This is a no-tricks, no-nonsense eating plan. The baby food diet is exactly what it sounds like: three or more days of eating pureed baby food and trying your absolute best not to complain (or vomit).
I first read about this diet in 2013 when my girl Jennifer Aniston was rumored to have shed quite a bit of weight from eating like a baby for a while. (This was a confusing moment for me, as it was the first time I ever questioned anything Jennifer Aniston did.) Started by celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, the diet quickly became an internet phenomenon as a way to cut cals and drop pounds, fast.
It sounded like absolute torture. I genuinely could not understand why anyone would eat sweet potatoes out of a jar when they have the option to do otherwise. Only an idiot would put their body through that.
Fast-forward three years: I am that idiot.
Here are the rules:
For the first two meals of the day, you can eat only baby food. You can drink water, black tea and black coffee, but no alcohol. Basically, if it’s zero-cal, you’re good to go.
You have to eat 14 jars of baby food a day, which totals somewhere close to 1,000 calories depending on which purees you buy. Fruit blends such as Apples tend to be less caloric (50 to 60 calories per jar), whereas starchier blends such as Summer Vegetable Dinner are more caloric (70 to 90 calories per jar). Yes, Summer Vegetable Dinner is actually a thing.
Here’s the good news: You’re allowed to have a chewable meal for dinner, as long as you’re eating only a small portion of protein and vegetables.
I compared three calorie-counting calculators to see exactly how many calories I should be consuming to lose weight. (This is a diet, after all.) The calculators compute your age, height, weight, gender and activity level, leaving you with a specific number of calories to consume each day. If I wanted to lose 2 pounds in one week, I’d need to consume no more than 1,322 calories each day. That left me 322 calories for dinner.
Now let’s get to the good stuff.
The night before my diet begins, I venture to a grocery store two blocks away from my apartment. It’s a muggy, rainy evening, and I come to the conclusion that the world knows an emotional storm is coming. I struggle to find the baby food and walk down every aisle twice before I muster enough courage to ask an employee for help. Finally, I approach a young man stocking aisle nine with marinara sauce and kindly ask where the baby food is located. I notice that my voice went up approximately eight octaves from pure embarrassment and a natural-born fear of being judged.
I finally find the goods and am immediately terrified. The lack of options is overwhelming. Apples and Pears seem totally doable, but I’m extremely unsure about Spinach Potato. I know I can’t survive off of pureed fruit alone, so I decide to swallow my pride and place at least one of every puree in my cart. I do draw the line at Chicken and Gravy, though. I will not eat pureed meat, and honestly, that’s something I’m very proud of.
I place 42 jars in my cart, 14 jars for each day.
I spend the rest of the night binge-watching Stranger Things, attempting to convince myself that things could be worse. I shut my eyes around 11 p.m. and am as mentally prepared for the morning as I’ll ever be. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I do know it won’t taste good.
I choose Apples for my first jar of the day, knowing it probably won’t taste like feet. My intuition proves correct. It tastes exactly like applesauce, most likely because it is. Nonetheless, after the first “bite” I’m feeling at ease. This diet is going to be a piece of cake.
I would kill for cake right now.
Considering this jar contains only 60 calories, I figure I should probably down another one of these bad boys before I hit the road. I sift through my refrigerator for a flavor that seems slightly more filling but still has the breakfast charm that I’m looking for. Peach Oatmeal Banana seems like a solid fit.
Immediately after breaking the seal, I notice the consistency is much thicker than that of Apples. After a lot of hesitation, I try a single bite. I am absolutely revolted. I like peaches, oatmeal and bananas, but this I do not like. I manage to swallow three spoonfuls of the stuff before I throw it in the trash, where it rightfully belongs.
Now I understand why babies are always crying.
One hour in, I cave and grab a Starbucks iced coffee with soy milk on my way to work. This is not going to be easy.
It’s time for more fuel, which unfortunately means it’s time for more “food.” I feel a little uneasy about the whole “whipping out baby food jars at work” thing, so I explain the situation to my co-worker who sits next to me before I crack open a jar. He says he’s seen weirder things.
I can’t stomach the idea of another Peach Oatmeal Banana fiasco happening, so I decide to stick with another fruit option. I try Pears and, thankfully, I’m not tempted to vomit. I easily get the whole jar down, and things seem to be looking up.
My morning goes by quickly, and I actually don’t feel hungry until 12:20 p.m., which is surprising, considering I’ve consumed only 120 calories of “food” this morning. Now that my stomach is starting to grumble, I know it’s time to toughen up. I’ve officially been awake for over six hours and I’m ready to get my hands dirty. I let Apples and Pears take the backseat and decide to have a heartier lunch. Sweet Potatoes is next on my list.
Sweet Potatoes doesn’t taste as weird as I’d expected — I eat a lot of sweet potatoes in my normal diet, so the flavor is very familiar to me. The baby food version is super-sweet and reminds me of the sweet potato casserole my Aunt Sandy makes during the holidays. I wonder what she’s up to right now. What a lovely lady.
