Tom Darling: Weight Loss with the Ideal Protein Diet

Ideal Protein diet and lost 26 pounds. Below he shares his experience with this program.

About Tom: Tom Darling is three-time member of Olympic Rowing Team: ‘80 (boycott), ‘84 (silver in 8+) and ‘88 (5th in 4+). He was also a crew member on Stars and Stripes America’s Cup in ‘87 (won) and ’94. He earned his Masters in Education in ‘91 at Boston University and is certified by the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) and NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning). He currently works in financial services industry and coaches adaptive rowers. 

What prompted you to try the Ideal Protein Diet? How did you choose this program specifically? I ran into a friend I have known for 30 years and he had lost 25 pounds and looked very fit. He told me about the Ideal Protein program so I decided to try it. In a nutshell, this is a high protein/low carb diet.

What did the program initially entail? How much did it cost? I paid $150.00 for the consultation and for a week and a half’s worth of food (each packet is $4.00 apiece). There are weekly weigh-ins and 15-minute follow-up consultations which do not cost anything additional. Compared to other diets, IP’s cost is a deal.

What would your high level assessment of the program be? The program taught me that losing weight is not about exercise.  If you want to get fit, strong, and fast — then yes, lift weights and run. This is called the “training effect.” Losing weight is about getting the body out of homeostasis – or equilibrium — so you will burn off fat. The harder you work out the more your body wants to store excess energy e.g., fat. The Ideal Protein program works in phases. The first phase puts you into ketosis, a state in which your body burns fat for energy. After you lose the weight, you can reset yourself to the new weight. [Other articles about ketosis:, WebMD.]

What did you eat in the first “phase” of the diet?
The first phase of the diet includes just the ideal protein (IP) packaged food for breakfast and lunch and and IP packet and salad plus vegetables for dinner.
For breakfast, I would shake up the herb and cheese egg omelet packet with 5 oz of water and fry in olive oil. Or I would use the crispy cereal packet with water plus a cup of tea (with a sugar substitute). The supplements are 1 vitamin, 1 potassium, and 4 Calcium/Magnesium pills to substitute for the elimination of dairy, carbs and fruit.

Lunch would be a mushroom soup packet with water. I would heat this up in the microwave and have it with a big vegetable salad (cucumber, peppers, and red onion), seasoned with olive oil and herbs.

Dinner was a big salad with steak, or chicken, pork or fish and the choice of two vegetables.

For a snack, I would have a dark chocolate packet at night. The ability to say no to things like cakes or cookies is a little easier when the packet food comes with a dark chocolate pudding or some other desert substitute.
Water and salt are a big part of the diet so they ask you to drink at least 64 oz of water (4 of those Poland Spring bottles a day) and use salt liberally.

Tell me about ketosis? What was this like?
Within 48 hours, you are in ketosis and start burning fat. Apparently, your breath smells like nail polish remover during this phase.
The first week is definitely a hard adjustment to make. I did not lack any energy to get through the day, but I did not have enough energy for strenuous exercise. In fact, they strongly suggest that you do not carry out strenuous exercise during this phase. Otherwise, it could change the way your body is storing energy and using the fat and, hence, might result in the burning off of muscle.

Protein supplements help you maintain your muscle mass during this phase.

Phase One omits foods like fruit and root vegetables, choices normally deemed healthy. Can you explain why?
There are restricted vegetables because of the sugar content of some root vegetables, e.g., carrots, peas, corn, and potatoes. Fruit also kicks off the pancreas and would interrupt the fat burning process. I was surprised that balsamic vinegar was restricted but it contains sugar as well.

What happens in the remaining phases?
There are 5 phases but instead of my going into that detail of each phase I suggest visiting to get more information. Basically, after you reach your goal weight, you slowly re-introduce carbs and fruit into your diet. In my program, as soon as I was within five pounds of my goal weight, I went right to Phase Five because I was getting ready for a competition and needed to get back to training.
Various vegetables had been missing in my diet so the IP program introduced me back to broccoli, mushrooms, etc. Salad and vegetables fill you up unlike greasy, fatty foods — which do not fill you up and are high in calories, too. I actually got used to using olive oil with herbs with salads and continued to eat this way even after I reached my goal weight.
After I started training again, I also added back “clean” carbs like sweet potatoes and whole wheat toast. I still limit fruit because I felt the fruit really kicked off storage for me. Not sure why but it could be the type of sugar fruit supplies and how my pancreas deals with it.

How have meals and food preparation fit into your habits and lifestyle?
If you don’t like to prepare your own food, the IP program will be hard. I have streamlined my prep work and prepare enough vegetables for the week and make big salads to take to work so I do not have to prepare something every day. I also find myself going to Costco and buying a large piece of salmon, steak and whatever other meat and cutting it up and freezing whatever I do not use that night in the freezer for another day.
Unfortunately, my wife and daughter do not like most vegetables, especially ones like broccoli and mushrooms. However, they will eat a dinner salad with red and yellow pepper, cucumber, red onion and grill some steak, chicken or salmon to put on top. I’ll prepare some rice for Lia so she gets her carbs, too.

How much weight have you lost? What is your goal? What will your diet be like when you have reached this goal?
I added back carbs slowly when I reached 215 pounds, down from 238 pounds.  Even though I was out of ketosis, I continued to lose weight and I reached 212 pounds. My goal was 210 pounds and I was very close! Now that I see that adding vegetables and salad has the effect of filling me up, I am hoping that I stick with this regimen of preparing salads and a protein for lunch and dinner and stay away from the breads and pastas which have more calories.

Melinda Hinson