Dining

What Happens When You Go to a Food Festival on a Diet

This isn't going to be pleasant
Food Festival Diet
Photo: Aubrie LeGault

For the past five years, my hometown of Portland, Oregon, has hosted an annual gourmet food and beverage festival featuring unreasonably good offerings from some of the best chefs not just in the Pacific Northwest, but across the country. And for the past two years, I’ve attended that festival, hoping I wouldn’t have to cart all my jeans to Buffalo Exchange after four days of binge-eating. This year, I took that impossible quest to the next level. I went to Feast Portland on a diet.

When I told my plan to some people last weekend, they responded with the same quizzical expression on your face right now, but bear with me: On this particular diet, I should be able to eat every last bite of food at every last event, without breaking any rules.

The premise behind the 8-Hour Diet is fairly simple: Eat whatever you want, but eat only during an eight-hour period each day. I learned about it through reading the longer-than-necessary tome, The 8-Hour Diet, by David Zinczenko and Peter Moore. This technique is called “intermittent fasting,” and though the authors didn’t invent it, they have certainly popularized it. Because I’ve never had any luck with diets that require tedious calorie counting or the draconian elimination of whichever food group it’s popular to demonize at the moment, I figured, why not?

I started the eight-hour diet four days before Feast began. Immediately, I could feel it “working.” I skipped breakfast, waited until 11:30 or noon to start eating, and then wrapped up by 7:30 or 8 p.m. Breakfast has always made me feel sluggish, especially the bigger meals, as if they’re priming my stomach to pig out the remainder of the day. And I typically indulge in my  “worst” foods after 8 p.m., so knocking that window out of my eating rotation had an immediate effect.

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But a four-day food festival? With wine, beer, cocktails, pulled pork, lamb ribs, pozole, oysters, pecan sticky buns, Monte Cristo breakfast dogs, black plum charred albacore tuna and dozens of other things to cram into me—and my shortened day. How could I possibly maintain my weight, much less lose a few pounds, while gorging on all that food, even if I did confine it to an eight-hour period?

I recognize that it’s not very scientific to assess the efficacy of a diet in a week’s time, much less over a four-day span. Mostly, I just wanted to see if I could do it: adhere to the diet’s guidelines at a food festival, of all places, and emerge at least not noticeably fatter than I was at the start.

The result? I blew the diet only one night, because a Middle Eastern-themed dinner went long (first-world problems, I know). Day after day, I ate without restraint: roasted jerk goat from New Orleans’ Compére Lapin, smoked Oregon lamb shoulder from Portland’s Laurelhurst Market, maple-glazed apple fritters from local favorite Petunia’s Pies & Pastries, even a tamago oshizushi with lardo and bittersweet chocolate from Portland’s Bamboo Sushi. And when I hopped on the scale Monday, measuring not just my weekend’s results but the first few days of more pristine eating, I was down three pounds. Unscientific results, sure, but I’ll take them.

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