Sweet Potatoes has a thick, creamy consistency, but not in the creepy, lumpy way that Peach Oatmeal Banana did. Please, take my eye but not Peach Oatmeal Banana.
Rice and Lentil follows, and before I take a single bite my insides start to scream. Just looking at the stuff makes me nauseous. It’s the nastiest shade of brown, nearly impossible to mix, and horribly lumpy even after I’ve thoroughly stirred it. The water residue chillin’ on the surface of the jar is making me doubt my entire existence. I take a bite. It’s bad. It’s so, so bad. It doesn’t taste like rice, and it doesn’t taste like lentils. It tastes like what I would imagine prison food tastes like. There’s no way I can get it down.
I’m extremely hesitant to reach for anything even remotely adventurous after tasting Rice and Lentils, but I’m running out of options and a girl’s gotta eat. I unenthusiastically decide to try Plum Banana Brown Rice, fearing it will be another Peach Oatmeal Banana trick. To my surprise, it’s actually not awful. It has a smooth consistency and a tangy, slightly tart flavor. All in all, it’s relatively easy to eat. I’m not satisfied, but I am relieved.
I’m hungry again, but I figure that’s probably normal, considering I should be consuming 14 jars of mush before dinnertime and two of them are sitting in my trash bin untouched. I open Corn and Butternut Squash and am overcome by an absolutely heinous smell. My first thought is “nope,” but I know I have to try it.
Corn and Butternut Squash tastes like what it smells like — your worst nightmare. Think rotten, cold butternut squash soup meets day-old puke. By the way, it’s extremely watery.
I decide to start a list of things I should never feed my future child, assuming I can trick someone into marrying me one day.
The smell of Corn and Butternut Squash is so intensely disgusting that I actually remove the jar from my trash bin and dump the remaining puree in the bathroom sink. It’s the responsible thing to do, for everyone in this office’s sake. Feeling weak and vulnerable, I reach for another fruit-flavored jar, like the true wimp that I have become. Even if Apple and Blueberries isn’t the tastiest, I know it’ll be at least 700 times more delicious than the squash vomit I ingested just minutes before. I devour it in a matter of seconds and then realize I have to go back to the grocery story after work to exchange all my nasty jars for more semi-tolerable ones. I would set this diet on fire if I could.
It’s time for my second serving of Sweet Potatoes, and this time I’m having a tough time keeping it down. It’s creamier and sweeter than I remembered, but if I eat it at a snail’s pace and think hard enough about pizza I can at least refrain from vomiting. Am I skinny yet?
I wolf down my second serving of Pears and my palate feels slight relief. I am absolutely desperate to chew on something, though, and I suddenly realize a pack of gum has been sitting in my purse all day. I aggressively shove a piece into my mouth.
Only three lonely jars remain, and they could not sound less appetizing.
I take a single whiff of Summer Vegetable Dinner and honestly think this might be the end for me. I pull it together and take another whiff of Spinach Potato. I have the same volatile reaction. I absolutely cannot and will not eat either of them.
At this point I’m actually starving. Well, not actually, but it certainly feels like it. I started my day with 14 jars of baby food and have managed to eat only eight of them. I’m trying to stay positive, despite the fact that I am a natural-born pessimist. The glass is always half-empty, and that’s literally so obvious.
I take more notes.
I leave the office and immediately feel lightheaded upon standing. It suddenly dawns on me that I neglected to fill my water bottle up even once while at work. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure I left my desk at all, other than to use the bathroom maybe twice. This has to be what health looks like.
Thankfully, I make my way home, despite almost falling on a couple of strangers on the subway. My usual after-work routine is to go for a quick run before indulging in the delicious dinner I’ve been dreaming about since lunch ended. My daydreams are less riveting today, but I still cannot wait for real food.
I throw on my workout attire and off I go … for about five seconds. Almost instantly I’m hit with some seriously powerful stomach cramps, and they’re absolutely not down with my running plans. Part of me feels sad, but mostly I’m relieved. I’ve never run on a belly full of applesauce, and I don’t need to start today. I decide this would be the best time to exchange my inedible mush for slightly tolerable mush at the grocery store.
I return from the grocery store and am beyond ecstatic about dinner. I haven’t had a vegetable all day (besides sweet potatoes) and my body is basically begging for one. I saute a quick vegetable stir-fry, adding one-quarter cup of teriyaki sauce and one-third cup of couscous. I figure a small portion of grains won’t hurt, considering I’ve consumed fewer than 600 calories today.
I smile just looking at my dinner.
It is seriously so beautiful. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The rest of my night consists of a lot of complaining to my roommate and two more episodes of Stranger Things. I hit the hay at 11:30 p.m. still terrified of faceless monsters but surprisingly not that hungry.
Physically … fine. Emotionally … traumatized. I am the opposite of excited about what is about to happen, again, but I do find comfort in knowing I won’t have to smell Corn and Butternut Squash today. Breakfast is Plum Banana Brown Rice followed by Apples followed by sadness followed by potential defeat.
Staying positive, though!
