For the past month or two I’ve been doing something the new: The Lyn-Genet Plan, which is an eating plan that is supposed to help with inflammation and weight issues. I didn’t mention it before because. . . I don’t know. I’ve never been a dieter, really, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stick with it, so I just decided to keep it on the down-low until I felt like it was worth sharing about it. But it’s been pretty helpful, so here’s the post.
On Easter, one of my sisters said that she was going to start “The Plan.” At the time, she was pretty excited about it, but her enthusiasm was decidedly not contagious. “You start off with something like flaxseeds for breakfast,” she began, “and then for dinner you’ll have a carrot-beet salad. . .”
“I’m going to stop you right there,” I interrupted. “That just sounds way too hardcore for me.”
“You get to have chocolate and red wine!” she protested.
“Well, that’s promising. . . .”
“One ounce of chocolate.”
I gave her a don’t-insult-me-look: “Only an ounce?”
But later on I Googled it, and I realized that The Plan might be able to help me with my nutty transient migratory arthritis. I’ve mentioned this before--for the past two or three years I’ve had random joint pain. Bad enough that at one point I had x-rays done. For a long time, I kept thinking that I’d bruised a knuckle or an elbow, but it was just too consistent. One night I’d wake up in the middle of the night because my right knee was throbbing, and it would continue to hurt all day until it subsided. And then three or four days later my left pinky finger would hurt for a day or two. It was pretty irritating.
Anyway, like many people, I was not optimally pleased with my not-entirely-perfect body, but not enough to, you know, pass down cookies. And even when I did make efforts to be eat healthfully, I was careful to avoid any perceptible “dieting” because I feared that it would plant the seeds for future eating disorders in my daughters. Which, okay, maybe my caution was excessive, but I just didn’t want to do that. So the particularly excellent feature of The Plan is that the arthritis allowed me to be motivated enough to avoid cookies and also eat conspicuously differently without it being all about weight.
Basically, you drink a massive amount of water (take your weight in pounds, divide it in half, and that number is how many ounces of water you’re supposed to drink), you do a three-day “cleanse,” and then you start adding foods back in, one at a time, and check how your body reacts based on your temperature, weight, and symptoms like arthritis. The breakfast is a flax granola, which I like, and here’s an example of a meal from the first two days:
That’s a baby romaine/half pear/pumpkin seed salad, a (none-too-appetizing) carrot soup with chia seeds, and steamed broccoli with lemon juice and olive oil.
Yeah, it was really healthful. Almost painfully so. Here’s a soup-in-progress:
So, what impact was all of this having? The arthritis pain decreased significantly. I lost 3 pounds after the first day and 4.8 pounds after day 3. By day 4 I was feeling pretty awesome. The food improved: a huge and yummy smoothy and almond butter on a cracker for breakfast,
and then leftover roasted veggies on greens with Pecorino Romano cheese all over it for lunch.
By the end of the first week I was feeling awesome, testing new foods, and becoming weirdly euphoric at my yoga class. Steak was my first fail–actually, that was our Mother’s Day meal. The next morning my temperature went up, I hadn’t lost weight (which was the first day that had happened since I’d started), and my knee hurt. Buh-bye steak. Or, you know, you can still eat the food, but somehow it seems less appetizing when you know that it throws your whole system off.
Soon enough it got more complicated. Theoretically I’d stay “On Plan” and test one food after another until I know the few that really screw me up. But the truth is that it requires quite a bit of testing. So, say you want to serve tacos for dinner. You’d want to test the actual taco, ground beef, the seasonings, the refried beans, the cheese, the salsa, etc. separately. I think if we weren’t big cooks already it would be easier, but since we have a ton of meals that the family enjoys that I haven’t tested yet, I often end up eating something completely different.
Plus it’s been a busy couple of months: M’s birthday, Father’s Day, the opening of Mexican Radio, our annual camping party, and World Cup Soccer and the accompanying bar food. Some days I’d go ahead and eat whatever (M’s birthday: veal scallopini and chocolate cake with mint chocolate chip ice cream) and other days I’d abstain completely (like when I crouched on the curb outside to eat salad instead of sharing Ship’s Pub, or when I smuggled pumpkin seeds in my purse at another restaurant). Here’s another meal: grilled veggies on greens with some cheese and a side of rye cracker and hummus.
One night after a book club that included a few “off plan” cheese and crackers I’d gained 1.2 pounds. After a couple of nights “off plan” I ended up with a headache, a sore knee, a sore finger, a dripping nose (related? I have no idea) and weighing a pound and a half more. So that would slow my progress, because I’d need a couple of days to recover, but meanwhile whatever I’d eaten was a variety of untested foods, so I couldn’t pinpoint what made my entire body rebel.
But generally, I am significantly less achy than I used to be, I’ve lost about 18 pounds, and I feel really great. Right now I wouldn’t mind losing a bit more, but I can imagine that if I were 100% happy with my weight, I could follow The Plan for 4 or 5 days a week and maintain things pretty well, and it would probably keep the arthritis down, too. I’ve got a few recipes that I really love that follow The Plan, so that makes life good. Knowing specifically which foods throw me out of whack makes me feel much more in control of how my body is functioning, so that’s an excellent feeling. Plus, it turns out that 1 ounce of chocolate is about 30 Ghiardelli 60% chocolate chips, and so ending the day with chocolate and a glass of red wine is excellent.
So, should you try it? If you have any inflammation-related health issues or want to lose weight, it’s worth it. From the beginning it’s tough: a lot of cooking, and in spite of the massive meals she planned, I still felt pretty hungry for those first few days (Do you ever do that? Eat a boatload of vegetables and then think, “Only a large bowl of ice cream can truly satisfy me”? Maybe that’s just me.) And it sounds easy to test foods one by one, but considering what she considers a test (like larger portions of a food you’ve already tested or some different combinations of food), it feels like you could be testing forever. But meanwhile, once you know a food is “safe,” it feels pretty good, especially with things like bread & pasta or butter, to just eat it and know you’re going to lose weight anyway. . She’s got a book, but honestly, it’s not terribly well-organized, and there’s more updated information online, so I’d start there.
And if it’s too hard-core for you, there are absolutely tips that you can take away from it, anyway. Upping your water intake is really helpful. She’s also got great suggestions for getting in more vegetable-based protein, which I think has been great. Following The Plan made me try pumpkin seeds that hadn’t been pulled out of our jack-o-lantern, and it turns out that if they’re offered up in small, over-priced bags at the grocery store, they taste exponentially better. So adopting a couple of items could be helpful, too. I’m also accumulating Plan-friendly recipes on another page.