Much as I love the idea of the pizza diet, I don't see it taking off.
As you may have heard -- it's received quite a bit of press over the past several months -- Matt McClellan, a St. Petersburg, Fla., pizzeria owner, has been championing what he calls the "pizza diet." He says that he's lost 24 pounds and five inches by going with this dietary plan. So naturally, one of my editors, fully aware that I've been dieting this year and occasionally writing about it, suggested I give it a try.
It didn't go so well.
Here's how it's supposed to work: If you follow McClellan's example, you would eat pizza every three hours. Most days, he ate his first slice at 9 a.m. and his last at 9 p.m.. He also exercised for an hour every day. He didn't change his routine of drinking soda, alcohol and energy drinks because he wanted to prove that you can lose weight by eating pizza.
I'm not a nutritionist, but it seems like a reasonable idea. McClellan's pizza was made with skim milk cheese and included toppings like chicken, broccoli, avocado, pineapple, onions, peppers and mushrooms. And he wasn't eating more than 2,500 calories a day.
Here's how it worked for me: Unfortunately, I didn't read about how McClellan's pizza was made until after I got started on the diet. I was just excited about a diet that allowed me to eat pizza. So I chose a garden-variety frozen pizza I bought at the store. I think the entire pizza had less than 2,500 calories, but since there was no broccoli or skim milk cheese to be found, I probably didn't do myself any favors in that regard. Still, it was a spinach and mushroom pizza, so it wasn't topped with pepperoni and sausage either.
Anyway, it wasn't until the next day that I read that McClellan had his first slice of pizza at 9 a.m. I had mine at 7 a.m., which meant that I had a mid-morning pizza snack at 10 a.m., and then ate lunch at 1 p.m. I had another snack at 4 p.m., and then ate my dinner at 7 p.m., a full hour after the rest of my family, followed by a 10 p.m. pizza snack. All of this means that I ate an extra slice of pizza than McClellan's pizza diet calls for. Whoops.
By the second day, I had read up more on this diet and consumed my first slice of pizza at 9 a.m. Since I usually eat breakfast two hours earlier, I was starving by then and probably cut a slightly larger piece than I should have. By noon, when I realized I was out of pizza, I had to drive over to the grocery store and get another one. I found the cheapest and yet healthiest frozen pizza I could, but by the time I was finished purchasing and cooking the pizza, I didn't have lunch until a little after 1 p.m. I didn't want to miss another family dinner, so I ate another piece at 3 p.m. and again had a slice of pizza at 6 p.m.
But, of course, my daughters wanted some pizza since I was having some, so we ate the pizza for dinner. I saved a slice for 9 p.m., but afterward, I had to rush out to the store again, so I could have another pizza for the next day. Clearly, I needed to start buying pizza in bulk.
By the third day, I was getting weary -- not of pizza, which I still love and could probably eat for every meal -- but of waiting until 9 a.m. for breakfast and of just eating one slice. So by lunch that day, I succumbed to temptation and had two slices of pizza. Which I figured was somehow just as well, since I was on my third day of this diet and hadn't managed to yet get in an hour's worth of exercise.
Then I got busy with work and completely forgot to eat my pizza at 3 p.m.
In the evening, Isabelle, my 8-year-old daughter, wanted to know why, while the rest of the family was munching on grilled chicken wraps and spinach, I was getting to eat pizza again.
"Because Daddy's trying to be healthy," said my wife, sounding tired.
From the look on Isabelle's face, and that of my 6-year-old daughter Lorelei, I don't think either of them quite bought that argument. In any case, I finished my slice of pizza early and looked longingly at their dinner, thinking that either another slice, or a chicken wrap, would be a pleasant addition to my meal, which seemed to have ended so quickly. But I didn't reach for any more food. No, no. I was committed to the pizza diet.
So three hours later, at 9 p.m., I dutifully ate my slice of pizza.
Then, at 9:07 p.m., I ate three more slices.
And I waved the white flag.
The following day, I returned to my normal eating habits, which, lately, haven't been showing much results on the scale but at least haven't hurt my cause either. I think the point of McClellan's pizza diet is on target -- pizza can be a healthy food and can be used to lose weight -- but like the 3-Day Diet I tried earlier this summer, it's an eating routine that doesn't exactly fit into a normal lifestyle. And, of course, if you do this diet wrong, like I did...well, I gained about two pounds, which puts me at 245 pounds. While it's a far cry from the 264 pounds I weighed on January 1, it's not the direction I'd like to be going in.
Granted, I only tried the pizza diet for a few days, and only half-heartedly. I didn't do it for 30 days like McClellan did (and it should be noted, he was an exercise buff before trying his diet). So while I imagine it would work well for some people, like those who don't have a lot of family commitments and already exerce regularly, I can't picture it working for everyone.
What's more, some folks aren't going to be able to cart pizza around with them at their jobs, for an entire month, pulling out a slice from their briefcase, purse or cooler every day, mid-day. Then if you end up eating out with friends or family, you're either forced to break the diet or hope that somewhere on the menu is the opportunity to order one slice of pizza.
Still, if you want a diet that's fun and different, if not very practical, and if you're committed enough to try it for 30 days, the pizza diet could be the nutrition regimen you've been waiting for.
Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the book Living Well with Bad Credit.
Money Diet, Week 31: Sampling the pizza diet