Fad Diet Diaries: The Cabbage Soup Diet

By Betch Ivy Carter

Devoted readers and concerned onlookers: I’m back to regale you with another story of how I singlehandedly destroyed my metabolism in the name of entertainment. Unlike last time and my adventures with the master cleanse, I was not challenged to participate in this diet. More accurately, I was just sitting around and thought, “Hmm, maybe I should dedicate another week to making myself (and the people forced to associate with me) miserable for the sake of an article that 300 people max will read.” And thus, the cabbage soup challenge was born. Enjoy.

Since this round of sacrificial dieting was my own idea, I had to do some research on which fad I would pick up. What I discovered was that there’s a lot of crazy fucking people out there who will do literally anything to lose weight except exercise and eat healthy. For instance, if you’ve ever wanted to shed a few pounds but still be able to consume an inhumane 120 eggs and a very humane 7 bottles of wine in two weeks, I have a diet that may interest you. Just don’t do it and then write about your experience and submit it to a website, that’s my thing.

After considering the pros and cons of tapeworms (pro: hella weight loss, con: very possibly death) I stumbled upon the cabbage soup diet. It fit my requirements in that:

  1. It sounded absolutely stupid
  2. It elicited an extreme amount of skepticism and derision from anyone I explained it to
  3. It had a set timeline
  4. It made me irately angry thinking about doing it

According to my mother, it was the sole cause of her mid-90’s office transforming from a productive place of work to a breeding ground for angry, flatulent women who smelled vaguely of boiled cabbage, which conveniently enough is the aesthetic I constantly strive for. Needless to say, I was sold.


Now, I’m clearly not a nutritionist or even someone with the vaguest idea of how to take care of themselves, but I can tell you right now that this diet is absolute bullshit. Medical professionals criticize it for it’s low calorie content and prolonged periods of time without any protein. I criticize it for a hell of a lot of reasons that you’ll get to read about very soon, including encouraging participants to eat up to three steaks in a single day. THREE STEAKS. I’m not a werewolf, so I withheld from that particular option, but the fact that it was even an option at all leads me to believe this is one man’s social experiment gone horribly awry. No one knows its actual origins, most likely because it came from the deepest pits of hell.

The focal point of this diet, as you probably guessed, is cabbage soup. The official Cabbage Soup Diet website provides you with a slightly structured recipe that you could probably follow if you are a well adjusted adult possessing basic cooking skills like the ability to boil water and chop vegetables. To the dismay of myself, my mother, my 7th grade home ec teacher, and future husband, I am not one of those people. There is a reason they don’t let me write the food articles on this site.

Between the official recipe, a slightly more detailed one I found on Epicurious, and a foolish amount of carelessness that probably should have foreshadowed how this experience would go for me, I managed to create a soup that was purely by definition, edible. Tasteless and dehumanizing? Sure. But physically, it wouldn’t kill me. I forwent purchasing the heavily advertised seasoning packets, because I like my misery to be all or nothing.

From what I could tell of my homemade Progresso Frankenstein concoction, this was just vegetable soup. Sure, there was cabbage in it, but there were also six other vegetables that completely overpowered it. The soup wasn’t even green like you imagine cabbage soup would be, thanks to the V8 that I very questionably substituted for water. It was really just a watery tomato soup with chunks of vegetables that, after two days, lost all taste and became an amalgamation of hateful, mushy punishment. Have I sold you on this diet yet?

Aside from the constant presence of the soup, which you will come to despise far quicker than you would imagine possible, each day has a different set of guidelines of what you can eat. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Day 1: Fruit (except bananas)
Day 2: Vegetables (except corn) and one baked potato
Day 3: Vegetables and fruit
Day 4: Bananas (up to 8) and skim milk
Day 5: Beef (optional substitute of chicken) and 6 tomatoes
Day 6: Beef and leafy green vegetables
Day 7: Brown rice, vegetables, and unsweetened fruit juice
Day 8: Kill yourself

The website promotes absolutely stuffing yourself with whatever food you’ve been allotted that day on top of the soup you’re supposed to be guzzling in between “meals”. The closest thing this diet comes to in terms of moderation is limiting you to just eight bananas on day four. Feasibly, I could have also had four gallons of skim milk on that day and stayed true to the rules. Sure, I probably would have died, but it would have been within my rights (and little did I know at this point: preferable).

As per usual, I allowed myself one cup of coffee a day and the occasional glass of wine, because I’m going to require a significant increase in pay if I’m expected to abandon either of those for a full week.

DAY 1: Fruit

What I Ate: two bowls of soup, two peaches, handful of cherries, endless disappointment

In theory, eating fresh fruit all day sound delicious and refreshing. In practice, it’s way too sweet and not even remotely filling. I was only halfway through my first bowl of soup when I was hit with a cheese craving so debilitating that I almost mistook it for a contraction.

Level of satisfaction (on a scale of 1-10): 3

DAY 2: Vegetables and a Baked Potato

What I Ate: one bowl of soup, three stalks of celery, bowl of roasted brussel sprouts and the baked potato

I woke up so excited to eat something that wasn’t fruit that I ran to the kitchen and devoured a stalk of celery with my coffee. It was just as horrific a combination as you would imagine. The novelty of savory food wore off about an hour into the day, at which point my fruit withdrawal kicked in. I didn’t know it was possible to develop a dependence on peaches in just 24 hours, but I managed it. The day was looking bleak until dinnertime rolled around, and with it my saving grace.

I can’t actually describe the experience of eating this potato without getting dangerously sacrilegious. It was a gulp of water after 40 years in the desert. It was a breath of fresh air after nearly drowning. Realistically, it was carbs after not even two full days without them, and I am a pathetic excuse for a human being.

