost 2 p.m. and I'm famished. I microwave a sweet potato, which I think is on the diet, but at this point I'm so hungry I really don't care. I feel really proud of myself for not straying despite my wild day, and even though I'm frazzled, I know I can make it to the end of the week without slipping. But I'd better lose some weight.
Day 6 (Thursday)
My weight goes down a fraction of a pound, which is better than nothing, but I'm frustrated. I've been following the diet so closely! For some reason, I find myself very hungry in the afternoon, so I roast some chickpeas (allowed on the diet) and, later, munch on some carrots and hummus. I feel much better after that and I'm really tempted to slide even more, but my competitive side insists I see this through to the end and give it my very best. Sometimes I'm such a goody-goody.
Day 7 (Friday)
I weigh in and am down a little over a pound, which makes the final day easier to face. I'm both incredibly busy today and feeling lazy about cooking, so it's a challenge not to cheat, but I've come too far to give in to the delicious temptation of easy-to-order Mexican food. Well, actually, my husband convinces me I shouldn't cheat. He's been out of town for the majority of the diet, which was actually helpful in a way -- I didn't have to look at anybody else eating ice cream or cheese. But, having him around for the home stretch was really nice. I needed a cheering squad, even if that squad was composed of just one guy.
The book also offers a plan for coming off of the diet, listing which foods to reintroduce, one at a time, so you can determine whether or not you have an allergy to any of them. I really would have loved to do this properly, but life got in the way. On Saturday, I had to throw a party I'd been planning for longer than I even knew about this diet, and Sunday, I attended a food-centric charity event. It would have been all but impossible for me to avoid most of those foods, and far less fun.
The book warns that going right back to eating those foods without following their plan can end up making you feel worse than you did to start with -- this hasn't been the case with me. Now that I've been off the diet for a couple of days, I feel fine -- not much different, but, aside from the lack of energy and a day of uncontrollable emotions (seriously, I cried five separate times), I really didn't notice a big change in how I felt while following the diet.
My final weight loss was 2.8 pounds, and I lost an inch from both my waist and my hips -- not bad for a week's work, but definitely not the 10 pounds they talk about over and over (and over again) in the book. I suppose that I didn't see such remarkable results because, although I do have weight to lose, I didn't start with a particularly high toxicity level (the book includes a quiz and I scored in the Mild Imbalance category, meaning I wasn't experiencing many of the symptoms the diet is designed to diminish).
I definitely plan to incorporate some of the ideas from this diet into my life -- I'll play around with steaming and lightly sautéing many more foods, and I'll definitely rely on fresh ingredients and spices to flavor my meals. Attending parties while on the diet made me realize just how much more I eat than I actually need to -- I wasn't hungry, but man oh man did I want that Mexican layered dip. I'll still make the shakes when I know I have a busy day because it's so easy to make a large batch and take one along in a small cooler.
Would I recommend the UltraSimple Diet to others? Yes and no. For anyone who suspects food allergies, absolutely. This is a great, well-structured way to cut those foods out of your diet and test each one as you reintroduce them. That well-structured approach works well for folks like me who do better with rules -- clearly, I don't do well with "moderation," so being told exactly what I can eat, and having those things be very limited, is rather freeing in a way because I don't have to stress over making a decision.
If someone wanted to do it, I would tell them to buy the vegetable broth pre-made. That sucked up a big chunk of my budget and three hours of my time, and I didn't end up drinking it all. It was good, but I can't fathom that the store-bought stuff is so much less beneficial. Also, I would recommend buying a couple of frozen fruits -- I bought too much, and I'll eventually go through it, but it's taking up a lot of freezer space in the meantime.
I feel like I also spent a lot of money on the supplements, even though I price-shopped. A few days into the diet, I received an email saying that Hyman is now selling the supplements online at The UltraSimple Diet Store, and the supplements you purchase are targeted to your answers on the toxicity quiz. I have no idea if this would save money or not, but I think it would be a much easier way to find exactly what you need.
I would not recommend this for someone who has a truly hectic schedule. If you're always busy or can't plan where you'll be in advance during mealtimes, I think this diet would be an enormous challenge.
My biggest complaint, however, has to be what has happened to my skin. The book goes on and on about how your complexion will clear up, and you'll lose the bags under your eyes -- you'll just glow. I don't. I can truthfully say my face has never, ever looked worse -- and yes, I'm counting the teenage years. Despite constant applications of witch hazel and twice-daily thorough cleansings, it's a disaster. I asked a friend of mine who owns a local wellness center and is a seasoned pro at cleanses and diets like this, and she told me it's not unusual to break out like this when you're detoxing. While I'm glad to know that, I would have appreciated the book warning me in advance.
Now, the big question -- would I do it again? I don't know. I've been giving the question a lot of thought, and I remain undecided. I like the idea of doing an occasional cleanse (especially when it's only seven days long!), even though I know the medical support for cleanses is limited. Also, a little weight loss now and again certainly isn't a bad thing. While the meals and shakes really aren't a hassle, I found the supplements and the UltraBath to be a bit of a pain. So my answer is maybe, but not anytime soon.
Would you give the UltraSimple Diet a try? It has to be better than this diet!