Saturday 21 April 2018

Couch to Camino: The Cabbage Soup Diet didn't give Andrea Smith Dolly Parton's boobs

Andrea Smith - not rivalling Dolly Parton just yet.
Andrea Smith - not rivalling Dolly Parton just yet.

The dreaded cabbage soup diet is one that I avoided so far, mainly because it sounds like hell on earth. However, the clock is ticking as I prepare for walking 115km of the Camino, so I decided to bite the bullet and tackle it this week.

It's also known as the Dolly Parton Diet, which is weird because the pint-sized country star has never actually come out in support of the regime.

She did tell People magazine that she once saw a diet named after her in a magazine and decided to try it. "It had nothing to do with me," she said. "But I thought I might as well see if I can lose weight on my own diet."

The diet has been criticised because it excludes whole food groups, but like all the other things I tried, I only did it for five days. The way it works is that you have fat-free cabbage soup two to three times per day, along with other permitted foods that are assigned each day. Don't get excited, as none of them are thrilling.

The weather wasn't great so it was warming, and that's about all I can say in its favour. And my house reeked of cabbage for the entire week, which was pretty bleurgh. Lucky I'm single, eh?

I was actually pathetically thrilled on day four that I could have bananas and skimmed milk - I ate them with all the enthusiasm previously reserved for a Domino's pizza delivery.

The hardest part of any of these programmes is trying to fit your regular life around it. As part of my job, I get invited to a lot of launches and events, most of which involve delicious nibbles and cocktails being wafted in front of my face.

I have been avoiding these gatherings, but on Saturday, I went on board the MSC Splendida cruise liner, which had docked for the day in Dublin Port. I was on board for Cassidy Travel's 30th birthday, and I definitely didn't give the cabbage soup diet a second thought as I enjoyed a gorgeous sit-down lunch and birthday cake.

It's funny how much many steps you do walking around a giant ship. One girl working on board told me she had already racked up over 10,000 steps by mid-afternoon.

I think one of my problems with fitness is that, as a journalist working from home, my working day generally involves leaving my bedroom and lounging around on the sofa with the laptop. Now that the snoopy FitBit is keeping tabs on me, I've noticed that on days when I have a lot of work on and have to write for hours on end, I do staggeringly few "steps" over the course of the day.

It can be hard to combine the demands of my working day with the hours needed to build up my stamina, while at least on the Camino Way, I will have nothing to worry about except the walking itself.

I need to up my walking levels now, especially as we're going in three weeks, but there are days when I can't go too far from home due to interviews or calls that have to be made.

I was getting worried that I wasn't going beyond 6-8km per day in distance, because ending up miles from home sometimes posed a problem. Which is why I'm getting a treadmill delivered to the house this week.

Friends suggested that this might be the answer, and Philip from kindly sorted me out with a suitable one - you'd be surprised at how many of them have 15-stone upper-weight limits.

I think this will be the perfect solution, as I can do regular stints on the treadmill during the day to build up the distance, even when it's dark outside. And I can hop off if I need to do something work-related and pop on again later. That mirrors how the Camino works anyway: you walk a few kilometres, stop for coffee, walk again, stop for lunch and so on, so the 20km walk is spread over the course of the whole day.

I lost 3.5 pounds on Dolly's diet in the end, but sadly my boobs stayed the same size! Here's the recipe I followed. You can add a couple of cloves of garlic if you like. I didn't as I didn't want to be reeking for the week - bad enough the house being smelly without me joining in.



Half a head of cabbage

• 2 onions

• 2 green peppers

• 3 tomatoes

• 3 carrots

• 2 chicken bouillon cubes

• 10oz mushrooms

• 1 bunch of celery

• 1 can (48oz) V8 juice


Chop it all up, place it in a large stock pot and bring to boil. Then simmer for an hour. Drink it twice or three times per day, adding in the food items listed below.

Day 1: Fruit, except bananas

Day 2: Vegetables like leafy greens (not starchy), but no fruit

Day 3: Fruits and vegetables

Day 4: Bananas & skimmed milk

Day 5: Beef (or baked chicken without the skin) & tomatoes

Day 6: Beef & vegetables

Day 7: Brown rice, unsweetened fruit juices & vegetables

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