What Happened When I Dropped the Diet for 5 Whole Days and Went Thousands of Calories Over My Goal

September 11, 2013 | By | Comments (3)

After four months of pretty careful food tracking on the Social Diet, I was recently in San Francisco and then Sonoma Valley, two of my favorite places in the world. I had food-related work to do (if you call going to the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend “work”), and I had food-related fun to have: a lunch pilgrimage to Chez Panisse, breakfast at Tartine, and a 10-course dinner at what turned out to be one of the best new restaurants I’ve eaten in in a long while.

When we touched down in SFO I was superstitiously nervous: If I go off the wagon here, will I be able to get back on? On the other hand, if I couldn’t relax and enjoy all this good food—really, fully enjoy it, which is both my job and my passion—wouldn’t that prove the other thing I fear: that my eating plan had transmogrified into neurotic mania? You don’t cross the sacred threshold of Tartine without sampling the richest offerings, calories be damned. But I didn’t want to go nuts, either. I wasn’t going to stop the MyFitnessPal food diary. I just planned to ignore what it told me for a while.

This felt like a test. It felt, even though I’ve been enjoying the whole Social Diet process a hell of a lot, like work release from prison, day pass from the calorie-counter’s loony bin.

In the end, I went more than 4,000 calories over my limit over the five days, total. Exercise: a morning run every day. Weight gain: zero. And it was heaven, from the roast pork banh mi sandwich at the Slanted Door to the sublime cocoa-nib caramel corn dessert at Prospect. A few things eaten along the way:

• Amazing duck-confit b’stilla at Mourad Lahlou’s Aziza in San Francisco. B’stilla is a savory Morroccan pie—an unlikely and swoon-worthy combination of pigeon, phyllo, powdered sugar, and cinnamon. Lalou’s duck version was the best I’d had since first trying the dish in Morocco more than 20 years ago. Then he served the best couscous I have ever eaten—homemade, buttery, with spicy carrots.

• Thin-sliced heirloom tomatoes with a garlicky avocado puree, served on crunchy Acme toasted bread with feathery fresh chervil at the Café at Chez Panisse. The cafe is a casual neighborhood restaurant that can seem unremarkable, almost old-fashioned (though it’s crisp and gorgeous) until you slow down, sip your wine, take a first bite, and see why simple chow like this set off a food revolution.


Gazpacho, crudo, crab “tater tots” and pasta with pork at Chalkboard in Healdsburg, CA.

• Brilliant small plates at Shane McAnelly’s new Chalkboard restaurant in Healdsburg. There was a lime- and lemon-inflected gazpacho with avocado-cilantro foam (more like a light mousse); little Dungeness crab tater tots with crème fraiche; two crudos: tuna with “compressed watermelon” and cherry tomatoes, and hamachi with grapefruit, avocado, and jalapeno; and an astonishing bowl of cocoa-colored fresh pasta with milk-braised pork shoulder. This chef is headed for big things.

Tartine’s hot pressed sandwich of gooey Gruyère, Niman ranch ham and Dijon—which we split after trying their stupendous passion-fruit and coconut Bavarian cake, because that’s the order the food came in. Worth the 45-minute Sunday morning wait.

• A heirloom tomato and burrata salad at Prospect in San Francisco, which distinguished itself by including the best tomatoes I’ve tasted this year; followed by an heirloom cucumber salad, followed by roast goat, all washed down with a funky, delicious 2007 Cote Rotie wine (all wines that night were 50% off!).

Going “off” the Social Diet—and being able to get back on—without feeling out of control: That was a delicious success…

How do you enjoy special trips and events without obsessing with your weight loss goals? Comment here, email Scott_Mowbray@timeinc.com, and tweet @ScottMowb or @Cooking_Light using #SocialDiet.


  1. Lindsay

    I love this. I admire your ability to let go of your restrictions to truly enjoy the experience. We live in a such a diet-obsessed culture and sometimes forget to let ourselves let go and live life to the fullest. I struggle to let myself indulge on special occasions, I have recently come to terms with the fact that it may be leading toward disordered eating behavior. This post reminded me that it is OK to enjoy indulgences sometimes, nothing BAD happens 🙂

    September 11, 2013 at 4:46 pm
  2. Judy Pusey

    This summer my husband and I lost weight following the guidelines from, “Wheatbelly”, by Dr. Davis. As our trip to Ireland approached, we worried our eating plan would go by the wayside and we wouldn’t continue with our weight loss when we got home. On our trip we avoided airplane food, made healthy restaurant choices, and walked daily. We didn’t feel deprived because we enjoyed some Irish favorites such as Guinness, Jameson and pub food on occasion. Turns out we lost a pound and, once home, continued with our healthy eating and daily walks! To date, we’ve each lost more than 20 pounds!

    September 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm
  3. What Happened When I Dropped the Diet for 5 Whole Days and Went Thousands of Calories Over My Goal | Womens Health Trend Watch

    […] Simmer and Boil […]

    September 11, 2013 at 9:20 am

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s