You are here: Home

Need Acrobat Reader for PDF documents?

Cabbage soup and slimming

Interestingly, we have tried a diet (something you eventually have to do when you cook and eat with as much enthusiasm as we do) in which a soup similar to Ribollita (but sadly without the beans) is alleged to have a fat-burning function (the whole diet is described as ’a fast fat-burning diet’). We received the diet by a rather roundabout route, but it is supposed to come from the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital - very appropriate, since it is said to be designed for patients who need to lose weight rapidly before cardiac surgery.

It’s a seven-day programme which may be used as often as you like, and which claims to cleanse your system of impurities and give you a feeling of wellbeing ’as never before’. Since alcohol is expressly forbidden, this sounds like a good trick. There is a recommendation to come off the diet for at least 24 hours before drinking anything alcoholic. Eight days on the wagon…wow!

Apparently, you will have ’an abundance of energy’, too. ’Continue this plan as long as you wish and feel the difference.’ Wait until you’ve seen the plan.

It isn’t easy. You’re not allowed any bread, fried foods or carbonated drinks (not even ’diet’ ones, so presumably no fizzy water for some reason). You may drink water, unsweetened fruit juices, cranberry juice (it doesn’t say why this is singled out), black coffee, unsweetened tea (it doesn’t say ’black’ but we assume this) and skimmed milk on only one of the seven days. Terrific.

The soup can be eaten whenever you feel hungry, and the claim is that the more you eat the more weight you will lose. Magic? I don’t know, but here’s the recipe.


  • A large bunch of spring onions
  • Two peppers
  • Two large tins of tomatoes
  • A head of celery
  • A large green cabbage (white if not available)
  • A packet of French onion or spring vegetable soup mix
  • Oxo cubes if you need to ’beef up’ the flavour
  • Garlic (optional, it says - but not in my version)
  • Bay leaves (optional)

With a good squirt of olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan, this wouldn’t be a bad recipe - but of course neither of these essentials is permitted. Oh well, it’s only for a week (only?).


Cut all the fresh vegetables into small pieces, put them in a pan and cover with water. Boil for 10 minutes and simmer until tender - the recipe says ’approx 30 mins’!. Add the tinned tomatoes and their juice, bring back to the boil and ’heat thoroughly’. Add the soup mix and simmer for another 10 minutes. The soup may be seasoned with salt, pepper, parsley, curry etc to taste. Thank Heaven for the ’etc’ - I just hope oregano and basil don’t have some subversive effect. It also says you can add extra tomatoes and cabbage if desired. Phew! You may even add other vegetables - ’but NO PULSES’.

This is a vicious way to treat good vegetables, and I see no point in contaminating a nice range of fresh produce with the withered contents of a dehydrated soup full of monosodium glutamate and E numbers. In France you can buy vegetable stock cubes that contain very little rubbish, and I’m sure these wouldn’t compromise the soup’s fat-burning powers. Marigold vegetable stock powder is now available here and is superb. You could even make a real vegetable stock...

With a bit of care and imagination, this soup can be made into something quite tempting, which is good news because you have to eat quite a lot of it over a week.

The programme

This diet at least has the merits of being varied and full of surprises.

Day one

Today you can eat as much fruit as you want - but no bananas (wait until day four!). Cantaloupe and water melon have the advantages of being lower in calories than most fruits. You can also have as much soup as you want, and can drink as much as you like of the permitted drinks.

Day two

This is vegetable day. ’Eat until you are full with all the fresh raw or cooked vegetables of your choice’, except dried beans, peas, sweetcorn and, presumably, potatoes (but wait!). Of course you must also have the soup - as much as you want - but no fruit today. After yesterday this is probably a relief. For dinner, you can have a jacket potato with butter, and the diet sheet doesn’t say how much! Normally, though, you eat a couple of Pats with a spud, so I guess it would be daft to cheat by saturating your entire potato (which, if you’re like me, probably weighs over a pound and can absorb half a packet of butter).

Day three

Today you can eat as much fruit and veg as you like, but the baked potato is out. Never mind: you have your soup to console you. And, according to the instructions, by tomorrow morning you should find that you’ve lost five to seven pounds (but don’t stop there).

Day four

This is a weird one. Basically, you live on (inevitably) your soup, plus bananas and skimmed milk. You can eat up to eight bananas, and should drink as much skimmed milk as you can stomach. In a rare flash of explanation, the sheet says: ’Bananas are high in calories and carbohydrates and so is the milk but on this particular day your body will need the potassium and carbohydrates, protein and calcium.’

Day five

Are you ready for this? Today you eat your soup at least once, drink at least six to eight glasses of water to wash the uric acid out of your system and eat beef and tomatoes! You can have up to a tin of tomatoes or six fresh ones and up to 20 ounces (1¼ pounds) of beef. It doesn’t specify lean beef (but then it didn’t say how much butter you could have on your potato three long days ago). I guess you have to be sensible, though, and choose a lean cut, trimming off any visible fat (freeze it and render it down for dripping next week, because if this actually works you’re going to be able to eat loads more fat and just diet for a week every couple of months.

Day six

Soup at least once, today as every day. And you can ’eat your heart’s content’ of beef and vegetables. Does that mean more than 1¼ pounds? Can you stand more than 1¼ pounds? For some reason, you’re allowed two or three leeks today, which suggests that for some reason they’re not classed as vegetables.

Day seven

The instruction is to ’stuff, stuff and stuff yourself’ - but only with brown rice, unsweetened fruit juice and vegetables. And soup, of course.

By now, if you haven’t cheated, you will have lost (it says here) ’between 10 - 17 pounds’. Furthermore, if you have lost more than 15 pounds, you should stay off the diet for two days before starting again.

Does it work?

Well, I know at least one person who says she lost over ten pounds in a week. Sadly, from a disgraceful starting point of 14½ stone I lost just four pounds. The good news was that I managed to play strictly by the rules without too much grief, including - to my amazement - going completely without alcohol for eight days. So it proved that I have self-discipline and established beyond doubt that I am not (yet) an alcoholic.

After the week, I did a web search on ’cabbage soup’. I found lots of variations on the diet, but the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital totally disowned the diet and the American Heart Association condemned it outright as just another fad diet.

The bottom line as far as weight-loss goes is simple and depressing. There is only one sure way to lose weight, and that is to ensure that you burn more calories than you consume so that your body has to draw on its fat reserves. That means changing the ratio between aerobic exercise and food intake. And the really miserable bit is when you find out how many calories there are in a portion of food you thought was relatively non-fattening - and how much extra work you have to do to use those calories up. It’s dead easy to take calories in and damned hard work burning them off.

So how badly do you want to slim...?

Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; still a professional web-developer but mostly retired.

This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and has been developed and maintained there ever since.