Level of satisfaction: 3.5

DAY 3: Fruits and Vegetables

What I Ate: Two peaches, bowl of roasted brussel sprouts, my fucking weight in blackberries, mashed cauliflower, NO SOUP

Woke up from a frighteningly realistic dream about pancakes, which put a considerable damper on my morning. Being allowed to have both fruits and vegetables was a vast improvement over the two days before, made even better by the fact that I completely avoided that God forsaken soup. Mashed cauliflower tastes surprisingly close to mashed potatoes, just without the joy.

Level of satisfaction: 5

DAY 4: Bananas and Skim Milk

What I Ate: Half a bowl of soup, four bananas, ¼ gallon of skim milk

At this point my body hated me more than it did for a full two weeks after my 21st birthday. It hasn’t had anything remotely resembling protein in three days, and it’s pretty sure I attempted suicide by blackberry yesterday. According to the website, this day is supposed to lessen your craving for sweets. I guess it did do that, but it did absolutely nothing to lessen my craving to punch random passersby in the face. I’m beginning to think that the purpose of the soup is to make me so angry that I just lose my appetite altogether. Sadly, it’s incredibly effective.

Level of Satisfaction: 1

DAY 5: Chicken and Tomatoes

What I Ate: 10 oz. of chicken breast, three tomatoes, two spoonfuls of soup

My dependence on peaches has been completely overshadowed by the great banana massacre of 2015. I can still taste them even after brushing my teeth. Everything smells subtly like bananas, and in a moment of horrifying reflection I realize that it might just be my natural scent now.

The reintroduction of protein into my life was equal parts exhilarating and worrisome. My 10 oz. of chicken was supposed to be accompanied by six tomatoes, but the canker sore that was probably born of this horrible fucking diet wasn’t down for that plan. I managed two whole spoonfuls of the soup before I dramatically threw the bowl into the sink. It wasn’t a nearly as cathartic experience as I had hoped.

Level of Satisfaction: 3

DAY 6: Beef and Leafy Greens

What I Ate: Half a bowl of soup, one hamburger patty, sautéed kale

This is the day where the website urges you to eat 2 or 3 steaks, which I think is their merciful way of trying to give you a stroke before you can make it to day seven. It wasn’t until 6:00 that I realized I didn’t even have any steak in the house and was too malnourished stubborn to go buy some, so I made due with a hamburger patty. This was also the day I realized that there is no point in eating hamburgers without condiments. I don’t even remember eating the soup, but it was in my notes so I’m assuming it happened. My brain must have repressed it in the hopes that I would escape this experience trauma free. No such luck.

DAY 7: Brown Rice and Vegetables

What I Ate: Cup of soup, bowl of brown rice with broccoli and sautéed zucchini, five squares of chocolate

Day seven passed kind of like a fever dream. I ate my final cup of soup with the same amount of begrudging effort and blind hatred that you use to take that last shot of the night that you will undoubtedly puke up five minutes later.

And YES I CRACKED. I refuse to apologize. That chocolate was the only thing that kept me going long enough to record this sordid tale for you and it tasted like freedom.



If I never see vegetable soup again in my life it will still be too fucking soon. I wish I could chock my questionable success up to an overwhelming sense of self-control and steadfast dedication to this article, but that would be a lie. A winning combination of chugging water to trick my body into thinking it was full, napping every time the urge to eat became too strong, and an utter lack of self-preservation is what got me through the past seven days.

Throughout the course of this diet I lost 5 lbs. (all water weight), which I fully expect to regain by 3:00 PM of 4th of July. Unlike the Master Cleanse, where I actually felt thinner, right now I just feel kind of gross. This diet’s lack of any real or specific parameters allows for a lot of terrible decisions to be made, like eating an entire flat of assorted berries over the course of two days.

I wouldn’t recommend this diet to anyone looking to legitimately lose weight. I wouldn’t even recommend it to anyone who wanted to drop a couple pounds before an event. I would, however, recommend it to people I hate or anyone with an unholy appreciation for vegetable soup. So by process of elimination, I strongly urge vegans to try it out.

Bold statement: the cabbage soup diet is worse than the master cleanse. With the cleanse you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Ten days, no food, no happiness, no questions asked. However, by allowing you to eat seemingly arbitrary amounts and combinations of certain foods, the cabbage soup diet is a binge disaster waiting to happen. In moments of pure desperation you can justify eating a sickening amount of fruit in a single day because it doesn’t actually tell you to do otherwise. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will for the sake of those who haven’t caught on: no diet that lets you eat an unlimited amount of anything is going to be effective. That’s just not how weight loss works.

You know what they say, hindsight is 20/20. In light of the ordeal I’ve just put myself through, I’ve come up with a couples rules of thumb for the next time you decide you want to lose some weight.

  •   If you’re going to choose a diet plan that requires you to cook your own food, maybe know how to fucking cook.
  •   If the diet plan suggests that you eat eight bananas in one day, question the validity of the diet as a whole.
  •   If the official website for your diet features a video that looks anything like this, close your computer, walk away, and never look back.


The gist: if you want to lose weight, don’t cut corners. Start exercising regularly. Stop eating shitty food. Don’t adopt a diet plan that looks like it was crafted by a drunk, blindfolded nutritionist throwing darts at a food pyramid.

On that note, if any of you have ever been curious about a particularly stupid diet but weren’t dumb/brave enough to try it out, throw them at me. Maybe in 3 months I’ll hate myself enough to try this again.





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