At some point in time, most of us have gone on a diet or two. Want to lose 5 pounds before your high school reunion? Cut the carbs. Feeling overwhelmed by social media? Take a break from Twitter and Facebook. Since there are countless books and blogs out there teaching us how to cut back and reorganize our lives, I wasn't totally surprised to hear about something called the 5 Ring Diet. But when I found out the specifics of how it works and the cause behind the effort, I was instantly hooked.
In 2009, Terin Izil founded Camp Promise-West, which is currently the only camp in the Pacific Northwest for people of all ages with neuromuscular disorders, and totally free of charge. The campers not only experience the great outdoors, but are supported emotionally and medically by a team of volunteers and fellow campers. Running a camp like this is costly, so in an effort to creatively raise funds, Terin came up with the 5 Ring Diet.
By relying only on products that are official sponsors of the Olympic games, she is channeling the collective Olympic excitement for a fantastic cause. It's an interesting personal challenge — she's sleeping on a bed made of Charmin, showering with Dasani, surviving on Chobani yogurt and McDonald's (as a vegetarian!) and wearing only clothing and shoes that bear the Olympic rings. I had the chance to ask Terin a few questions about how it's all been going, and here's what she had to say.
What is the 5 Ring Diet is and why did you decide to do it?
As I was doing my regular shopping about a month ago, I was noticing the Olympic Rings popping up on products that weren't the typical things you'd think of in relation to the Olympics--cleaning products, toilet paper, etc. It seemed to cross so many categories, I thought "I wonder if there are enough products with the Olympic Rings on them to sustain a person?" At the same time, I was busy planning and fundraising for Camp Promise-West and getting ready for a trip to the London Olympics for work. So the pieces all fell into place.
Camp Promise-West is currently the only camp in the Pacific Northwest for people of all ages with neuromuscular disorders. Camp is free-of-charge to campers thanks to the generosity of donors — that's why reaching our $25,000 goal is so important. Volunteers provide campers with one-on-one care during the week of camp, which is August 20-26, this year with 38 campers. We even expanded to Camp Promise-East last year.
How did you come up with the rules and how strict have you been on yourself?
I did a couple of scouting trips to the grocery store and McDonald's to make sure I could actually survive with the foods available. I'm a pretty strict vegetarian, so the McDonald's part has been a bit tricky. Once I knew I could survive on the foods and drinks out there, I thought through daily life and made up the rules about personal hygiene and my bed.
I've been pretty good about following the rules. When I flew to London, I turned away all the Business Class luxuries and food and ate the Corn Pops and water I brought with me. I did realize that only using 5RingDiet furniture was pretty unrealistic, so that rule has been adapted to just be my bed. I have a low tolerance for guilt, so it's hard to "cheat" when I know people are following the story and the money's going a cause that's so personal to me. But I have said any Dasani water is fine because I need it to live and I haven't found Olympics branded Dasani in bulk.
What has been the most challenging aspect?
Always having to plan ahead. I can't just go to the vending machine for a snack or borrow someone's sweatshirt or even use the toilet paper or sink at work, so that part's been a little tough. I've learned to carry my own toilet paper and always have a bottle of Dasani and Olay soap nearby. When I was on the planes to/from London, I had to make sure I brought enough water for the flight and a shower once I got there in case I couldn't find any water right away.
Has there been a part of this project that you didn't expect to enjoy but had a blast doing?
Re-purposing 5RingDiet products has been a lot of fun because not only do you get that a-ha! moment, it means I also get to add something new to the 5RingDiet roster. The other day a co-worker suggested smashing NutriGrain bars up to make a pie crust, filling it with McDonald's apples, and putting Kellogg's Frosted Flakes on top to make a 5RingDiet pie. I haven't tried it yet, but I will this weekend.
Is there one product that you still haven't been able to find (that meets your criteria) that you miss the most?
I don't think they exist, but some 5RingDiet nail clippers would be amazing. My nails are starting to get a little long for comfort. And it would be nice to finally find the 5RingDiet Budweiser. It's not so much because I want beer, but because I feel like I've been chasing that beer since the beginning.
Which product were you most surprised to find that sponsors the Olympics?
I found Cheez-Its last weekend and almost jumped up and down in the cracker aisle. Mostly I'm surprised to find a new 5RingDiet food I can add to the rotation. There hasn't been anything too strange in the US, but I did see an Olympic tea cozy in London.
What is the first thing you will do/wear/use/eat as soon as the closing ceremonies are over?
I'm thinking of organizing a food crawl with my friends (and blogging about it) for as soon as that flame is extinguished. There will definitely be a Chipotle burrito, a slice of pizza, and a bag of Doritos on that tour. But that's only after I take a hot shower and drink straight from the tap.
One other thing, people can donate at 5RingDiet.com and follow me on twitter @5RingDiet. Even a $5 donation helps and shows their support for Camp Promise and makes all this madness worth it.
• 5 Ring Diet
• @5RingDiet on Twitter
• Camp Promise
(Images: Terin Izil)