I’m having a productive morning and manage to distract myself from the fact that I’m eating like a literal baby for the next 48 hours … but distractions conceal hunger for only so long. Unfortunately, I’m not craving baby food. Shocking.
I settle for Apples and Blueberries and Sweet Potatoes, hoping that two servings will hold me over for the next hour or two. I’m feeling very lethargic today, and the tiny jars of mush aren’t exactly giving me the boost I need.
I cave and grab a coffee with milk, again, and I’m not sorry.
I’m almost 100 percent sure my co-worker who sits behind me just pulled out a fresh, perfectly toasted Buffalo Chicken Panini, and I genuinely might scream. The smell alone is causing me physical pain and I fear I may be going slightly insane.
And then there was my lunch.
I’m starting to grow very fond of Pears. In fact, I may go so far as to call it my favorite baby food puree. It has an extremely similar consistency to Apples and to Apples and Blueberries, but I feel like less of a weirdo when I eat it. I’m not completely opposed to snacking on it once I go back to living like the 5’10” human that I am.
I’m going to have to pick up the pace to meet my 14-jar quota before dinnertime. I toss back three jars as quickly as I can and the amount of sugar in my body is on another level. I am a diehard sweets fan, but I couldn’t be craving salt more. On the bright side, I’m not starving like I was on Day 1.
My co-worker and dear friend Julia kindly announces that there are tacos in the kitchen. Thank you, Julia, for your consideration. I’m glad to know they’re there.
I have to leave the office at 4:15 p.m. for an event, so I shove two more jars of mush down my throat and prepare for my departure. I know I won’t be able to “eat” once I’m there, and I have no choice but to BF ‘n’ W (baby food and walk). People are staring. I’m not even using a spoon, and at this point I’m forgetting what being a fully grown human actually feels like.
I decide to make BF ‘n’ W a thing.
It’s already time for my one real meal, and I still have to eat four more jars of baby food to complete my daily quota. My brain is protesting the thought of ingesting any more sugar, and I decide to ditch the last four jars. All I want is protein and vegetables. Dinner consists of sauteed chicken sausage and zucchini, and I’m salivating just looking at it.
It’s been over three hours since my last meal, and I haven’t been tempted to snack at all. This is a very new feeling for me. I usually stuff myself until I’m physically ill and then eat more about 10 minutes later, because I can. It’s a simpler, less caloric life as a baby. That’s for sure.
I wake up significantly hungrier than I have the past two days and am thrilled to know that this will be my last Apples and Plum Oatmeal Banana breakfast. Though this diet may be making me slightly insane, I think it’s paying off physically. I definitely feel like I’ve lost weight, but I’m not stepping on the scale until I complete Day 3.
If I finish this dieting without shedding a pound, I’m suing America. One. More. Day.
I’m desperately wishing I could fast-forward through the day like Adam Sandler does in Click. Not trying to deal with any of the awful repercussions, though; just the cool part.
The salt and starch cravings are setting in again.
I’m officially six jars deep today and am going through the baby food much faster than usual. I can see the finish line from a distance, and each empty jar puts me one step closer to it.
I realize how stupid I’ve been for not microwaving Sweet Potatoes since Day 1 and decide to pursue my genius idea for lunch. I heat two servings up and am disappointed when I take the first bite. The puree may be warm this time, but it still tastes like baby food. On the bright side, I’m two jars closer to victory.
It’s going to be so weird eating lunch tomorrow.
I devour three more jars and still I am starving. The last of Pears is officially gone, and I’m left with three jars to hold me over until dinner. Unlike yesterday, I’m having no trouble whatsoever finishing all 14 servings.
THE DEED IS DONE. Fourteen servings of baby food are currently sitting in my stomach, and despite some pretty severe stomach pains, I’ve never felt more alive.
The last supper. I treat myself to a big ol’ salad stuffed with sauteed chicken sausage, chickpeas, tomatoes and avocado, topped with hummus, balsamic vinegar and good old-fashioned salt ‘n’ pep. The exact same meal Jesus had!
Now, let’s this if this thing actually works.
Physical: I lost 2.4 pounds in three days, which is definitely substantial. My jeans don’t have quite the same hug that they did last week, and I find myself significantly less tempted to indulge in greasy, processed foods. It’s kind of exciting but a little bizarre. Let’s be honest, though: If you put a cheeseburger in front of my face, I’m going to eat it.
Mental: I am unwell.
While this diet may have “worked,” the 2.4 pounds were not worth three days of mental torture and constant cramping. Plus (from my experience), this type of extreme, “quick-fix” diet does not bode well for long-term results. Thankfully, there are many ways to lose weight without having to eat like a baby. Opt for a side salad instead of french fries. Eat one cookie instead of 12. Skip the late-night pizza once in a while — or don’t, because who cares?
The point is: There is a reason why people don’t BF ‘n’ W, and it’s because fully grown humans are not supposed to eat like infants.
P.S.: If you’re ever in the presence of Corn and Butternut Squash, drop everything you’re doing and run.
Photos: iStock and Lianna Hursh