Actually, Ed and I both tried it. He never did reach his original weight loss goal last spring when we started Weight Watchers together, so he had a few pounds to lose. The diet we tried goes by several names: Fat Loss 4 Idiots (FL4I), Weight Loss 4 Idiots, the 11-Day Diet, the 9-in-11 Diet, and the Idiot-Proof Diet. I know, super gimmicky. Totally. I don't deny it. It's the kind of diet you see advertised on the sidebar of Facebook, or on the right side of a Google search page. It's not a high-class operation and I'm not defending it. Just telling it like it is.
Here it is in a nutshell. You pay $39 to get an online username and password, which allows you to access a pdf diet handbook and the "Diet Generator." The handbook explains the philosophy behind the diet - and trust me, they're writing to the lowest common denominator here. The approach is one of "calorie shifting", or strategically manipulating the kinds of calories (protein vs. carbohydrate) rather than the number of calories you consume at each meal (rather than each day.) It includes instructions on how to manipulate your foods plus some other weight loss rules, like exercise, drinking lots of water, etc. There are a few things in there I don't agree with, but overall it seems on point.
The Diet Generator is an online tool for creating a specific menu meal plan that arranges the foods you eat in a strategic way. You choose the foods you like from their lists of protein and carbohydrate foods. The proteins are deli meats, fishes, some dairy, eggs, some nuts, and chicken. The carbohydrates are mostly fruits and vegetables, plus oatmeal and maybe a few other things, but no pasta or rice or anything. Mostly healthy stuff. Then it takes the foods you chose and creates an 11-day menu plan for you, 4 meals a day. You can eat each day's meals in any order, but at least 2 1/2 hours apart. At each meal, you can eat as much of those foods as you need to become satisfied but must stop before you are full. And you can drink as much as you want of anything under 10 calories (water, diet soda, we drank a lot of sugar-free TANG.) You follow the plan for 11 days, take 3 days off to eat whatever you want (to make an even 2 weeks), then start all over again.
I'm paraphrasing straight from their website here - this is what they claim, not me. Every time you eat something there are two kinds of hormones released into your bloodstream - fat burning hormones and fat storage hormones - and these hormones are controlled by what foods you eat. Your body always attempts to burn the exact calories you eat, but it takes several days for the metabolism to sense a change or shift in calories, so if you shift your calories around in a special way, you beat the system and trick your body into burning extra fat tissue, resulting in super fast weight loss.
Bottom line claim: Lose (up to) 9 pounds in 11 days.
The 11 Days
Naturally, I was intrigued. I read the handbook - not much new useful stuff in there for an old dieting veteran like me. I did the Diet Generator and got my 11 day plan. It looked pretty strict, a little bland, and some strange combinations of foods. But it was all real food, no pills or shakes, and, weight loss or no, it looked like just the thing that could help me reign in my habits and get disciplined again. I was motivated to stick to it as an experiment, to see just how well it lived up to the claim.
Besides the first weeks home with my newborns, a horrific internship at Denver Children's Hospital, and every day of my mission, these were some of the hardest 11 days of my life, especially the first few days when the sugar cravings were really strong. It required a whole new level of constant, vigilant discipline I'm not accustomed to. Day 1 was President's Day, the day we went to Mount Vernon, so at least Ed and I could go through the day together. Day 1 meals were:
#1 Hard boiled eggs, broiled flounder
#2 Turkey slices, shrimp, green beans
#3 Chicken, peanuts
#4 Roast beef slices, broiled halibut, frozen yogurt
Day 2 was even tougher - 3 meals of all fruit (from the list) and one deli sandwich. After that it was easier to fall into the patterns of having meals like lowfat milk & ham slices, or scrambled eggs & mixed vegetables, but I still had to think about it very carefully to stay on track. I think Day 8 was the very hardest - 4 meals of vegetables only, and corn and potatoes were not on the list.
Of course, we cheated a little. Ed more than me, let's just be clear about that. One day I ate two chocolate chips and a goldfish. After that it became good enough for me to just stick my face in the chocolate chip bag and inhale a couple of times each day. One day - I think it was Day 9 or 10 and the end was just so close - I made cookies for the upcoming talent show and of course had to taste a few. But I would guess the cheating was just a few hundred calories for the whole 11 days so that's not too bad. Ed, on the other hand, had half a bagel at work here, a cookie or two there. One day he had a business day trip with business meals in New York, so of course that day was off for him. We mostly stuck to it, but we're really glad it's over.
The girls, however, are probably a little disappointed I'm back to cooking dinners instead of making them mac & cheese, quesadillas, spaghetti and pancakes like they'd had for the last 11 days.
I had two goals going into this diet: 1) to regain some discipline and motivation for continued weight loss efforts, and 2) to lose enough weight to get past my plateau.
On the first goal I achieved 100% success. Getting off of sugar for just a week and a half helped a ton, and the severe strictness of the diet actually made the Core plan sound like a gorging food free-for-all. Brown rice? Wow, delicious! An apple whenever I want one - how fabulous! Chicken and green salad in the same meal - thank you! Day 12 felt like I'd been let out of prison when I got to have a bowl of shredded wheat with banana for breakfast - didn't even need Splenda.
Success was found on goal 2 as well. According to the weigh-in on the morning of Day 12, I lost 7.5 lbs and Ed lost 5.5 lbs. I don't think it was all fat loss necessarily but something obviously worked like it was supposed to. Here's a graph 'cause everybody likes a graph:
I told my trainer at the gym about the diet and she said it sounded like bull and I would probably lose weight on any diet with restrictions because caloric intake would drop. Maybe. But I was eating nuts and cheese quite a bit, and those are hefty hitters. I don't know. But I did lose weight, and I did get remotivated. I've also become interested in learning more about weight loss research, and how the mysterious "metabolism" works in particular. I'm even going to the gym early in the morning and may even get up the guts to try a class.
So would I recommend the diet? Depends on your goals. I don't think you can count on losing 9 lbs in 11 days, but you can probably lose 5 or more if you stick to it closely. I don't think it's sustainable as a lifestyle, but it's a quick little thing based on real food, not pills or supplements.
It was a really long 11 days. A friend asked if it was all worth it. For me, yes it was worth it but I'm not going to be doing it back-to-back. When you have a lot of weight to lose it's hard to stick to it, so mixing things up once in awhile is needed. But I like to cook, I like Slim-Fast shakes, and I like to eat out. Variety's the name of my game.
Now...just WAIT until you hear what I did for a reward!